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Campbell, M. & Barrett, J.. Music Teacher Education and Continuous Professional Development. Kansas Music Review 76.2 Spring 2012-13. URL: http://kmr.ksmea.org/?issue=201213s&section=articles&page=development
Music Teacher Education and Continuous Professional Development
By Mark Robin Campbell and Janet R. Barrett
Reprinted from the March 2013 edition of the School Music News, the official publication of the New York School Music Association
No clear rituals or rites of passage mark a music teacher's shift from "beginning" to "experienced." Yet we know that a teacher's capacity to learn in and from experience is essential to this development. In this series of articles, we have taken Sharon Feiman-Nemser's central tasks of learning to teach (see Figure 1) to address how each phase of a music teacher's learning may be seen as part of a continuous path of growth, rather than as separate stages. Continuing professional development, involving sustained attention to one's own learning across the span of a career, depends upon setting goals for enhancing teaching skills, deepening understanding of subject matter and student diversity, strengthening vital commitments and values, and especially, seeking productive avenues for change. Renewal in teaching is a generative, principled, and reflective process that is most powerful when the impetus for change is in harmony with one's evolving philosophy and the particularities of one's teaching setting.

Figure 1

Professional development is often viewed as a set of activities, workshops, or institutes rather than as a personalized process of teacher-driven intentions or initiatives. In an inquiry-driven view, teachers develop their own agendas for personal and collegial pursuits. A lifelong orientation to growth draws wisely from available professional development activities that fit well with individuals' own desires for advancement and their particular interests and desires for learning.

Extend and deepen subject matter knowledge for teaching

As a subject area, music offers such breadth and dynamic range to explore. To stay abreast of music is to be constantly in motion, and always on the lookout for something interesting around the bend. As the critic Alex Ross writes: "music is always migrating from its point of origin to its destiny in someone's fleeting moment of experience—last night's concert, tomorrow's solitary jog" (2007, p. xii). Teachers extend their knowledge of subject matter by honing their skills, and even redefining their notions of musicianship to become more well-rounded, culturally responsive, and versatile. Choosing music for curricular study involves continually refreshing one's knowledge of performers, works, styles, and repertoires.
One life-long curricular challenge for music teachers deals with deepening their understanding of those "core and enduring ideas" (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) that make music so personal and socially vital. Alan P. Merriam's (1964) classic text on the functions of music provides a powerful basis for choosing repertoire and creating music learning problems that are not only generative but responsive to the continuous reframing and expansion of scholarship in music. These musical functions include: communication; emotional expression; symbolic representation; aesthetic satisfaction; entertainment; physical response; encouraging conformity to social norms; validating social institutions and religious rituals; contributing to the continuity and stability of culture; and contributing to the integration of society.

As many music teachers realize, students contribute rich breadth to the curriculum by sharing their musical interests and preferences as well. Developing the pedagogical expertise to teach many forms of musical engagement keeps music teachers on the cutting edge, whether it be through performing, creating, listening, or connecting music to other forms of experience. Many teachers, for example, have found it musically liberating to work on improvisation and composition, exploring their own creative thinking in order to support students' imaginative work. Experienced teachers find that opportunities to teach new courses—surveys, digital media, chamber ensembles, world music offerings— stretch their horizons through learning new material and musical practices.

Complementary areas of study also expand music teachers' knowledge, such as learning more about issues of social justice, cultural practices, historical eras and styles, and the panoramic realms of inspiration that prompt the creation of innovative works and performances. For example, music teachers may turn to the study of the "sister arts" of visual art, sculpture, dance, theater, media studies, and literature when the works they have selected for the classroom warrant a cross-disciplinary approach to instruction. Preparing a work that commemorates an historical event or figure may lead music teachers to explore the historical associations that will lend resonance to its study. Often in this study of parallel disciplines, one's musical understanding is extended and deepened.

In essence, extending and deepening the musical concepts and process involved in performing, listening and creating along with understanding the cross-cultural and social aspects of musical functions required for teaching music is a matter of growing into and utilizing adaptive expertise within both music and teaching (Hammerness et al., 2005; National Research Council, 2000).

Extend and refine repertoire in curriculum, instruction, and assessment

Repertoire most often refers to the carefully chosen musical works selected for student study and performance. Repertoire, however, can also be applied to teaching in considering the range of curricular examples, instructional strategies, assessment techniques, and forms of engagement to use as building blocks of musical experience, what Shulman (1987) calls pedagogical content knowledge. Experienced teachers are always adding to this repertoire by attending conferences, trading ideas with colleagues, reading journals, and searching for new sources of inspiration. However, experienced teachers also derive considerable satisfaction from creating their own new programs and initiatives. Rogers (1985) spoke of opportunities for teachers to create, invent, and improvise as one of the primary avenues for intellectual growth and development.

The creative nature of teaching can also be fostered by drawing on musical ways of understanding. Jorgensen writes: "thinking about instruction as an artistic undertaking enables us to bring values from the worlds of the arts to bear on our teaching" (2008, p. 212). Consider the ways that teachers go about structuring a new course, for example. How will the course be structured—what will be its shape and form? What will be the main themes of the course? Its pace and rhythm? How will various voices and points of view be encouraged and integrated like counterpoint? When will culminating moments be important to draw various themes together? The artistry of teaching as teachers comes into focus as teachers orchestrate the interplay of musical content with students' myriad ways of experiencing that content.

Another critical avenue for professional development lies in refinement through critical analysis. We can all imagine times in our teaching when, for some reason, what we teach, how we teach, and the evidence of students' learning have not been in alignment. Experienced teachers seek the integrity that comes when these realms are in complementary balance with one another. At best, curriculum, instruction, and assessment are strongly intertwined and interdependent, like the three strands of a well-formed braid. Expertise in teaching comes from attending to the alignment of content, instruction, and assessment.

Strengthen skills and dispositions to study and improve teaching

Reform-minded music teachers are committed to continual improvement (Thiessen & Barrett, 2002). They take advantage of formal and informal avenues for professional development. A particularly potent form is through formal study beyond the baccalaureate degree. Graduate study can serve as a particularly transformative catalyst for teachers' growth. Rigorous and comprehensive programs that deepen scholarly understanding of teaching in tandem with vibrant applications of ideas and concepts to the classroom offer teachers a chance to step aside from the daily demands of the classroom to inform, enlighten, challenge, and renew their commitments to meaningful change. Teacher study groups—whether self initiated or formed by task—can strengthen teacher learning especially if a collaborative culture and trusting environment has been fostered (Natale-Abramo & Campbell, 2012), and group members' collective knowledge is honored and respected (Stanley, 2011). Other professional development activities yield benefits when they exhibit the kinds of relevant, practice-based, well-informed, sustainable, collegial, and meaningful criteria that are aligned with teachers' interests and needs.

Complementary to formalized study lies the need for teachers to be self-starters of their own professional development. Contemporary research that focuses on the teacher as the center of study and development has born fruit in its capacity to strengthen teaching, renew commitments, and build dispositions of inquiry and reflection. Using self-study (Samaras & Freese, 2006) as a guide, music teachers, for example, can explore why they do something, or why it works well, or target a specific practice they believe to be in need of improvement for analysis and reflection, or they can invite critical friends into their classrooms to provide feedback on how they perform a task or interact with students. In a similar vein, music teachers can use classroom action research to analyze both personal practices and institutional factors that shape music teaching and learning so that they can specifically develop action plans to address barriers or impediments to improvement (Feldman, Paugh, & Mills, 2004). When teachers use introspection, and articulate a critical understanding of how their beliefs and practices affect and are affected by their current situations they are engaging in some of the basic processes of both practitioner (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1992) and narrative inquiry (Clandinin, 2010).

Expand responsibilities and develop leadership skills

The competence and confidence of experienced music teachers is noticed by others, frequently resulting in invitations to serve as mentors, to facilitate curriculum revision and professional learning communities, and to serve in appointed/elected positions in professional societies and associations. One key area that experienced teachers often show leadership in is serving as cooperating teachers for student teachers. In these situations, building structures for creating a "community of learners" marked by a shared agenda between the university and school can be a powerful means for continuing development. When experienced music teachers see themselves as co-learners in the student teaching mentoring process, their own inquiry skills into the teaching-learning process is often expanded and refined, along with their ability to think critically (Campbell & Brummett, 2007). Over time, music teachers are also often called upon to lead efforts for the revision and restructuring of the curriculum. They play multiple roles in these efforts, finding valid ways to adapt general curriculum schemes to the music classroom, creating new programs and courses "from scratch," critically evaluating available options, and conducting action research by interrogating curricular practices and outcomes (Barrett, 2009).

Music teachers exhibit qualities and dispositions that are associated with leadership, such as the capacity to "combine resolute moral purpose with impressive empathy" (Fullan, 2011). They act with passion and determination to orchestrate change by drawing people together around promising new ideas and initiatives and working through conflict toward compromise. These same dispositions often lead to appointments on task forces, committees, and professional societies. Each opportunity offers a chance to contribute to a larger purpose, but also affords the satisfactions of broadening perspectives through interacting with other like-minded individuals. Through professional service, teachers make valuable contributions to the profession while also deriving new insights and avenues for their own professional growth.

The professional growth of music teachers can be viewed as a continuum of learning in which new ideas and practices are introduced, developed, refined, revisited, and transformed over time. At all points along the continuum, the teacher acts as an intentional agent of his/her own professional growth, maximizing the opportunities that arise, and creating new avenues for change and improvement of music education.


Barrett, J. R. (2009). Graduate music education as a site for reconfiguring curriculum development. Research Studies in Music Education, 31, 6-19.

Campbell, M. R., & Brummett, V. M. (2007). Mentoring preservice teachers for development and growth of professional knowledge. Music Educators Journal, 93, 50-55.

Clandinin, D. J (2010). Potentials and possibilities for narrative inquiry. In L. K. Thompson & M. R. Campbell (Eds.), Issues of identity in music education: Narratives and practices (pp. 1-13). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. L. (1992). Inside/outside: Teacher research and knowledge. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Feldman, A., Paugh, P., & Mills, G. (2004). Self-study through action research. In J. Loughran, M. L. Hamilton, V. K. LaBoskey, & J. Russell (Eds). International handbook of self-study of teaching and teacher education practices (pp. 943- 977). Dorrrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

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Hammerness, K., Darling-Hammond, & L. Bransford, J. (2005). How teachers learn and develop. In L. Darling-Hammond & J. Bransford (Eds.), Preparing teachers for a changing world (pp. 368-389). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Jorgensen, E. R. (2008). The art of teaching music. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Merriam, A. P. (1964). The anthropology of music. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Natale-Abramo, M., & Campbell, M. R. (2012). Music teachers investigate their work: Collaborative inquiry as curriculum making and professional development. In L. K. Thompson & M. R. Campbell (Eds.), Situating Inquiry: Expanded venues for music education research (pp. 35-58). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

National Research Council (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Rogers, V. (1985). Ways of knowing: Their meaning for teacher education. In E. Eisner (Ed.), Learning and teaching the ways of knowing: Eighty-fourth yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education (pp. 250-264). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Ross, A. (2007). The rest is noise: Listening to the twentieth century. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Samaras, A. P., & Freese, A. R. (2006). Self-study of teaching practices. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1-22.

Stanley, A. M. (2011). Professional development within collaborative teacher study groups: Pitfalls and promises. Arts Education Policy Review, 112(2), 71- 78.

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2003). Understanding by design (2nd ed.). Reston, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Copyright 2013 NYSSMA, Permission to Reprint Granted by Thomas N. Gellert, NYSSMA Editor

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