The Preparation of College Teachers

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The pressures on higher education in the year 1972 are many and varied. But they all seem to resolve to three basic issues—economy, efficiency, and accountability. Many kinds of people are telling us indirectly and directly to be more economical, to use less money in the educational process. We are being told to use less time for even better quality, that is to be more efficient and thereby to reduce the years it takes to earn a bachelor's degree. We are being pressured to account for the quality of our work. Essentially, these pressures come not so much from dissatisfaction with our research and service as from a discontent with our teaching and the products of our teaching. In certain places, this discontent has been deep. Some of our institutions have had to withstand attacks which would sacrifice the generation of new knowledge for better teaching.

These pressures are not new, but they are more intense today. Added to them is the pressure from the products of our own deeds. We have enlarged our body of knowledge so that we feel frustrated by the little time we have to teach it. And we have done little to sift out of the plethora of information that which is fundamentally valuable and essential to know. Although our colleagues have developed a technology for instructional purposes, we have continued to use long-standing, questionable procedures in the classroom, the rehearsal hall, and the studio. Consequently, we have been an inferior model for those who would teach; we have produced graduates who are inadequate and even dysfunctional in the positions they hold. They in turn have educated undergraduates who as parents and as teachers in the schools have failed to educate a musically sensitive public. The proof of our chain of inadequacy is in the continual struggle to assure a place for the arts in our society. Although there is much more activity in the arts, it is significant that much of it is not related to what we have taught or are teaching.

It is difficult for us to cope with these pressures because musicians seem to be conservative, past-oriented museum keepers. Only a few seem to be adventurous and oriented toward the future and even the present. There are too few who challenge the adequacy of what we have done rather than blindly or complacently perpetuating it.

Regardless of these pressures, we are ethically obliged to pursue excellence. This requires a realistic appraisal of our environment and what there is in it that will assist us in the pursuit of excellence. It also requires the conversion of long standing assumptions about what we do into questions.

The resistance to change among college teachers is due, in part at least, to a belief in two myths. One of these is in the form of a syllogism:

Scholars know their subject matter.
Teachers know their subject matter.
Therefore, scholars are teachers.

The conclusion is false. It is false because scholars do not do what teachers do. Scholarly behavior results in the acquisition of knowledge in one order or form. The knowledge of the scholar must be converted into another form, a teachable form.

Another myth is that teachers are born and not made. That proposition is also false. Teachers are neither born nor made. One learns how to teach. There are those who have less to learn about teaching, but only because fortuitously they have been blessed with experiences that have allowed them to develop a pleasant attitude toward people, a desire to help people learn, and an ability to sense the world and what he himself does from others' viewpoints.

Both the syllogism and the proposition have been convenient means of escape for those who do not want to be honest about either their mistakes in their early years of teaching or their present pedagogical inadequacies. If one does not want to learn new methods for conveying information, these myths provide the necessary rationalizations. If one claims that college teaching can be improved, in which generation of teachers is the inadequacy to be found—tomorrow's teachers? These myths are an excellent defense against accountability and against taking the trouble to help someone learn how to teach.

If college teachers analyzed what they do, they would find their lot a complex one. Each teacher occupies a position which is somewhat prescribed for him and somewhat prescribed by him. In that position, he has a role which is actually a complex of expectations held by a variety of people. His departmental peers reveal expectations of him through conversations, faculty meetings, casual attitudes, and elections. His students reveal their expectations of him in classes, appointments, casual conversations, and formal meetings. His colleagues outside his department and in the country as a whole also convey their expectations of him by what they ask him to do and through other kinds of recognition. His administrators through rewards, silence, committee appointments and casual exchanges reveal their expectations of him. For the performer, the general public and the press convey their expectations also.

This network of expectations results in interactions between the person in the position and all of these other persons. Some of these persons are more significant than others, and they affect more strongly what he does. The incumbent's actions reveal his concept of his role in that position. How well a faculty member fulfills his role and is accepted resolves to a question of consensus among all those others who hold expectations of his position. If he does not meet this network of expectations sufficiently, there is role dysfunction. With good fortune, he may move to another position where he can hope to find a greater role consensus. He can hope to find teaching assignments, office facilities, departmental attitudes, administrative support, student attitudes and committee work which are more realistic for him as he sees himself.

In the preparation for the role of a college teacher, it would seem that the total functions of the college teacher would be included. No matter where one teaches there are committees, curricula, facilities, finances, scholarships, student counseling, etc. None of these is a simple-minded process. They all require an expertise which is sometimes learned at the cost of role dysfunction for the young teacher in his first position. Regrettably, the educational process in music, at least until very recently, has been limited to formal preparation for teaching and either research or performance. Where students are educated in these other responsibilities, the procedures are ad hoc and informal.

Even though research and teaching are supposed to be the heart of college teacher preparation, these have not been treated realistically. The lack of realism is in what a college faculty member does as a teacher and as a researcher. The character of these two functions that any one person undertakes is determined by his own interests and by the kind of institution employing him. The small college faculty member teaches and has other responsibilities; he is seldom expected to generate new knowledge, that is, to be a researcher. The large university faculty member purportedly is the primary source of new knowledge and ideas, but in fact he may have one of three kinds of positions—primarily teaching, primarily external affairs, or primarily research. These primary responsibilities, however, are never guaranteed and over a decade a faculty member may find that his primary responsibility has shifted from one to another of these or over all three. Realistically, only a handful of individuals in the field of music actually become generators of new knowledge and ideas after their doctorate is completed. The rest of the profession reorder, reiterate, and synthesize what these few have produced. The educators of college teachers do not face this situation honestly. Moreover, they have done little to find out why the situation exists.

The increasing complexity of academic life makes adequate pedagogy and research difficult to achieve. Not many of us are treated respectfully in terms of role expectations and commitments, and those of us who are so treated treasure the uniqueness of our position. Any one of us could make a substantial list of why we do not have the time or the energy to produce more new knowledge. In all probability, we would find that our lists are nearly identical. The point is, these deterrents place a premium on human time and energy. They substantiate the argument that where we can we must be more economical and efficient and be willing to account for what we do.

The primary concern of this paper is college teaching per se. But there is little point in discussing it without the context of pressures on persons whose roles are complex. The improvement of college teaching is not some simple, isolated problem. Teaching occurs in a shifting environment within and outside the collegiate institution.

What should be the preparation for college music teaching? First there is the need to clarify what teaching is. It is not scholarship in music theory, music history, or music teacher education, nor is it the development of performance artistry. Such scholarship and artistry are a necessary prerequisite to teaching in the sense that a teacher must know the sources of recent and changing information. One must have such information in order to educate and not miseducate his students. Educators of college teachers have done well in assuring that those who become college teachers are well-informed in their subject matter. We have also established ideals and procedures for scholarly inquiry and artistry. We may not be satisfied with how well we approximate our ideals and use our procedures, but they do exist. Our graduates understand that as teachers they should be revisionists, that they should continually search for more accurate information and check the accuracy of the old.

On the other hand, educators of college teachers have not done as well in assuring that those who want to teach will be able to teach what they know. Teaching is a communication process; it is helping people learn. It is a form of behavior, a person doing. It is observable and therefore analyzable. There are no mysteries in teaching; there are only unanswered questions about what happens in the successful teaching-learning process. That process is self-controlled and purposeful action on the part of both the teacher and the learner. People learn how to teach and their behavior is examinable by means of psychological and sociological research techniques. After all, the teaching-learning process is essentially an interaction between teacher and learner either directly face to face or indirectly through the use of technological devices or printed matter.

Just as subject matter or knowledge must be revised, so must the teacher's behavior. A teacher must revise his own teaching role concept. This includes a constant seeking of new ways and refinements in his behavior in the classroom, the rehearsal hall, or the studio. Old ideas can be taught more efficiently. New music requires new techniques of teaching, conducting, performing, and analysis. New technology makes possible the teaching of information and concepts that in the past one could only hope would be learned. New information can transform studio teaching of performance techniques.

Perhaps the most severe criticism of those who prepare college teachers is that we have lacked curiosity about the peculiarities in teaching college age students. We have forced the neophyte college teacher to go through the embarrassing process of finding new methods of instruction for himself. We have done little to foster scholarly inquiry into how one teaches in a studio, before a performing group, or in the history, theory, and teacher education classroom. The two most active areas of inquiry have been in teacher education and in music fundamentals, that is, ear-training and sight-singing. In the latter, the effort has been mostly in the area of programmed instruction. Next, one could list music appreciation courses for the non-music major, but even here the efforts have been meager. If one assumes that new knowledge is to be used by the layman and prospective musician, one could say that research which produces new knowledge in subject matter is aborted by the failure to find reliable and valid ways to transmit it. It seems obvious that the concept of scholarship in graduate programs must be broadened to include pedagogical problems. It also seems obvious that graduate faculties must attempt to find standards for pedagogical behaviors that we will cherish as much as we do our standards for scholarship. If we do not, then let us cease claiming that we are preparing college teachers. Again, there are no mysteries here. There is only ignorance due to our own delinquency.

Until a body of knowledge about college teaching evolves, the prospective teacher at least can attempt to answer some basic questions before he enters his first teaching effort. There is nothing new in these questions because excellent teachers have functioned with these as guidelines for a long time. One can provide a lengthy list of persons who have wrestled with the problem of communicating with the young adult mind—Socrates, Loyola, Alcuin, Eliot and others. To say the least, they attempted to be models for their students and their peers with the hope that young teachers would bring a better pedagogy to higher learning. The questions they dealt with were not essentially different from those which follow.

1. What are the objectives for this endeavor?

Whether an endeavor is a single lesson in a studio or a full year's course of study, there is the question of why and to what purpose the teacher and students are undertaking it. This is a question which helps direct action and choices, making them consistently germane. It establishes the basis for efficiency and economy.

Lest this seems to be obvious, consider a few practices in collegiate music teaching. First, what is the purpose in an assiduous use of Hanon's drills? Is it related to performing Bach, Chopin, or Bartok? Where is the proof, one way or the other? The opinions of experts aren't good enough, because proof lies in what learners do. Do students actually transfer the skills in Hanon's drills to the performance of compositions? Just how much of Hanon is there in piano literature?

Second, consider the use of Grout's History of Western Music in an introductory music history course for undergraduate majors. What is the purpose? What expectations of the students are held by the teacher? Grout covers many kinds of information, each having its own mode of thought, remembering, and retrieving. What kind of knowledge is of the most import? Is one philosophy of history more appropriate than another for the undergraduate?

Third, what is the purpose in presenting the historical approach to learners in a music appreciation course? Is a course so designed an introduction to music or an introduction to the history of music? Are there concepts that no longer require an historical context? What is the meaning of an historical context? What is the meaning of an introduction to music or music appreciation?

Fourth, what is the purpose in teaching harmony before counterpoint? Is there evidence that the one is a prerequisite to the other? Do students write better counterpoint after or before studying harmony? What proof do we have that any sequence for learning the techniques of composition or analysis is better than another?

Fifth, what is the purpose of performance capabilities in prospective elementary school music teachers? What evidence do we have that performance ability at the level of a senior recital is related to excellent music teaching in the elementary school? What relationship is there between what an elementary school music teacher does and the bachelor degree requirements in performance for such people?

Sixth, what is the purpose of a performance group? Is it student learning of repertoire? What repertoire is learned by a trombonist in an orchestra? Does the repertoire of any organization demonstrate that student learnings are the objective for performing the repertoire? If not repertoire, is the objective performance skills? What kind of skills do students acquire in a performing organization, if any? Just what student learnings are the objective of a performance group? Is it more likely that performance groups are vehicles for public relations than for student musical learnings? Do we know that students actually do learn in such situations?

This is merely a sample of the questions about our objectives that we have answered superficially. The list could go on and on.

2. What behaviors of students are expected which will indicate that objectives have been met?

Once one defines what a student is supposed to achieve, there is a basis for determining how a student is to be helped toward these objectives. One can describe what a student should be able to do. If one cannot give such a description, he had better reconsider the plausibility and possibility of the endeavor's objectives.

There is no way to know whether a student has met the objectives for an endeavor, or how well, except by what he does, his behavior, or by the products he produces. We evaluate performance skills by a student's performance, by what he does. We evaluate a student teacher by his performance in a classroom, by what he does. We evaluate a student's knowledge of music history by his papers and his examinations, by what he produces. Our judgments are based on behaviors or products of behaviors regardless of how respectful we may be of a student's private, unobservable thinking.

3. What procedures will yield student behaviors and products which will indicate that the objectives have been met?

Until recent years, the teacher-centered lecture method has been the sacred modus operandi of college classroom teaching. It was thought that one method fitted all classroom objectives. Of course, there have always been mavericks who have varied their teaching methods according to the kind of thing to be learned. But then, they were mavericks. Due to technological changes, there are other methods readily available and certainly these are a challenge to the imaginative. We find much healthy experimentation going on, or is it really much? As one views various faculties in higher education, one finds again the venturesome few who are seeking pedagogical alternatives.

Where experimentation exists, it is addressed to the basic question: Which method for which objective and for which set of student behaviors and products? In another way, the question is: Which is the most economical and efficient method for learning what so that it will be remembered and easily retrieved? The capability of using technological devices such as tape decks, overhead projectors, computers, etc. is no longer a simple-minded process. Each of these has a different value in terms of efficiency and economy on the one hand and in terms of the psychology of perception and learning on the other. There was a time when there were a few of these devices and we could afford to be condescending about their value, but no longer. There are clever and subtle uses for these which require an expertise that the unsophisticated does not appreciate.

Learning is more than acquiring information; it is remembering, retrieving, and using that information as well. There is much about the way people learn that remains a puzzle, but we know much more than collegiate teachers would like to believe. In the recent book by Morse and Wingo, Classroom Psychology, Goodwin Watson has listed fifty propositions "upon which psychologists from 'all schools' would consistently agree." Many of these apply to adult learning. Of course, there is a convenience in denigrating psychology as a body of knowledge. By denigrating it, one can obviate the need to know much about it, thereby eliminating a field of information that cannot be separated from subject matter in the learning process.

Of course, it is much more convenient to believe that teachers are born and that scholars, by definition, are teachers. One can then forget that how one behaves as a teacher and how people learn are problems. He can go on teaching as he was taught without questioning how well he himself learned in a classroom years ago. Struggling to use the new technology and striving to ask essential questions about learning procedures can be forgotten while the lecture-recitation process continues. After all, who wants to give up his place in the center of the lecture hall?

Resistance to changes in pedagogical procedures is not limited to the classroom; it thrives in the studio and the rehearsal hall as well. There is a clouded history concerning studio teaching, but the one-to-one ratio between student and teacher has existed for a long time. One finds it pictured on ancient Grecian pottery. We seem to have progressed little. And yet class instruction is wide-spread—master classes given by great artists and beginning classes for non-music majors or in secondary performance areas for music majors. The question is: Why do we persist in believing that class instruction is inappropriate for undergraduates in their major performance endeavors? Arguments in favor of private lessons are never based on fact, and they are easily refuted. Where is the evidence that two or three or four students cannot be taught at the same time as effectively as one?

Another grave difficulty in the studio is its questionable efficiency. There is little evidence that such instruction is disciplined and organized. There is little instruction about procedures for the studio. Where there is such instruction it is basically theoretical and seldom practical. There has been little objective analysis and certainly little, if any, systematic treatment of pedagogical procedures. What is the most efficient way to teach voice, woodwinds, or organ? Do we have anything better than mere opinion to act on? What sequence of behavioral accomplishments should a student be led through so that he can achieve well-defined objectives? But then, how does one decide a reasonable objective so that one has a basis for deciding the kinds of procedures that are appropriate for a particular student? Is there a better way to deal with these problems than with best guesses, sometimes euphemistically called "intuition"?

The problems in the rehearsal hall are different but no less plentiful. If the performing organization is part of the process of teaching musicianship, what evidence is there that this is achieved? Is sitting in the eighth chair of the violin section the best place to learn ensemble techniques? What is the most efficient procedure for reaching concert performance quality for a choral group, an orchestra, or a string quartet? The choice of repertoire is a procedural matter, but toward what objective? When one witnesses the functions of performing groups in the collegiate setting, one wonders whether they exist for the mere doing or whether there is some relationship between means and ends.

In the year 1972, one can hardly accept with equanimity present dominant attitudes toward the process of teaching. There are available to us extraordinary advantages that were unknown a few years ago. It is our task to find more efficient ways to help students acquire, remember, retrieve, and use the information they are exposed to. Because music has its own characteristics that combine hearing, seeing, and acting, only we can ask essential questions. No one is going to answer those questions for us.

4. What methods of evaluation will give an accurate estimate of how well a student's behavior and products approximate the objectives for an endeavor and that the procedures used were appropriate?

There is a variety of endeavors in music learning, each one requiring a different kind of evaluation technique. We know this, and we use a variety of evaluation techniques. But these raise questions. Is the game "drop the needle" a test of a student's knowledge of musical works? Is the jury system, where politics sometimes decides the grades, an appropriate method for evaluating performance skills? Is the writing of an essay a true test of one's knowledge of music history? Is the subjective judgment of one supervisor an adequate evaluation of the student teacher? Is the composition of a fugue a true test of one's understanding of the fugue as a kind of compositional technique? Perhaps the most telling question is: Has anyone examined these methods of evaluation for their validity, using appropriate research techniques?

The purpose of evaluation is to know whether one has communicated, whether one has helped students learn. The assumption that student failure is the fault of the student alone is no longer acceptable. But to know who is at fault, the evaluation techniques must fit the nature of the endeavor, that is, its objectives, the desired behaviors and products of the students, and the methods used to help the students toward the objectives.

Perhaps the most difficult factor in the teaching-learning process to evaluate is the teacher himself. Although he is only one variable, he is a major one because he determines what the objectives will be, what will be learned to achieve those objectives, and what the procedures will be that will influence and even determine student behaviors and achievements. There are methods by which one can analyze his own teaching behaviors—audio tape recordings, video tape recordings, student evaluations, interaction analysis, etc. But few of us are encouraged to use such techniques on ourselves, whether we teach undergraduates or prepare college teachers. This must change, and the authoritarian, defensive posture we take must disappear for the sake of our own welfare as well as our students. The college teacher must be helped to be candid about himself.

There is much that has not been discussed in this paper that is germane to the problem of college teacher preparation. What is a fair examination? What is a just basis for grading? How does one treat the reluctant and resistant student? What does it mean to respect students and what are their rights? What is an ethical classroom deportment of the teacher? Each of these is a complex problem in itself, but there are no mysteries in these problems either.

The intent of this paper has been to justify an assertion that would seem to be self-evident: College teaching is not a simple process of doing what our academic seniors and forefathers have done. We have more knowledge about the learner today. We are asking more questions about what we do than our forefathers did. There are advantages for us that were not theirs. The questions that are asked of us today are asked more intensely, and they are justifiable. Those intensely-asked questions are directed at why we teach what we do teach, what we expect of our students, how we help our students learn, and how we know that we have done our part well. Those questions challenge us to be economical, efficient, and accountable in what we do. None of those questions is directed at what we know about music history, music teacher education, music theory, or performance. They are directed at how well we help our students learn music. They challenge us to broaden our modes of inquiry, to reconsider our concept of the role of a college music teacher, and to make college teacher preparation appropriate to our needs and to the questions of our times.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 13/11/2018

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