Teaching Skills in the Doctor of Arts Degree in Music

October 1, 1978

The rationale for the existence of the Doctor of Arts degree is the often-heard complaint that college professors may be experts in their respective fields but that they do not know how to teach. Typically, they have never had a course in effective teaching or a supervised practicum in which their approach to the class was critiqued by a more experienced person.

Of course, some experienced professors bristle at the suggestion that they might not know how to teach effectively, and many new teachers simply respond that they will teach as they have been taught. They do not see a problem here since they learned, and many other students learn, effectively from traditional methods.

The crux of the issue seems to be a difference in philosophy between public education and traditional college education. The philosophy of public education (K-12) in this country is that everyone is required to attend, and the public expects the teaching staff to do its best to achieve results with every student. The philosophy of traditional college education is that it is competitive, that the student is responsible for his own achievement, and that the faculty is not obligated to use special techniques to produce results with the inattentive, unmotivated, or marginally capable student. Such students have traditionally been removed from programs and sent to work in less technical jobs.

Today, however, there seems to be a change in attitude on the part of administrators in junior colleges, small private liberal arts colleges, and other institutions that place the majority of their emphasis on lower division education. In such institutions, the attitude has developed that the faculty are accountable for the success or failure of their students. As a result, administrators have begun to search for faculty who have a greater than average record of achievement of success with average freshmen and sophomores. The reasons for such a search include the requirements of legislators that educators be "accountable," the demands of the declining pool of new students that more of those enrolled be kept in order to maintain enrollments, and the growing idea that at least a year or two of college is a public right rather than an earned privilege.

As a result of such pressures, there is a demand that faculty members who teach freshmen and sophomores be particularly skillful in certain methods which may be applied to keep students interested, to develop student motivation, and to achieve relatively painless learning. Essentially, the philosophy of education traditional in public education is being applied to the first two years of college education. Thus has arisen a demand for college educators having particular skills and experience in the methods of effective teaching, that is to say, ones having special skills for achieving educational success with all students, not just the most talented. Such special skills do not come naturally but must be acquired through special courses of study and a great deal of effective supervised teaching.

There seems to be some sort of agreement that such preparation in effective teaching is a basic necessity for teaching in public school through high school but is debatable at the college level. Perhaps the criterion is simply the degree of maturity of the student involved. That is to say that as a student gradually matures he becomes more able to approach a faculty person as an individual without having to be coerced or tricked into learning. He gradually becomes more serious about his chosen profession and he gradually develops the ability to be personally responsible for his own progress, not requiring constant nurturing in order to progress.

I think it is fair to say that the really professionally oriented, career-minded college student would want the most knowledgeable faculty and would not be very impressed by the "methods" used to get him to learn. On the other hand, there are quite a few junior colleges, small liberal arts colleges, and lower division schools which are very concerned that the best methods be applied to bring out the best in the average student, the deficient student, etc.

There seems to be a valid discussion about where one draws the line between the greater emphasis being placed on advanced learning or on teaching methods. As a result, there has developed a considerable demand for college teachers who have had as a part of their education a considerable amount of guided and critiqued practice teaching and methods courses at the college level. It is to fill this demand that the Doctor of Arts degree was established at the University of Northern Colorado.

Recognizing that one cannot accomplish an unlimited goal, the school balanced the additional practice teaching and pedagogy courses by a complementary reduction in the advanced research courses normally required for the Ph.D. degree. It is normally agreed that individuals holding teaching positions in junior colleges and lower divisions of four-year institutions would not have primary responsibilities for original research. Therefore the decision was made to make the Doctor of Arts specifically a teaching degree as opposed to the research-oriented Doctor of Philosophy degree. The attempt is being made to balance the demands for scholarly mastery of the individual's major area with the demands for teaching skills developed through seminars, methods courses, and supervised practice teaching.

Candidates for admission must meet the general Graduate School requirements for admission and, in addition, are required to take School of Music advisory examinations in music history and music theory. (Brass, woodwind, string, and percussion majors will be asked to take techniques examinations in their performance area, as well.) In addition to the above, all students are required to audition in their applied area.

The Doctor of Arts degree requires that a minimum of 90 quarter hours be taken beyond the Master's degree. Of the 90 hours, 18 hours are allotted to the doctoral dissertation which may be divided as follows:

1. D.A. in Performance or Conducting  
  A. Two recitals or concerts 12 hours
  B. Dissertation 6 hours
    18 hours
2. D.A. in Pedagogy and Performance  
  A. One recital 6 hours
  B. Dissertation 12 hours
    18 hours
3. D.A. in Music History and Literature  
  Dissertation 18 hours
4. D.A. in Theory and Composition  
  Credit may be divided in blocks of 6 hours between composition and theoretical research 18 hours

A secondary emphasis of 15 hours is a normal part of the degree and is intended to develop a secondary scholarly and/or performing function in one of the above areas, in music education or in related areas outside of music. The secondary emphasis includes a creative project similar to but of lesser scope than the dissertation.

One of the primary features of the Doctor of Arts degree is in its emphasis on preparation for college level teaching. In line with this aspect of the degree, students undertake an internship ranging from limited responsibilities to full time classroom teaching under direct supervision of the graduate faculty in the School of Music. All students for the Doctor of Arts degree take a seminar in effective teaching, a research seminar, and a seminar in college teaching in addition to the supervised practicum in college teaching.

Externships are highly recommended, and other course work in the areas of higher education, learning theory, foundation courses, tests and measurements, and media are selected through consultation.

All students take written and oral examinations covering the primary and secondary areas of emphasis plus music history and literature and music theory, if these are not part of the primary or secondary emphasis. Candidates should expect three and one-half days of examinations.

As the above description should indicate, the emphasis in the Doctor of Arts degree is on preparation for effective college level teaching. As a result, the emphasis on research and research tools is concomitantly reduced from that required in the typical Ph.D. The customary language requirement is a reading knowledge of one foreign language as opposed to the usual two for the Ph.D. No other research tools such as statistics or computer programming languages are required, and no courses in musicological research such as the transcription of Medieval and Renaissance notation are included. On the other hand, research in pedagogy is encouraged and may constitute a part of the dissertation requirement.

1726 Last modified on November 12, 2018