How do music teachers develop? Some frameworks to consider

One of the most rewarding and exciting aspects of being involved in music education in higher education is witnessing how preservice teachers can change and develop throughout the course of their undergraduate preparation. In addition to being rewarding, this is one of the many, many aspects of undergraduate teaching that’s extremely compelling.

My colleague, Dr. Margaret Berg from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and I had a co-authored paper recently appear in the Journal of Music Teacher Education that outlines several perspectives when considering ways that music teachers might develop. The specific purpose of our article was to “(a) discuss the value of a research framework and several ways one can conceptualize a framework, (b) briefly present several prominent frameworks for studying teacher development that have been generated in the context of general education, and (c) describe some unique aspects of music teaching and music teaching contexts that could inform theoretical frameworks of preservice music teacher development.”

Here is a word cloud of the article’s contents:

JMTE Wordle

The value of frameworks

We begin our discussion by highlighting some of the ways that a theoretical framework can be conceived and how frameworks can be valuable for research in music teacher development. For example, a framework can help to…

  • Clarify epistemological assumptions
  • Delimit research problems
  • Highlight central concepts and ideas
  • Identify relevant data to collect

Theories for framing the process

We then give a brief overview of selected frameworks that could help to conceptualize the ways that pre-service music teachers can change. Some theories emphasize the teacher as an individual whereas others emphasize the embeddedness of teacher development within a social context. Here is a quick list of the central theoretical perspectives we highlight along with key citations:

  • Fuller and Bown’s three-stage model of teacher development
    • Fuller, F., & Bown, O. (1975). Becoming a teacher. In K. Ryan (Ed.), Teacher education, Part II: The 74th yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education (pp. 25–52). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. doi:10.1007/s11422-011-9365-z
  • Berliner’s theory of expertise in teaching
    • Berliner, D. C. (2001). Learning about and learning from expert teachers. International Journal of Educational Research, 35, 463–482. doi:10.1016/S0883-0355(02)00004-6
  • Blumer’s sociological theory of symbolic interactionism
    • Blumer, H. (1969). Symbolic interactionism: Perspective and method. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Becker and Carper’s theory of occupational role identity
    • Becker, H. S., & Carper, J. (1970). The elements of identification with an occupation. In H. S. Becker (Ed.), Sociological work: Method and substance (pp. 177–188). Chicago, IL: Aldine. doi:10.2307/2089290
  • Vygotsky’s social constructivist theory of development
    • Vygotsky, L. S. (1962). Thought and language (E. Haufman & G. Vakar, Eds. & Trans.). Cambridge: MIT Press. doi:10.1037/11193-000
  • Lave and Wenger’s theory of communities of Practice
    • Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Unique elements of music teaching to consider

We also highlight the need to elaborate on theories generated from general education so as to fit with the relatively unique elements of music teaching. The following is a sampling of the 26 elements of music teaching and music teaching contexts we present for consideration:

  • Unique perceptions of music programs by colleagues and the public at large
    • Teachers may have to overcome challenges of perceptions of music as a ‘second-class’ subject in schools
    • Music teachers may be held to more stringent community expectations given that their work is regularly on public display
  • Unique professional tensions that music teachers experience
    • Tensions exist within the profession regarding notions of musical ability, the objectivity of musical achievement, the nature of musical expression, the appropriateness of music assessment, and the impact of accountability policy on music programs
    • Teachers often need to negotiate multiple professional role identities with regards to commitment to the profession (Pellegrino, 2010)
  • Unique student experiences in music programs
    • Pupils spend a great deal of time in group activity
    • Pupils (particularly at the high school level) spend a great deal of time outside of the school day in curricular and extracurricular music activities
  • Unique program administration responsibilities
    • Administrative duties (e.g., instrument maintenance/repair, music library organization, etc.) of ‘directors’ and ‘travelling teachers’ are numerous
    • Music teachers are often responsible for recruiting and maintaining adequate class sizes in elective programs while also balancing a need to maintain rigorous, high expectations
  • Unique working conditions
    • Music teachers often work under conditions of relative isolation – particular those who travel and they often may not identify with any one school community due to travel
    • Music teachers who work in more than one school must in essence learn how to work effectively in different cultures (e.g., students in different schools can have very dissimilar cultural backgrounds and/or economic resources) – requiring ability to build relationships and communicate with different administrators, support staff, teachers, students, and parents/caregivers

Our article is currently available via the Online-first section of the Journal of Music Teacher Education site. Click here if you’d like to read the whole paper (log-in required, free to all NAfME members).

Miksza, P., & Berg, M. H. (in press). Frameworks for understanding pre-service music teacher development. Journal of Music Teacher Education.


One thought on “How do music teachers develop? Some frameworks to consider

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