"Come Walk With Me in the Mud": An Innovative Approach to Music in Childhood Education

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The childhood education program at the University of Florida for future elementary school teachers (hereafter referred to as the CEP) could be described as a humanistic competency-based program. It is humanistic because the students, rather than the doctrines of competency-based education, are central to all decision-making that takes place in the program. It is competency-based in that a minimum level of proficiency in each substantive area of the curriculum is required of each student.

Music became a substantive area in the CEP program in 1971. (The experimental CEP program based upon research done at the University of Florida by Arthur Combs and Associates had been under way since 1969.) In 1971, the other substantive areas in the CEP program included art, mathematics, curriculum, language arts, reading, science, social studies, human growth and development, social foundations, and black studies. Each of these areas was expressed in learning activities rather than as methods courses. Upon completion of each stated activity, the student received a slip signed by his substantive leader indicating his achievement. Students worked through the learning activities in each area with a faculty member designated as substantive leader. Substantive leaders were assigned by teams (a group of approximately 120 students). Students were given the responsibility for deciding whether to work intensely in a few curriculum areas, or to do a few activities in each area. Over six quarters of academic study a total of approximately 80 learning activities in the various substantive areas required completion.

The CEP program was set up with no regularly scheduled classes, no objective tests, no ABC grading practices, and no teacher-imposed deadlines. Each student in the program had a seminar leader who counseled and guided him over a two-year period, plus a seminar of thirty peers to interact with in his attempts to increase his sensitivity to self and others. In addition to this, each student was part of a community made up of four seminar groups. The community met weekly to tackle common problems, identify needs, and explore interests. Students in the CEP program worked approximately ten hours per week in the schools every quarter of their professional sequence. The program committee, made up of student representatives from each seminar, seminar leaders, and a faculty member from each substantive area, governed each community. The first stage for implementing music into the CEP program was to rewrite the traditional course MSC 390: Music in the Elementary School as a series of learning activities. We started with our original course outline, met as a music education faculty, met with students, conferred with seminar leaders, edited, and revised.

In the program we eventually devised, students begin their work in music by attending an orientation session at which time they receive a learning activity list which explains the four activities they will be expected to complete in the area of music during the six quarters they are in the CEP program. This introductory session is followed by five lecture-demonstration sessions, one on each of the five basic activities utilized in music programs: movement, singing, creating, playing instruments, and listening. Each session lasts approximately one and one-half hours. At the completion of the series of presentations each student submits a paper delineating "guidelines" for teachers who direct musical activities. One typewritten page per activity is the minimum requirement. Guidelines are defined as "desired teaching behaviors" or "behavioral objectives for teachers."

Example: When leading a song, the teacher will give starting pitch and tempo by singing the first few notes, returning to the first pitch in the song, and singing "ready, sing" on that pitch.

If a student misses any (or all) of the lecture-demonstrations, the guidelines may be prepared independently based on at least five readings pertaining to the topic of the session. These readings may be chapters in methods-books or articles in professional journals. Each student is provided with a bibliography of current materials on each topic which are kept on reserve in the music library.

Presently, in addition to orientation, there are four learning activities in music, each of which is organized according to the format of: 1. Objectives; 2. Selection; 3. Organization; and 4. Evaluation. For example, in learning activity number two, the objective is: the student will demonstrate his ability to plan and present musical experiences to groups of children. Plans will include performance objectives, conceptual objectives, procedure, media, and evaluation. Under selection the student is informed that a planning session will be presented by his substantive leader. Secondly, the student is told that he will be expected to write up one lesson plan and arrange for an individual conference with the substantive leader to discuss the structure of the plan. Third, the student will be responsible for revising his first plan, writing two more, and presenting them to children in the presence of an adult who evaluates his work in light of criteria selected by the student. The lessons can be presented in large or small group settings in schools, scout programs, or church settings. Under organization the student is given a suggested sequence for doing the learning activity. For learning activity number two, the suggested sequence is: 1. Attend the planning session offered by the substantive leader; 2. Write up one plan; 3. Discuss your plan with the substantive leader; 4. Revise your plan and prepare two additional plans; 5. Arrange to teach your plans in the presence of an adult observer. For evaluation you submit your written self-evaluation and the observer's written evaluation to your substantive leader. Be prepared to orally summarize your experience.

Elementary Education majors at the University of Florida have two required music courses in their curriculum. MSC 260: Music Skills for Classroom Teachers (four quarter-hours of credit) is required of all students who have not had enough experiences in music to pass an exemption examination which covers rudiments of music and basic piano skills. Learning activity number one for MSC 390: Music in the Elementary School (five quarter-hours of credit) is designed to strengthen performance experiences and music reading skills introduced in MSC 260. Students are asked to develop a repertoire of ten children's songs on one melodic instrument (either piano, recorder, bells, voice, guitar, or ukulele) and ten children's songs on one harmonic instrument (either piano, autoharp, voice, guitar, or ukulele). Graduate assistants provide instructional sessions for these instruments on a weekly basis. Students are expected to attend these tutorial sessions which are scheduled weekly for eight weeks. Whenever a student feels he has mastered the task, he performs for his substantive leader. If the student performs satisfactorily after the first scheduled session, he is exempted from attending further sessions. Attendance at tutorial sessions is required until the student performs.

Learning activity number one has two purposes. The first is that each student learn to view himself as a musical person capable of performing with a musical instrument. The second purpose is fulfilled by requiring each student to select twenty children's songs from the basic song series which he could and would use with children. This forces students to become familiar with song series for children. They are encouraged to select materials which are new to them. Some selections are to be in minor keys, some pentatonic, and others in major keys. Different key centers should be represented. Students are expected to copy materials they choose and to arrange them in a materials file, paginated, and appropriately indexed so the material they choose is readily accessible when needed.

Learning activities number three and number four are chosen from a list of eight projects. Project A involves developing a resource collection of music learning strategies. Project B means designing an interrelated teaching unit between music and another substantive area. If the student chooses Project C, then he designs a teaching unit based on Orff techniques. For Project D, the student designs a teaching unit utilizing Kodaly techniques. Project E pertains to the creative compositional approach to music. Project F means designing a teaching unit using fundamental, creative, and directed movement. Project G offers the student an opportunity to develop an individualized performance-based instructional package or learning center in music. If the student chooses Project H then he prepares a philosophic statement on the role of music in the lives of children. These projects can be done as independent studies and submitted in written form to the substantive leader for evaluation.

Each quarter a calendar of events is published which informs students of special events in music education which can be used as options to the eight projects listed as learning activities number three or number four. Participation in two workshops is one such option. Workshops generally last from three to six hours. Often they feature a visiting clinician. We have had workshops on Music in Open Education, Models of Teaching for Aesthetic Education, Kodaly, A Creative Compositional Approach to Music, and How to Build and Play a Dulcimer.

A second option in lieu of doing an independent study project and submitting a paper for evaluation is the Guided Project. A guided project means attending and participating in a series of five to eight sessions directed by the substantive leader. Topics for the guided projects are generally taken from the list of eight projects previously described. In some cases they pertain to a special interest of the professor offering the sessions. Examples of this type of topic are: The Use of Orff Instruments in the Classroom, and Fundamental, Directed, and Creative Music for Early Childhood. CEP students are encouraged to develop special projects or to "go beyond the minimum" in substantive areas of special interest. Students who select music as an area in which to do in-depth work are asked to do an additional project from the learning activity number three or four list of projects, or design a project of their own. This project should extend their skills with instruments, and to some extent have an instructional facet. By providing an opportunity for students to go beyond the minimum in music, students with a background in music, or ones who have shifted from music to elementary education programs, can develop their unique abilities.

It is possible, under the CEP program, for an elementary education student to do one of his field experiences (ten hours a week for one quarter) with a music specialist in the public or private schools. This one feature of CEP has an enormous potential for effect upon elementary music programs. The understanding which the classroom teacher develops for the specialist's role, the ability of the classroom teacher to plan and implement music experiences, multiplied by the fact the classroom teacher may well end up in a pod system providing leadership in music in a team situation has to mean more varied and meaningful musical experiences for children.

We who work with the CEP program find it an invigorating experience. It has strength in that it is based on theories derived from research. It has a built-in capacity for growth and change. It allows people to be constantly involved in a state of becoming. It demands as much as people are willing and able to give. The opportunity to test ideas is available to all students and faculty who function in the program. And, administratively it has provided a tremendous challenge to our intellectual acuity.

Because the central value of the CEP program is people, those who are involved in it must constantly be prepared to meet the counter force of mass education. In mass education the central value tends to be economic competition, and the central question seems to be: "How can we get more information fed into more people, for less money?" The CEP philosophy is diametrically opposed to this value. The CEP is an effort to develop self-actualized human beings. We seek to provide experiences for students which help them reintegrate their feelings and their intellect. We cannot achieve these goals through a technological approach to education.

Hugh Prather in Notes to Myself has written:

Ideas are clean. They soar in the serene supernal. I can take them out and look at them, they fit in books, they lead me down that narrow way. And in the morning they are there. Ideas are straight.
But the world is round, and a messy mortal is my friend.
Come walk with me in the mud. . . .

In a way, since the inception of music into the CEP program we have walked in the mud, and we shall continue to do so. The life of the CEP program is in its regenerate nature. It is designed to be responsive to concerns expressed by students and faculty. Every quarter there is a slightly different calendar of events. Hopefully, each person that passes through the program becomes actively involved in testing ideas and goes out continuously seeking a better way.


(Note: The program described in this article was developed and continues to be developed through the joint efforts of Phyllis E. Dorman, Arnold Penland, and David L. Wilmot, Music Education Faculty at the University of Florida.)

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Last modified on Monday, 12/11/2018

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