Are You Prepared?

Are You Prepared?

Teacher preparedness is a significant issue, especially among new, untenured music educators. A 2011 survey by the US Department of Education reveals that fifty percent of teachers are not prepared to meet the challenges of their profession.[1] Although attempts have been mitigated to remedy this problem through pre-service and in-service professional development and workshops at the college/university and school district levels, the results have been mixed due to experts’ traditional lectures on music teachers may have little or no interest…

The Problem

So what is the solution to ineffective in-service professional development (PD) in music education? Research suggests that PD is most effective when it addresses the concrete, everyday challenges involved in teaching and learning specific academic subject matter rather than focusing on abstract educational principles or teaching methods taken out of context.[2] Bautista et al. suggest that “High-quality” PD in music education can be accomplished by dividing the issue into subject matter content, instructional practices, and student learning and thinking. The researcher explains that subject matter content is knowledge itself and its associated competencies. Instructional practices can be pedagogical strategies, competencies, and attitudes. Student learning and thinking can be defined as how students think of and learn the subject’s different topics, concepts, and procedures. Batista sums up the efficacy of ‘high-quality’ PD as the integration of 1. Content Focus, 2. Active Learning Opportunities, 3. Coherence (what teachers want to learn, with schools’ curricular requirements/standards and national educational priorities), 4. Collective participation (collaboration and mentorship), and  5. Duration (the intensity and length of PD and how that relates to effectiveness).[3]

The Solution

Several researchers have identified conditions under which PD can be most effective. For example, Sparks and Hirsh (1997) point out that effective PD is possible when it is results-based, centered on the curriculum or standards, rigorous, sustained, and cumulative, and can be linked directly to what occurs in the classroom.[4] In a 2007 survey, Bush points out that the top five PD topics music educators wanted most were: 1. New music/repertoire, 2. Advanced instrument techniques for teachers, 3. Student assessment in music, 4. Technology Utilization, and 5. Recruiting techniques/methods.[5] A 2009 report published by the National Staff Development Council at Stanford University on “The Status of Professional Development in the United States” reported that the primary need among current educators is not enough time allocated to collaboration and mentorship with their peers and experts in their field.  The report states that fewer than one out of four educational practitioners have received or received some form of collaboration or mentorship during their teaching careers. [6]

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End Notes:

[1] National Center for Education Statistics. Teacher Quality: A Report on the Preparation and Qualifications of Public School Teachers. Washington, DC: USDOE, 2011.
[2] Darling-Hammond, Linda, Chung    Wei, R. Andree, Richardson A., and S. Orphanos. Professional Learning in the Learning Profession: A Status Report on Teacher Development in the United States and Abroad. National Staff Development Council (Stanford University: National Staff Development Council, 2009).
[3]Bautista, Alfredo, Xenia Yau, and Joanne Wong. “High-Quality Music Teacher Professional Development: A Review of the Literature.” Music Education Research 19, no. 4 (2017): 455-69.
[4] Sparks, D., & Hirsh, S. (1997). A new vision for staff development. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and the National Staff Development Council.
[5] Bush, Jeffrey E. . “Importance of Various Professional Development Opportunities and Workshop Topics as Determined by in-Service Music Teachers.” Journal of Music Teacher Education 16, no. 2 (2007): 10-18.
[6] Darling-Hammond et al., 2009