Issues in Educational Research, 9(1), 1999, 23-31.
Initial music teacher education in Australia faces enormous challenges in the new millennium. The Finn (1991) and Mayer (1992) reports, the Arts Profile (1994), the move toward outcomes-based education (Willis & Kissane, 1995) and other workplace expectations require music teacher education to review its current curriculum offerings in order to prepare future music teachers for new professional expectations in the next millennium. With the educational landscape being altered so rapidly, how well prepared are novice music teachers to handle the realities of workplace demands?
This paper examines the relevance of initial teacher education in preparing novice music teachers for the challenges of the workplace and looks at the conditions which they may have to work under. Two studies undertaken in Australia are presented - the first is more 'empirical', involving five states; this is complemented by three case studies of music teachers (at the end of their first year of teaching) constituting the second study. The main research questions are: How useful is initial teacher education in preparing novice music teachers for the realities of Australian public schools? What conditions might novice music teachers operate under in their first teaching position?
This paper examines the relevance of initial teacher education in preparing novice music teachers for the challenges of the workplace and looks at the conditions which they may have to work under. Two studies are presented - the first is more 'empirical', involving five states; this is complemented by three case studies of music teachers (at the end of their first year of teaching) constituting the second study. The main research questions are: How useful is initial teacher education in preparing novice music teachers for the realities of Australian public schools? What conditions might novice music teachers operate under in their first teaching position?
Research seems to indicate that novice teachers may not be fully effective in the workplace for sometime after graduation. Stone (1987), Ligon (1988), Rosenholtz (1989), and Warren (1991) found that novice teachers needed help from mentor teachers and administrators in the areas of effective teaching practices and methods. Common problems included the pacing of activities, transitions within a lesson, classroom organisation and management, selection of appropriate music or activities, and the identification of a hierarchy of problem solving (Fallin & Royse, 1994). Richards and Killen (1993) lamented the fact that initial music teacher education failed to address 'directly' many issues affecting the teaching effectiveness of novice music teachers. The unmet expectation that initial teacher education could fully prepare students for the complex demands of teaching was identified as a strong reason for novice teachers dropping out of teaching (Nemser, 1983; Ward, 1987; Howey and Zimpher, 1987; Moran, 1990; Brause, 1992).
Music teachers were also requested to rate the 'frequency of use' of selected competencies (5= daily; 4= frequently; 3= occasionally; 2= rarely; 1= never) as well as the 'usefulness' of teacher preparation (5= of great use; 4= of considerable use; 3= of some use; 2= of little use; 1= of no use) in developing those competencies. In addition, teachers were asked to provide information related to themselves and their schools as well as comment on any aspect of initial teacher preparation and their teaching experiences.
Table 1 shows the rankings given by music teachers, principals and final year music education undergraduates regarding the importance of selected competencies required by a music teacher in the first three years of music teaching. The data reveal that novice music teachers do not see eye to eye with their school principals and their more experienced colleagues in important matters regarding music education. There were clear differences in the importance placed by principals and undergraduates regarding creativity, developing student self-discipline, ability to identify intonation problems, an integrated and balanced curriculum, upper secondary music requirements and communicating needs of the music program to the school administration.
Table 1: Comparison of rankings by music teachers, principals and undergraduates of the perceived importance of selected music teaching competencies (Mean = 4.0)
|Competency (ref. no.)||PR's|
|1||Set clear guidelines for student assignments (53)||2||2|
|2||Create and maintain a co-operative learning environment in the classroom (3)||11||9|
|3||Express ideas clearly (1)||4||1|
|4||Establish positive relationships with students (67)||1||3|
|5||Utilise strategies that develop in students creativity (18f)||21||2|
|5||Utilise strategies that develop in students self-discipline (18c)||11||6|
|6||Deal appropriately with students who are constantly disruptive (70)||5||5|
|7||Demonstrate familiarity with current upper secondary music requirements (50f)||26||15|
|8||Teach musical performance, listening and creating as integrated components of the curriculum (14)||25||7|
|8||Keep accurate records (83)||14||11|
|9||Maintain a balance between music performance, listening and creating (13)||18||9|
|10||Identify intonation problems (23)||40||24|
|10||Define musical terms, signs and expression marks used in scores (42)||20||6|
|10||Design and administer teacher-made tests (59)||19||29|
|11||Identify elements of musical style (29)||32||32|
|12||Evaluate student achievement (58b)||15||13|
|12||Communicate needs of the music to the school administration (77)||10||6|
|13||Select music repertoire which optimises the learning experiences of students (11a)||6||11|
|13||Utilise strategies that develop in students self-motivation (18b)||17||5|
|13||Demonstrate familiarity with current lower secondary music requirements (50e)||33||14|
|14||Encourage students to express themselves through musical performance (21d)||29||23|
|14||Understand the developmental problems of students (52)||17||5|
|15||Sequence instruction to optimise the learning experience of students (7)||9||4|
|15||Plan student assignments in a progressive manner (54)||3||8|
However, principals and undergraduates place similar importance on guidelines for student assignments, expressing ideas clearly, establishing positive relationships with students, dealing appropriately with students who are constantly disruptive and planning student assignments in a progressive manner. Major differences were found between undergraduates and practising teachers valuing of selected competencies such as: identifying intonation problems, design and administer teacher-made tests, and demonstrating familiarity with current upper secondary requirements.
The reality of having a great diversity of professional expectations as well as initial teacher education programs is likely to result in the mismatching of teacher expertise and the needs of a particular school music program. Novice teachers might be thrown in the deep end in some situations and would require some form of assistance such as mentoring. Novice teachers may need to work at establishing and maintaining professional dialogue with their colleagues and finding more effective means of communicating with their principals. They also need to be stronger advocates of music in schools, articulating the benefits and needs of the music program as well as the rationale of what they do professionally. Principals may need help to become more familiar with the specific demands of music teaching (especially creative activities) as well as the nature and value of music in schools. Novice teachers need their support to become future master teachers. Some attention must also be given to encourage and motivate practising teachers to keep abreast of contemporary developments in educational thinking and practices and to be more supportive of novice teachers.
In the light of the above, policy makers may need to take stock of 'hindrances' to policy implementation such as inadequate teacher preparation, uninformed or weak school leadership and poor collegial relationships. The dilemmas and angst experienced by those working at the knife-edge need to be properly considered and addressed in order to achieve the visions of curricular reform. A truly effective and comprehensive educational system can only be realised through a synergistic co-operation of key stake-holders. Some immediate questions that deserve consideration are: What do lecturers, principals and teachers lack that prevented them from being more effective in their roles? How could they be more efficient and effective? Why are teachers not integrating cutting-edge research into classroom practices? Could the 'shelf-life' of novice teachers be extended? And if so, how?
Seven questions pertaining to six areas of music teaching were formulated by the researcher and reviewed by a number of practising lecturers and the three teachers interviewed. The six areas were
The three case studies illustrate the plight of novice music teachers in Australia: (1) initial teacher education did not fully prepare novice teachers for the broad range of expectations and conditions which they experienced professionally in their first year of teaching; (2) they did not receive the necessary assistance to cope with a wide range of professional expectations in their first year of teaching; and (3) they were not provided with the resources and opportunities to employ and apply newly acquired skills such as the use of music technology.
The fact that the professional expectations of novice music teachers could vary so much from one position to another might pose a serious problem for initial music teacher education and the assessment of professional quality. Moreover, the multifaceted roles played by novice music teachers could create unrealistic expectations of the average music teacher's competency, resulting in confused perceptions of professional quality in music education by both principals and the public at large.
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|Author: Dr Sam Leong is the Director of Music Education Studies and Senior Lecturer in the School of Music, Faculty of Arts, The University of Western Australia. He serves on the editorial board of the refereed journals Research Studies in Music Education and Sound Ideas, and is a Special Advisor to the Commission for Music in Schools and Teacher Education of the International Society for Music Education.
Please cite as: Leong, S. (1999). The plight of novice music teachers in Australia: Initial preparation and workplace expectations. Issues in Educational Research, 9(1), 23-31. http://www.iier.org.au/iier9/leong.html
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