The Health of Music Teacher Training - Keynote Presentation and Responses

January 1, 2000


David B. Williams, Illinois State University

A key issue that has surfaced in the CMS music education forums, both at conferences and on the CMS listserv, is the need for self-examination of the music teacher training curriculum as it currently exists in institutions of higher education. Those attending the 1999 CMS Conference in Denver were honored to have Dr. June Hinckley, President of the MENCThe National Association for Music Education, as a special guest speaker to address this critical issue. Dr. Hinckley was joined by a distinguished panel of music educators and CMS members: Drs. Sam Reese, Carol Scott-Kassner, Thomas Tunks, and David Woods.

What follows are excerpts from June Hinckley's presentation and insights and reflections offered by the panelists. Each of the panelists were asked to comment on Dr. Hinckley's address and were challenged to offer their own views for changes on the current music curriculum and music teacher training. Dr. Hinckley's PowerPoint presentation is available in the online version of the Newsletter, as are more extended remarks by the panelists. We welcome continued dialogue from the membership on the issues raised through any of the CMS electronic and print forums.

Keynote Presentation

June Hinckley, MENC President

There are many reasons why it is essential that the larger music education community work together to better prepare our future teachers for an ever changing teaching environment. At the recent President's Summit on Teacher Quality it was reported that four out of five new teachers say they were unprepared to teach minority children or to integrate technology into their teaching. It was also reported there that 22% of young teachers leave teaching within their first three years of employment, and in urban schools 30 to 50% leave with in the first five years. Though 30% of our students are identified as minority, only 13% of our current teaching force is.

These daunting statistics become even more alarming when they are added to the prediction that we will need to hire 2.2 million new teachers during the next decade due to retirements and rising student numbers. In music education, the number of degrees awarded in music education declined by 1,500 per year over the ten year period from 1984 to 1994. This means that we are already in a deficit position of providing enough teachers for current needs, much less future ones.

What can be done therefore to maintain the health of teacher preparation programs? I submit the following issues that we must address:

make student teaching more relevant to the current and future teaching environments

actively recruit talented minority teachers to music edu- cation

purposefully prepare teachers for diverse student needs

model the inclusion of technology throughout teacher preparation programs

maximize traditional teacher preparation course offerings to prepare future teachers to understand less traditional styles in world and popular music genres

To maintain our future health these issues have to be met head on:

Addressing the current teacher shortage with solutions we can later live with

Nurturing young teachers throughout their first years of teaching to provide the scaffolding of support they need to continue and be successful in the field

Thinking of music as a life skill beyond the immediacy of performance

Deciding how "virtual" music education should become given the emerging opportunities for distance learning and net- worked instruction

Expanding our definition of music experiencing to include composition, improvisation, and listening

Turning the vast amounts of data we are accumulating into knowledge that will make future music instruction more efficient, more successful, and more meaningful

Arnold Glasow once said, "The trouble with the future is, it usually arrives before we are ready for it." We have the capability to glimpse what our future will be. It should come as no surprise that we have an increasingly diverse student population, a growing older population, and that families are getting smaller. It is up to us to prepare teachers to be successful in that future. There is no "they" to do this; there is only "us." Collectively we can meet these challenges if we create a common vision for the future of music making and music education and work collaboratively to make that vision a reality.


David Woods, Indiana University

Several trends today are making a significant difference in higher education, specifically in teacher training. The traditional college student of 18-22, full-time, and living in residence now constitutes only 16% of all students in universities and colleges in this country. The new majority in higher education is part-time female, working adults over 25 years of age. Our students today come to college largely because they want credentials. They have private lives outside of campus, and in some cases they have jobs, families, and friendships. College is not their primary activity.

A second trend is the rise of new technologiesthe use of technology in the development of computer software, instructional applications, and distance learning.

Our students today leave the campus and enter a challenging world of music teaching. If teacher training today remains healthy, it must adapt to the changing environments on the campus and in the elementary and secondary schools. It must approach teaching in a continuum, with emphasis on sequential learning, not fragmentation. It must focus on musical literacy and concept development and must recognize a diversity of approaches in teaching and learning of music. Our music education students must be closely aligned with the public school environment, and their teaching training programs must have supervised and monitored experiences by highly qualified teachers and practitioners in the field of music education.

Change will take place in teacher training today, and we will continue to provide this nation with the best in cultural development and aesthetic experience.


Sam Reese, University of Illinois

Technology initiatives are needed in music teacher education from two standpoints. First, we need to help future teachers be ready to use fluent, integrated technology in the music classrooms and rehearsal rooms of the future. We are currently falling far short of this goal, with four out of five new teachers reporting they were not ready to use technology in the classroom. If we help young teachers use these new tools well, the profession may make real strides toward achieving aspects of musicianship like composing, improvising, and perceptive listening which have been elusive goals for the majority of our students.

The second technology initiative is to use new communications technology as a means to connect future teachers much more regularly with students and teachers in K-12 music classrooms. By this I mean, technologies like two-way audio and video conferencing that is done today in specialized conferencing rooms over dedicated networks but is increasingly becoming possible on personal computers using the Internet. Using these systems, it is conceivable that young teachers could interact from a distance and gain more experience with the diversity of school settings and the huge range of student backgrounds and needs in the K-12 population. These new communications might also address another important need by helping us establish public school cooperating teachers as true interactive partners in the process of pre-service teacher education.

In saying this, I am keenly aware of how much hype surrounds technology use and how infrequently it actually delivers on its promises. This is why we badly need research and development programs now to be ready with effective instructional organizations when wide-spread access to high speed networks become available in schools and colleges in the near future. Interestingly, achieving technical dependability in these systems is the easy part.

Much more difficult is the human component of organizing people, schedules, and facilities, and achieving agreement on instructional program goals and activities. Conceivably, these technologies could make it possible for pre-service teachers to work with K-12 musicians as part of their own applied music study, to observe and critique K-12 ensembles as an aspect of their own performance in university ensembles, to make presentations to public school music classes as a component of their own study of the history of music, and of course, to observe and teach classes and ensembles as part of their music education methods courses.

Ironically, technologies become truly powerful only when they almost disappear into their surroundings, and we begin using them transparently without focusing our attention or efforts on them, much as we use stereos and chalkboards in our classrooms today. For this to occur, communication, information, and music technologies must become commonplace and taken for granted in the experiences of future music educators.


Carol Scott-Kassner, Arts and Music Education Consultant

June Hinckley's summary of the challenges facing us in the preparation, quality, and number of music educators that we will need in the next decade stimulates all of us to think of how we might work in new ways to meet those important needs. To begin with, we all need to think of ourselves as music educators. Many, if not most, of the students we teach will eventually teach in schools, in studios, or in the community at large. What we do as pedagogues and as musicians has a powerful influence on the formation of these teachers.

Our graduates need to develop a broad based musicianship that includes but goes beyond training in Western art music. They must understand music from a cultural and historical perspective and be able to connect music to other disciplines including the other arts. They must have the ability to perform with a sense of artistry on at least one instrument and must be able to improvise freely. They must have a sensitivity to musical growth and have the ability to nurture such growth from a technical as well as a human perspective. And, they need to demonstrate attitudes of curiosity about learning, respect for students, an ability to listen, and a capacity for reflective thinking that results in personal growth and change.

Some colleges and universities have worked to change the music curriculum to achieve an integration of technology, improvisation, composition, pedagogical skills, and reflective practice in most courses. Many also have begun to require students to perform in non-Western ensembles and take courses in world music. Others have broadened the scope of music presented in musicianship courses and performed in ensembles to include music from diverse cultures. Some require students to meet general education requirements through integrated courses in the arts and humanities. Individual teachers have worked to re-invent the ways they work with students, using approaches that engage the students in more active participation and reflection through use of such devices as video and audio taping of lessons and performances, reflection in journals, and small group projects. Some music education programs begin field placement of students in the freshman year. We can collaborate in may innovative ways to create a rich tapestry of experiences for students. We must challenge ourselves to begin.


Thomas Tunks, Southern Methodist University

A view from the outside. As my university administrative assignments have broadened through the years--from within music to visual, performing, and communication arts to university-wide responsibilities, I repeatedly have made three observations related to music units and their relationship to the rest of the educational system.

First, music units are efficiently structured and have a well-focused approach to meeting their missions, goals, and objectives, in comparison to other academic units. This is especially true for music education departments.

Second, people in music units do not realize how well organized and efficient their operations are in comparison with other academic units, nor do they spend much time or effort pondering the role of music within the broader educational arena. Instead, they tend to be rather isolationistic in focusing on their own instructional aims. This seems to be transmitted to music students, who are good at carrying on this tradition in their own faculty roles, whether in university or K-12 settings.

Third, people in other disciplines, including other arts, do not seem to realize how well-run music units are, nor do they understand the role of music in education or even, in many cases, that education in music involves far more than skills acquisition. This third observation, I think, is largely a result of the second.

One change. If I could change one thing in the music education curriculum, I would place far greater emphasis on music's (and music teachers') roles in the broad educational system, including both music instructional skills and knowledge of why and how music fits within the overall curricular context.

Even a cursory look at the national standards and related state standards is encouraging with respect to this curricular emphasis. Statements outlining what students should know and be able to do at various grade levels typically include music production (performance), perception/organization, translative skills (symbol to sound, sound to symbol), cultural/historical context, creative/improvisatory skills, and connections with other areas of study. If we take these statements seriously, we will make the kind of change in our curricula that will prepare music teachers for a dual role. One is the music teaching role they have had all along, and the other is the role of consultant to teachers of other subjects (and by extension, receivers of others' counsel as well). We can no longer afford, at any educational level, to isolate music from the rest of education.

Who are we and who are our students? Failure of faculty members is rarely related to subject-matter knowledge or skill. Far more often, it has to do with lack of a real understanding of the needs and characteristics of learners and corresponding educational practice. Nonetheless, there seems to be an almost universal (and often tacit) assumption that if the instructor has a good enough grasp of the subject at hand, everything else will take care of itself (this, despite yearly tenure denials based on ineffective teaching). Universities serve as models of this phenomenon. Music education curricula would be reinforced if faculty outside music education demonstrated their support for teacher preparation. Those same faculty members should also make an effort to demonstrate and discuss good teaching practice with respect to their subject matter.

Our best projections of school- and university-age population numbers indicate a steady increase, at least through the year 2008. Also indicated is a dramatic increase in the proportion of students who are now considered minorities. In other words, globalization is real, and it is here whether we want it or not. Our understanding of the needs and characteristics of learners must include knowledge and understanding of these diverse populations, their cultures, and their musics.

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