Student teaching can be the “best of times” and the culmination of years of college preparation for teaching music. It takes the wisdom of the college supervisor in creating the right match of the student and the placement situation. It takes a cooperating teacher who will not only give the student teacher a variety of teaching experiences, but also provide the daily mentoring and interaction with the student teacher for growth and development in the art of teaching. And it takes a student teacher who is willing to learn and be open to new ideas. The articles in this section on student teaching have been selected to give added insights on student teaching for the preservice teacher, the cooperating teacher, and the college supervisor.
Janice P. Smith presents practical guidelines for the cooperating teacher who will be working directly with the student teacher every day. The insights in this article are also valuable for the college music education supervisor and the student teacher.
Cooperating Teachers: Nurturing Professional Growth
by Janice P. Smith
Student teaching involves a well-defined triad of people: the student teacher, the college supervisor, and the cooperating teacher. The cooperating teacher, a public or private school classroom teacher, takes responsibility for the direct instruction of the student teacher. As a cooperating teacher, you orient the student teacher to the teaching situation, facilitate the student teacher’s assimilation into the classroom and the profession, and evaluate the student teacher. Quite literally, as a cooperating teacher you are expected to take students and turn them into teachers in a few short months. While university personnel may provide some guidance on how to accomplish this task, the major responsibility for structuring this process usually falls to the cooperating teacher.
The Preliminary Interview
Your first contact with the student teacher should be a preliminary interview prior to the formal acceptance of the student teacher in the school. The prospective student teacher meets either separately or together with you and the building principal. Ask the student teacher to bring a copy of an up-to-date transcript to the interview to provide information on the student teacher’s academic preparation, the quality of the student’s work during that preparation, and possible areas of strength and weakness.
During the interview, some attempt is made to form an opinion of the student’s ability to work in your school before you agree to work with that student. A student with somewhat liberal ideas about what constitutes acceptable classroom behavior might have problems adjusting to a school with a strong behaviorally based discipline program. Similarly, a more traditionally based student teacher might have difficulty adjusting to the freedom and individualization of an open classroom school. While student teaching should expose students to various approaches and differing viewpoints, this exposure should not jeopardize the success of the student-teaching experience. A frank discussion of educational philosophy may help avoid dissatisfaction and frustration later.
An overview of the music department and program of the school system should be presented during the interview. The principal should talk about administrative, school board, and community support, and discuss any matters of educational policy of current concern. These matters might include state reevaluation of the school or innovative programs being implemented in the classrooms. Discipline procedures, extra duties, length of the school day, and any other unique facets of school policy should also be discussed during the interview.
The interviewers should also explore the student’s philosophy of teaching music and try to determine some of the individual’s expectations for the student-teaching experience. At the same time, you may wish to provide the student with an updated version of your resume. This will give the student teacher information on your background and interests.
Throughout the interview process it is important for you as the cooperating teacher to attempt to build a positive atmosphere for communication. Express confidence in the student, pleasure at having the opportunity to work with him or her, and enthusiasm for the profession of teaching. If you cannot do this sincerely, you should not consider accepting a student teacher into the teaching situation.
Following the interview, send a letter to the student teacher welcoming him or her to the school system. This letter should clarify where, when, and to whom she or he will report on the first day of student teaching and should specify any materials the student teacher should bring.
During the student teacher’s first day of school, several important things should occur. You should provide a workspace for the student teacher and an area to store personal belongings. Give the student teacher a tour of the building and introduce him or her to administrators, guidance personnel, librarians, and other key personnel. The student teacher should be provided with copies of school handbooks and schedules, as well as copies of any textbooks and curriculum guides he or she will use. You should explain the purpose and use of these materials and highlight those sections that are of importance to the music teacher.
The next step is to determine a schedule. If the student teacher is working with more than one cooperating teacher, take care not to overschedule the student teacher. The student teacher’s class load should never exceed that of the regular faculty and ideally should be slightly less to allow for adequate preparation and conference time. Time to move from one building to another must be taken into account. The inadequacies of the regular teacher’s schedule must never be used as an excuse for making unfair demands of a student teacher. The schedule should include a regular conference time with each cooperating teacher and as many faculty meetings, concerts, and other special events as possible. If the student teacher is working with just one cooperating teacher, he or she should follow the regular schedule of that teacher.
By the end of the first week, you and the student teacher should work out a definite schedule and establish a syllabus and grading procedures (if they are the responsibility of the cooperating teacher). You should also discuss long- and short-range goals for each of the classes or rehearsals and for the student teacher. These goals should become part of the semester plan. As an academic class, student teaching should have its own syllabus and required readings. An experienced cooperating teacher may design this syllabus in advance or plan it jointly with the student teacher during the first week.
However it is determined, the syllabus should include projected teaching assignments, major units of instruction to be planned, readings, projects such as bulletin boards or performances, and special topics to be discussed during conferences. You can include projected dates for videotaping lessons and for the visits of the university supervisor in the syllabus. Specifics about how the student teacher will be evaluated should be clearly stated. As with any syllabus, this is simply a plan that may be changed to fit circumstances or unanticipated opportunities. You will need to be flexible.
Orientation activities do not necessarily end after the first week. During the next several weeks, you should include the student teacher in classroom planning. This means learning to plan aloud and describe what one is thinking. When it is practical, the student teacher may plan a lesson or rehearsal for you to teach. After you teach the lesson, the student teacher and you should discuss the effectiveness of the plan. This can be done before the student is ready to teach an entire period.
You should also discuss pupil grading with
the student teacher. It can be enlightening for both the student teacher and you to grade the same set of papers or the same set of students and compare results. Student teachers should attend staff meetings, union meetings, and professional organization meetings with you. Explain the purpose of each meeting or organization and discuss the benefits and responsibilities of membership.
Gradually phasing the student teacher into teaching is the best approach. Joint planning before the student teacher plans alone provides appropriate models for the student teacher to follow. During this joint planning, you should assign short segments of a lesson or rehearsal to the student teacher before giving him or her responsibility for an entire period. For example, a student teacher could review a well-known song or introduce a new song, conduct a warm-up activity, take attendance, or do a dictation exercise. This experience should be structured so that the student teacher will have the maximum opportunity to succeed. Early positive experiences build student teachers’ self-confidence and increase their trust in you.
First experiences in student teaching should be as positive as possible. The student teacher should be assigned a carefully selected class of cooperative students and should be prepared thoroughly. While working with other groups, you should model the type of instruction the student teacher will undertake. Verbally rehearse the instruction with the student teacher. It can benefit the student teacher to teach the same material more than once, perhaps to different groups of students.
In order to be successful, the student must first be prepared. This implies that the student teacher has mastered the material and that she or he has prepared an effective manner of presentation. Simply assigning a segment is not enough for many beginning teachers. You may need to tell him or her what to do and demonstrate how to present the material.
The Teaching Team
The student teacher should work in conjunction with you, and both of you should work on the same lesson with the same group of students, teaching the lesson as a team. Each has responsibilities for parts of the lesson and there is a smooth transition from one teacher to the other. Neither one interrupts the other while teaching but either may assist the other or the students as the other teaches. For example, one member of the team could accompany, help students find the correct page, or run a tape player while the other does the actual instructing.
When planning together, you should demonstrate the use of the curriculum guide to establish objectives. Next, show how to select appropriate materials to accomplish those objectives. If possible, you should show less appropriate materials and explain why they are less satisfactory. Finally, explain the use of audiovisual materials and other motivational techniques to enhance learning, and have the student teacher note their effectiveness with the class.
Before a lesson or rehearsal, you should discuss transitions from one activity to the next and contrasts within the lesson plan. When you have to adjust plans later on to meet the needs of the students, the reasons for the changes should be thoroughly explained to the student teacher at a subsequently scheduled conference time.
As the student teacher begins to plan independently, it is important to encourage him or her to use his or her own ideas. It is also important for the student teacher to start a collection of resources, ideas, and materials for future use. If the student seems unable to generate effective ideas, you should help him or her find resources other than your ideas. When the student has a position as a teacher, you may not be available. The student teacher will need to know how to find those resources and part of student teaching should be learning how to find and use them. Such resources include appropriate music, textbooks, library materials, professional journals, workshops and conferences, and other music teachers.
You must also be careful not to destroy the individuality of the student teacher’s plans by making suggestions or changes that are matters of individual preference. This is not to say that you should avoid making suggestions for improvement, but simply that you should be sure changes you suggest are necessary. As the student teacher gains experience, encourage planning for a wide variety of learning experiences and experimentation with alternate forms of lesson plans. Different school systems emphasize different educational goals; exposure to alternatives develops flexibility as well as individual preferences.
As the student teacher begins teaching entire lessons without your assistance, it is important that you remain in the classroom and available to the student teacher. Do not interrupt a lesson or rehearsal or criticize the student teacher in front of the students, but participate only at the invitation of the student teacher. At a conference following the class or rehearsal, you can address those points needing attention. Use positive feedback to build the student teacher’s self-esteem, yet comment on those areas that need improvement. Often it is all too easy to point out weaknesses and ignore the strengths in a presentation. A skillful cooperating teacher will not allow this to happen in the student-teaching situation.
One assignment you should give a student teacher is to prepare a mock budget. This can be prepared either for your situation where the student teacher is practicing or for a fictitious school system; you can provide help in assessing needs and realistic dollar amounts. Discussion should then follow on the realities of the financial situation and also on what the ideal situation would be.
If it is at all possible, you should involve the student teacher in planning, preparing, and presenting a public performance with the students. This need not be a formal concert, especially if that is not already a part of the long-range plan. In-school assemblies or performances also provide the necessary experience.
Use audio and video recordings of the student teacher’s teaching to analyze and discuss the effectiveness of a lesson. Ideally, you should make at least two videotapes; one near the beginning of solo teaching and one near the end of student teaching. The growth should be apparent. The viewing of tapes is useful for analyzing time efficiency and pacing. Both of these areas may turn into discipline situations if not handled adroitly, and both are readily observable on tape. Videotapes can help isolate small discipline problems before they become big ones. It is useful for the cooperating teacher to do the videotaping of the student teacher to capture these problem areas for later discussion.
Teaching without the physical presence of the cooperating teacher in the room provides a valuable experience. (In some areas, state law or local policy precludes this.) If possible, you should arrange at least a week of full-load solo teaching for the student teacher. This should occur only when, in your judgment, the student teacher is prepared to successfully handle such an assignment. If you have any reservations about the ability of the student teacher to provide an adequate learning situation for the students, solo teaching should not occur.
Solo student teaching should be a natural outgrowth of the following progression: (1) teaching short segments assisting the cooperating teacher; (2) teaching with the cooperating teacher assisting the student teacher; (3) teaching in the presence of the cooperating teacher but without assistance; and (4) solo teaching. If the abilities and circumstances allow, solo student teaching should be the culminating experience of student teaching.
Evaluation is an integral part of education. Teachers evaluate each lesson, pupil progress, and their own effectiveness on a daily basis. Less frequently, they evaluate their students’
performances, progress toward curriculum goals, and the status of the school system’s music program. Student teachers must learn to do all of these things as well. Through frequent, honest, and open conversations and formal cooperating teacher-student teacher conferences, these skills can be acquired and polished.
The amount of time student teachers and cooperating teachers spend in conferences with each other is often directly proportional to the extent of rapport between them. In other words, the more they talk, the better they communicate. Try to build a relationship that will allow the student teacher to freely discuss items of a personal as well as professional nature. While you may not be comfortable with this role, it must be noted that the personal concerns of colleagues are often discussed as they affect classroom performance. Student teachers have personal lives that can affect their performance as well. You can best deal with these concerns when you are aware of the problems. This kind of rapport can only happen when there is trust and respect between individuals. This trust must be developed from the beginning. In this atmosphere of trust and respect, the task of evaluation then becomes a part of the learning process.
The goal of evaluation should be to help the student teacher learn the skills of careful self-evaluation. Practicing teachers may be evaluated annually by their supervisors, but these visits are few and far between. If teachers are to experience professional growth, they must learn to evaluate and improve their own teaching. Student teachers need to learn these skills. To teach a student teacher how to evaluate teaching skill, you should evaluate your own teaching by means of techniques that the student teacher will be able to use in the future.
After the student has observed a lesson, you should analyze aloud your instructional practice in relation to elements of effective teaching. You can also do this by using a variety of means such as checklists, video- and audiotapes, and school system or university evaluation forms. This practice will eliminate the myth that the cooperating teacher is perfect, and will provide a model for the student teacher to follow in later weeks.
From the time a student teacher begins to work in the classroom with students, you should insist that the student teacher evaluate his or her own planning and performance. By building on what the student teacher perceives as strengths and overcoming recognized weaknesses, a skillful cooperating teacher can use an evaluation conference to enhance the student’s self-esteem as well as to point the way to improvement. You can help the student view his or her teaching objectively with logs, running notes, audio- and videotapes, and evaluation sheets.
You need to make specific suggestions for improvement. This can be done by helping the student find solutions to problems instead of simply making negative comments. Trying to arrive at a variety of options for solving a problem is the professional way of handling a situation. It often also provides one avenue for you to learn from the student teacher.
As the cooperating teacher, you should model self-evaluation behavior. The student teacher should evaluate his or her own teaching, and you should use that evaluation as a basis for suggesting improvement. Evaluation should be a regularly scheduled ongoing process throughout student teaching. This cooperative process provides support and documentation for a final evaluation, which then holds no surprises for the student teacher or the supervisor.
As a cooperating teacher, you are the key individual in the student-teaching triad. The foundations for student teaching are laid by the student during his or her academic preparation. The college supervisor provides guidance and a broader perspective of the situations the student teacher encounters. By assisting with the development of your future colleagues, you provide an impact far beyond that which you have in your own classrooms. What you model and provide for your student teachers is then transmitted to their students, and possibly to their student teachers in the years ahead. Make certain student teaching is a nurturing, creative, and well-planned educational experience.
Future music educators must be clear about the directions they intend to take. Charles R. Hoffer addresses not only the student-teacher experience, buy also the total prepartion of the music teacher from music education courses to the MENC Professional Certification program.
Tomorrow’s Directions in the Education of Music Teachers
by Charles R. Hoffer
“We should all be concerned about the future because we will have to spend the rest of our lives there.” These words of the American inventor and automotive engineer Charles F. Kettering remind us of a simple fact: We need to be clear about our directions if we are to make music education stronger and more vital in the future. While no one can predict the future, music educators should know what they want to see happen in their profession and in its teacher education programs. This examination of future directions in the education of music teachers is divided into two parts. The first concerns college-level programs, and the second deals with continued professional growth after graduation. Both the college and postcollege experiences should be thought of as essential parts of a total process in the development of quality music instruction.
The bachelor of music education degree program in most colleges and universities is the result of trade-offs among the three areas in which music teachers are expected to be competent: music, education, and general knowledge. Because of the limitations imposed by the need to keep the program approximately four years in length, faculty members in each of these areas often believe that not enough work in their area is included. Probably no program in the preparation of music teachers can be developed that will satisfy each area without greatly exceeding four years in length.
Accommodations are necessary, therefore, so that students can complete the program within a reasonable time and still meet requirements for state certification and university graduation.
Although the amount of change that can be implemented in undergraduate programs is limited, the present situation does offer opportunities for improvement. Music educators can improve teacher education programs in the following ways:
1. Secure sufficient time in the curriculum for the music education courses and activities. Music education is, after all, the major area of study for prospective teachers, so they should spend as much time in it as they do in ensembles, music history, or their performance medium. In some universities, for example, music education students earn eight credits in music education while being required to earn fourteen or more credits in large ensembles. The priorities represented by such credit allocations are difficult to justify. Furthermore, two or three courses simply do not provide enough opportunity to develop a solid understanding of the nature and purpose of music education and the methods of teaching music in the many and varied situations the students will face after graduation.
2. Make sure that the content of music and music education courses are practical, broad in scope, and up to date. The concern here is not only for the number of credit hours earned, but also for the quality of study represented by these credits. It is surprising and disappointing to consider the number of important areas of music in American society today that are largely ignored in the teacher preparation programs of many universities. School music teachers must deal with many types of music, not just the Western art music to which most of their college study is devoted. The point is not that lieder and Baroque trio sonatas should be deleted from the undergraduate curriculum; it is rather that
the program should not be limited to such music. In addition, the efforts of music educators should not be confined to school situations. Music teachers need to involve themselves in the community, especially with older citizens, whose numbers are increasing each year. Methods for working with persons in situations other than school need to be addressed in music education programs.
3. Develop in future music teachers the conviction that they will be, first of all, music educators. They should also realize that they will be members of a profession entrusted with the task of teaching music, and that their particular area of specialization within the field (band, orchestra, choral, or general music) is a means of doing that. Music teachers need to see their work as part of a larger picture in which their classes and performing groups are related to other aspects of the music program and to the overall school curriculum. Music teachers should keep in mind that their work will have an impact on the quality of life for their students and for society in general-a rather exhilarating idea.
The need for teachers to think of themselves as music educators does not eliminate their need to receive specialized preparation in the bachelor of music education program. Music teachers are rarely qualified to teach everything from bowing techniques in the high school orchestra to ways of helping first graders match pitch when singing. Fortunately, music teachers are seldom assigned to all areas and levels. While all graduates should have certain understandings and attitudes in common, it is both necessary and desirable that they receive specialized attention in the areas of music they expect to teach.
4. Maintain teacher education programs in music that are comparable in length to teacher education programs in other areas. Teachers in other subjects generally complete a four-year program for certification. Because of the additional demands on music teachers, many teacher education programs in music exceed four years by a semester or more, although the degree awarded at the conclusion of the program is still a bachelor’s degree. Increasing the length of the preparation program is a tempting way to try to meet the demands in music, education, and liberal arts, but it puts an extra burden on prospective music teachers.
Five-year programs that include a master’s degree are more equitable, but they still do not ensure continued growth following graduation. Furthermore, the future of the few such programs actually in operation is not clear. The projected need for many more teachers within the next five years will discourage prospective teachers from enrolling in a five-year program, because they will be employable without pursuing the extra year of study.1
If a music teacher preparation program of reasonable length is to be maintained, then all areas involved must be willing to make reductions to allow room for new topics like those brought about by the vastly increased uses of technology and computers. A change in a requirement is often resisted by faculty members with a vested interest in the existing requirement. Some music teacher education programs, for example, still require rather extensive piano skills that include playing with particular accompaniment patterns and the memorization of patriotic songs. Although these and similar requirements are of some value, they tend either to take the place of something more useful to future music teachers or to lengthen the time needed to complete the program.
5. Make the student-teaching experience more useful. Several improvements are called for in this area. One involves the arrangements for university faculty members to observe and critique the efforts of student teachers. Observations by music education faculty members are time-consuming, and they are sometimes not included in a faculty member’s teaching load. Furthermore, the faculty member who is observing a student teacher is not necessarily the one who taught that student in a methods course, so it is more difficult to relate past coursework to the current student-teaching situation. Unless student teachers are placed in the vicinity of the university, which is not always feasible, the time and expense for travel by faculty members are increased, thereby making observations less frequent. In some cases student teachers are observed by university faculty who are not in music or by graduate assistants with limited experience and qualifications. Neither of these options is desirable.
Video cameras and recorders offer one way of increasing the number of observations by university faculty. Lessons can be recorded and given to the faculty member for critiquing. Although videotapes usually leave something to be desired in terms of sound reproduction and do not provide for immediate feedback, they can be stopped so that comments can be made or portions can be replayed. They can also be viewed by the student teacher for purposes of self-evaluation.
A second way to increase the usefulness of the student-teaching experience is through the careful selection and coordinated involvement of critic teachers in the schools. They can provide more immediate and regular suggestions than is possible by visiting university professors. However, finding teachers who are effective in guiding student teachers is no easy task. Some capable teachers work under conditions that make it unwise to place student teachers with them. Others teach nonmusic subjects for part of the school day, and others have limited teaching experience. Many music teachers like to have student teachers to assist them, but either are not interested in or do not understand their role as mentor. (In fairness, it should be noted that the nature of the supervisory role sometimes has not been made clear to the critic teachers.) Greater involvement and communication in both pre-student teaching and student-teaching experiences is one area in which the school/university cooperation can be increased, as is proposed in the report by the MENC Task Force on Music Teacher Education for the Nineties. Student-teaching placements should also be re-examined to find the right balance between the need for variety in teaching experiences and the need to spend enough time in a situation for it to be meaningful. Also worthy of serious consideration are internship programs in which prospective teachers spend a semester or longer in one situation and are given some financial support for their efforts. This idea was tried about twenty-five years ago in several experimental programs, and the results were positive.2 The problem with the internship arrangement is a familiar one: funding. Neither school systems nor universities seem able to find funds to pay the interns’ stipends.
Although the preparation of prospective music teachers is certainly an important topic, and one that various MENC committees and commissions have capably dealt with over the years, the process of educating music teachers must not end with graduation from college. A person certifying to teach at the age of twenty-two has a potential professional life of at least forty-three years! No teacher education program, regardless of its quality, can sufficiently prepare a teacher for all the music teaching situations that may be encountered during that span of time. Many things will change in forty years. New music will be composed, new technologies will be developed, new attitudes and interests may evolve in students and society, and the teacher will probably change jobs several times. Clearly, all music teachers need to continue their education in some form after graduation from college.
Two areas merit the attention of persons interested in fostering the continued professional development of music teachers. One concerns the crucial first few years for beginning teachers. To begin with, they often end up with the less desirable and more difficult jobs, simply because the experienced teachers have “paid their dues” and moved on to better positions. In a
ddition, inexperienced teachers have only a limited repertoire of techniques, experiences, and plans on which to draw and are often given little guidance about what to do. The result is rather predictable: 40 to 50 percent of all teachers (including music teachers) who begin are not in teaching five years later.3
While the rate of attrition is partly due to low salaries and other conditions, it can be decreased-and instruction improved-by giving beginning teachers more guidance, help, and encouragement. School districts should give beginning teachers an additional planning period each day. The cost of the reduced teaching assignments would be somewhat offset by improved instruction and less staff turnover. Supervisory personnel who are competent in music should provide assistance and moral support. Successful music teachers, who would be given time and extra compensation for the activity, should work with beginning teachers. If the beginning teacher is employed near the university from which he or she graduated, one of the music education faculty might also be involved to some extent. Such contacts would be useful to both the beginning teacher, who would receive some advice and encouragement, and to the college music educator, who would gain information about school music programs and learn firsthand how well the university’s music education curriculum is preparing its graduates to teach in today’s schools.
A related idea is evident in the beginning teacher programs of a few states such as Florida and Georgia and in a number of school districts. In these programs, beginning teachers are observed several times during their first year by a small team of professionals that includes a peer teacher and the building’s principal. In most cases the peer representative is a music teacher, but this is sometimes not possible or desirable. The team offers suggestions to the novice and makes a recommendation regarding continued employment on the basis of a set of competencies that are believed to apply to all types of teaching regardless of the subject area.4 These generic competencies include such teacher actions as asking questions of the students, providing motivation, and managing student behavior. The limitation of this approach is the fact that it is general and focuses little attention on the teacher’s subject-matter knowledge or on the results of instruction in terms of student learning. Although a few states have or plan to institute a subject-matter test for teachers in the near future, the lack of attention to student learning continues to be a weakness. In spite of this limitation, the programs are a step in the right direction. Beginning teachers are being given guidance and assistance that they usually did not receive before.
The other aspect of on-the-job professional growth involves the continuing certification of teachers. For years, many states offered two types of teaching certificates: the beginning or provisional certificate, which allowed a teacher to teach for the first few years, and the continuing or permanent certificate, which was evidence that the teacher was considered to be permanently qualified. This view is rapidly changing, and many states have moved away from the permanent certificate to one that must be renewed periodically, usually every five years. The change is an improvement in that it recognizes the need for all teachers to continue to grow professionally. However, it falls short in several ways. In many states the certificate can be renewed by taking as few as two courses, which in some states can be offered through the local school district or teachers’ association. The course need not even be in the teacher’s subject area.
The inadequacies of state certification call for a different approach to continuing education for music teachers: that of certification by the professional association, MENC. For many years various professional organizations-surgeons, architects, science teachers, accountants, organists, Suzuki teachers, and many others-have been certifying members of their organization who meet certain specified criteria.5 It is an idea whose time has come for music educators. Recently the National Executive Board of MENC established a task force to develop a program of professional certification. The structure of the program has not yet been developed or approved, but the advantages of the idea are impressive. Such a program would recognize in a tangible way those music teachers who are successful and who continue to grow professionally. This certification would also be considered by school districts in the employment and compensation of qualified teachers, as well as in the responsibilities given them. If nothing else, music educators who earn professional certification would have the personal satisfaction and professional status that such recognition merits. The program would foster continuing study and growth among music teachers, which in turn would lead to better music instruction and a more vital musical culture.
[The MENC Professional Certification Program was put into effect in 1989. It offers certification at two levels: Nationally Registered Music Educator and Nationally Certified Music Educator (must already be nationally registered).]
Kettering was right when he admonished people to be concerned with the future. That future for the preparation of music teachers will largely be the result of actions that music educators take now for the years to come.
1. Robert Palaich and Donald Burnes, Teaching Shortages in the Next Decade: Issuegram 24 (Denver: Education Commission of the States, 1984).
2. Rodney H. Johnson and William Mitchell, “Teaching Internship or Student Teaching?” National Business Education Quarterly 38, no. 2 (Winter 1969): 34-38.
3. Phillip C. Schlechty and Victor S. Vance, “Do Academically Able Teachers Leave Education? The North Carolina Case,” Phi Delta Kappan 63, no. 2 (October 1981): 106-12.
4. B. Othanel Smith, “Research Bases for Teacher Education,” Phi Delta Kappan, 66, no. 10 (June 1985): 685-90.
5. Professional certification was recently recommended by the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy in The Nation Prepared: Teachers for the Twenty-first Century. See Education Week 5, no. 35 (21 May 1986) 14.
William Fenton and Gregory Rudgers identify the five key steps in the student teacher’s growth as orientation, observation, introduction, participation, and evaluation, and discuss the role of the cooperating teacher in walking the student teacher through these steps.
The Cooperating Teacher: A Critical Link to Music Education’s Future
by William Fenton and Gregory Rudgers
Among the many titles for public school teachers who accept student teachers, the term “cooperating teacher” may be the most appropriate. These music educators truly cooperate with the college or university by accepting the responsibility for the field supervision of a student teacher. In a real sense, a cooperating teacher represents the “very important person” of the student-teaching experience. In the relationship between cooperating teacher, student teacher, and college supervisor, the cooperating teacher is the base from which all experiences evolve. The gradual transition from student to student teacher to emerging educator takes place daily and can only be monitored by the cooperating teacher. Indeed, the dual roles of mentor and potential colleague change from day to day.
Qualities found in an excellent cooperating teacher surpass those characteristics found in a successful teacher. A cooperating teacher should be motivated to invest his or her time, talent, and energy in the future of music teachers. A knowledge of classroom management, repertoire, planning, and professional standards needs to be shared in a timely way that varies with each student teacher. Carefully planned experiences and tasks should be monitored and guided to build success on success. These successes range from small to large and from simple to
complex. The cooperating teacher should be a musician, an educator, a mentor, and a supervisor who creates the environment and the circumstances in which the student teacher can grow through discovery toward the achievement of mutual goals.
The college has the responsibility to equip the student teacher with not only academic skills, but also music skills. A college educates, trains, prepares, and develops musicians who hope to go on to become excellent teachers. A college should thus offer a logical sequence of experiences designed according to each student’s progress. Full-time student teaching should be preceded by carefully designed prerequisites: proficiency in all appropriate instruments, voice, keyboard, sight singing, music history, theory, and conducting; strong personal performance skills; preparation in child development and educational psychology; and a balanced academic curriculum. Structured observation at elementary, middle school, or secondary levels serves as a prelude to student teaching and prepares the student for working in the classroom.
In addition to preparing the student teacher, the college has a responsibility to the cooperating teacher. Communication needs to be consistent during the assignment period. Established guidelines, procedures, and expectations will contribute to a student’s successful experience. An important element of the cooperating relationship is a periodic conference for cooperating teachers and college faculty held on the college campus. Realistically, cooperating teachers assume the role of adjunct faculty members; it is important to integrate their ideas into the college experience and benefit from their expertise. Conferences addressing topics such as the following encourage professional communication between the college and the cooperating teacher.
- Evaluating the student teacher
- Special learners in music education
- The leadership role of the cooperating teacher
- The teaching of conducting-a partnership in the curriculum
- Developing leadership skills in the student teacher
Student teaching represents a developmental process. The young mind provides a unique laboratory for growth. Student teachers must learn the vocabulary of the classroom, adjust their musical ears, increase their peripheral vision, develop sensitivity to group dynamics, and remain in control of instructional time. To master these skills, they need to use all the music and pedagogical skills acquired in their years of college study.
Although the college provides the student teacher’s curricular preparation, the cooperating teacher gives student teachers the opportunity to use their developing skills. The practical knowledge gained through a positive student-teaching experience may be the most valuable training of all.
A carefully planned developmental program should enable the student teacher to become an independent functioning educator. Such potential can be developed if the student teacher receives guidance and respect as a fellow professional. There will be times, of course, when the master teacher’s experience and wisdom will prevail and also times when the young teacher may seek information and criticism in order to improve. But, as generations of professionals and craftsmen have discovered, the apprenticeship period succeeds when the learner recognizes and assumes a professional stature. The cooperating teacher should not represent a model to be imitated, but rather a mentor to be appreciated.
Although student teaching may present a terrifying experience for the novice educator, it becomes less frightening if the process allows the student to develop independence gradually. This process consists of five steps: (1) orientation, (2) observation, (3) introduction, (4) participation, and (5) evaluation.
Orientation. The student should visit the assigned school before student teaching actually begins. This will help alleviate many of the concerns and questions of both the student and the master teacher. The opportunity to meet the administration and staff, tour the school, and exchange vital information helps to remove doubt and anxiety from the student’s mind and also can provide time for the two educators to sit down and interview each other. The sharing of philosophies, goals, backgrounds, and experience, plus a description of the master teacher’s course of study, lays a firm foundation for a successful term.
Observation. Observing the ongoing program for at least one week will allow the student teacher to become a part of the team in a nonthreatening manner. By observing, the student teacher will see previously discussed ideas and perspectives in practical application. The observation period also enables the student to become familiar with classroom communication, teaching techniques, organization, scheduling, and the course of study for the music program. Most important, a perception of the atmosphere and personality of the program itself can begin to develop. This recognition affords a smooth transition from observer to participant.
Introduction. Great care should be taken when introducing the student teacher to the students. With such foresight, the cooperating teacher can establish the student teacher’s identity in everyone’s mind. By introducing the student teacher as a fellow professional who deserves and commands respect, the master teacher can establish an atmosphere of musicianship and learning; the student teacher can acquire master skills and learn about the art of teaching.
Participation. Horror stories abound concerning student teachers being rushed into a class without being fully prepared and being told to “show what you can do” for the entire period. Consider a more prudent choice: Provide teaching time in gradually increasing amounts. A class or lesson with a limited objective accommodates any nervousness or uncertainty and can be later expanded into a complete period of instruction.
The cooperating teacher should make assignments on the basis of the student’s background, experience, and interests. After extensive discussions, the student teacher should then assume complete responsibility. Preparation should include detailed lesson plans. This practice not only promotes the student teacher’s organization, it also keeps the cooperating teacher apprised of progress and objectives. The student teacher should document all instruction, materials, assignments, and evaluations and share them regularly with the college faculty.
Rehearsals also should follow a similar evolution from limited access to complete responsibility. Including the cooperating teacher in the selection of literature ensures that the music will be appropriate both in level of difficulty and in instructional opportunities. Once the selection is made, however, the student teacher should assume all responsibility for the preparation and rehearsal of the music. When combined with the benefits of college training and the guidance and observation of the cooperating teacher, this experience should culminate in conducting the piece in public performance.
Evaluation. Master teachers should constantly evaluate their own effectiveness as educators. This criticism and review is sound preparation for helping new teachers accomplish their goals. If both parties can agree that observation, criticism, and review promote progress instead of discouragement or defensiveness, then a great hurdle to communication disappears. Once again, professional stature allows comments on performance in a congenial and supportive manner. Musicians learn that they should not take criticism of their performances personally, and so must future teachers discover that the same attitude is needed in their teacher training.
Evaluation implies an ongoing process. Care must be taken, however, not to hover around the student teacher, thus denying any sense of independence. Instead, choose regular classes, lessons, or rehearsals that are typical of challeng
es and individual difficulties. Any observation should lead to evaluation, either formal or informal. A cooperating teacher can choose a simple verbal evaluation, a more complete written evaluation, or a review of a written lesson. Videotaping a lesson and then reviewing it together can yield clear objectives and definitive evaluations.
The most important evaluation in student teaching occurs on a day-to-day basis (actually a minute-to-minute basis), when the inevitable questions and problems arise. Answers to such questions as “How do I get those kids to remember accidentals?” or “Why did they suddenly get it better when you said, ‘Don’t guess, read’?” provide both teachers, old and new, with the tools of mastery.
Teaching music gives an educator the satisfying knowledge that young people will understand the world of music more completely as a result of their efforts. Being a cooperating teacher demands a different kind of teaching skill, but those who are willing to serve their profession in this manner realize an unusual benefit. They know that they are the most important part of the process of developing master teachers for the next generation.
Some research has suggested that the effects of student teaching are not all beneficial. Manny Brand discusses the issues of student teaching in practical terms, singling out certain areas that have room for change.
Does Student Teaching Make a Difference?
by Manny Brand
Student teaching is where you really learn how to teach.” This comment, recently voiced by a junior high school band director, illustrates the value that most music teachers and the public place on student teaching. “The one indisputably essential element in professional education” is what James Conant called student teaching,1 and interviews and surveys of recent graduates and experienced teachers show that student teaching is without a doubt the most highly rated portion of teacher training programs.2 According to one recent graduate, “Student teaching taught me how to handle a large chorus, helped me understand the adolescent, and above all, gave me confidence in myself. I am ready to have my own choral groups.” Such overwhelmingly positive feelings toward student teaching have resulted in greater emphasis being placed on such “field experiences,” including, recently, the introduction of these experiences as early as the freshman year.
Especially important to the student-teaching experience is the cooperating teacher, who is considered the model for the student teacher. It has long been assumed that the cooperating teacher has the most significant influence on the student teacher, shaping the beginning music teacher’s attitudes, teaching skills, and behaviors. Furthermore, it is widely believed that the influences of the cooperating teacher and student teaching far surpass the effects of methods classes.
Does student teaching warrant such praise and confidence? If it, in fact, exerts such influence on prospective music teachers, might even more time be devoted to student teaching and less to methods classes? Should music teacher educators adopt an “apprenticeship model” of training, with cooperating teachers and school systems taking major responsibilities for preparing future teachers?
Recently, some serious concerns have been raised regarding these field experiences. Eunice Boardman, former chair of MENC’s Society for Music Teacher Education, believes that “to provide more and earlier field experiences as though simple immersion in ‘real classrooms’ would automatically solve all our teacher training problems” would be questionable.3 Moreover, recent research shows that one of the effects of student teaching is that education majors tend to reject theory and become cynical, attitudes in conflict with the purposes of most music education training programs.4 Finally, after examining the voluminous research on student teaching, one researcher concluded that field experiences, including student teaching, are not “all beneficial in their effects as the abundant testimonials and increased emphasis on these experiences would lead us to believe.”5
Because of this apparent conflict between the enthusiastic praise of student teaching and increasing criticism, research in music student teaching is needed. Although few doubt that practical experience with children should be an important component of music teacher training, questions need to be answered to make student teaching optimally effective. For instance, in what specific ways do student teachers change as a result of their experiences? Do cooperating teachers influence their student teachers, and if so, in what areas is this influence most prominent? In what ways can cooperating teachers and university supervisors more effectively assist their student teachers?
To begin to answer some of these questions, a research study was undertaken and reported in detail in the Winter 1982 issue of the Journal of Research in Music Education. Portions of this article are based on the original report of that study. The purposes of the study were to answer two fundamental questions. First, does the music student-teaching experience affect student teachers’ classroom management beliefs and skills? Second, as a result of student teaching, do student teachers’ classroom management beliefs and skills become more like those of their cooperating teachers? The area of “classroom and rehearsal management” was selected because (1) it is an essential competency for music student teachers, and (2) cooperating teachers are expected to provide primary leadership in this area.
The experiment involved forty-seven music student teachers, from the State University of New York College at Potsdam and the University of Houston, and their cooperating teachers. The classroom management beliefs and skills of both student and cooperating teachers were determined by two tests, Beliefs on Discipline Inventory6 and Behavior Management Skills Inventory.7 These written tests are regarded as reliable and valid indicators of the classroom management beliefs and skills of teachers.
No other courses or seminars dealing with classroom management were offered to the student teachers; student teaching was their only classroom management training experience. To determine the effects of student teaching, the student teachers’ classroom management beliefs and skills were evaluated both at the beginning and end of student teaching. To determine if their beliefs and skills became more like those of their cooperating teachers, differences between the student and cooperating teachers were compared, at both the beginning and end of the experience.
The results showed that there were no statistically significant differences between the student teachers’ before- and after-experience beliefs and skills. Similarly, there were no significant differences in classroom management beliefs and skills between the student and cooperating teachers, either at the beginning or end of student teaching.8
How and Why?
These results are quite surprising and raise several questions. First, how could eight weeks of student teaching, involving practical experience with school children, not affect the classroom management beliefs and skills of music student teachers? Second, how could beginning music student teachers have essentially the same classroom management skills and beliefs as experienced and presumably expert cooperating teachers?
These results directly challenge conventional expectations regarding student-teaching experiences. It is generally believed that the music education major enters student teaching as a neophyte, with unrealistic attitudes and fundamental but untested music teaching skills. It is the student-teaching experience-more specifically, the cooperating teacher-that is expected to prepare the student teacher for the realities of the classroom and rehearsal. With regard to discipline, i
t is widely believed that colleges and universities stress ideal, permissive, and often unrealistic approaches to classroom and rehearsal management, while cooperating teachers use a more authoritarian approach to class control.
But in this study, the student teachers entered their experiences with attitudes similar to those of their cooperating teachers, and their skills went essentially unchanged throughout the experience. What are some possible explanations for these occurrences?
First, many music education methods instructors have responded to calls to train future music teachers for the realities of teaching. Consequent-ly, music education majors spend more time in classrooms and rehearsals observing and teaching prior to student teaching. Additionally, some methods instructors have utilized other forms of “real-world” training, including written and videotaped simulations of behavior problems student teachers are likely to face.
Such experiences, along with the widespread publicity of growing problems with discipline in the schools, may have helped open the eyes of formerly idealistic music education majors. Thus, one explanation for the results of this study is that music education majors may be entering student teaching with more realistic views of music teaching and schools and, therefore, their beliefs and expectations concerning classroom management are more congruent with those of their cooperating teachers from the start of student teaching.9
There is, however, an alternative explanation for these findings. It is possible that the cooperating teachers did not have the superior classroom management skills and mature beliefs expected of experienced and skilled cooperating teachers, or that student teachers did not change their classroom management beliefs or improve their skills because their cooperating teachers were not effective in assisting trainees in these areas.10 These possibilities underscore the importance of carefully selecting cooperating teachers. Other than volunteering, there usually are few requirements for cooperating teachers. Furthermore, colleges and universities have provided little training for cooperating teachers working with their student teachers.
This particular study challenges some accepted beliefs regarding student teaching. It should be noted, however, that no definite conclusions regarding student teaching and cooperating teachers can be made based on a single research study. Instead, this study should give impetus to those involved in student teaching, especially cooperating teachers and music education professors, to reflect on the effectiveness of student teaching in preparing tomorrow’s music teachers. Specifically, there is a need to reexamine both the qualifications and effectiveness of music teachers volunteering to work with student teachers.
Nearly all research has limitations that need to be understood when interpreting results. In this study, changes in classroom management beliefs and skills were evaluated after only eight weeks of student teaching. It may be that such changes are only detectable after a longer student-teaching experience, such as fourteen or eighteen weeks. It is also important to remember that these results reflect test performance of student teachers and cooperating teachers as a group. Some individual student teachers’ and cooperating teachers’ scores may not have been reflective of group results.
These results can be viewed as supportive of methods teachers’ efforts to assist music education majors in acquiring more realistic beliefs and becoming more skilled in classroom management prior to starting student teaching. On the other hand, these results may indicate that music education majors are not necessarily being trained any better, but that cooperating teachers do not have the mature beliefs and expert skills expected of cooperating teachers in the area of classroom management.
Research does have an important role in music education. It serves to stimulate our thinking and questions long-held assumptions. When fundamental concepts of research, such as organized study and systematic procedures, are applied to music education, we begin to achieve a broader and deeper professional understanding of our work and a more objective appraisal of our progress. Such actions are signs of a healthy and proud professional.
1. James Conant, The Education of American Teachers (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963), 142.
2. See Dan C. Lortie, Schoolteacher: A Sociological Study (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975).
3. Eunice Boardman Meske, “Educating the Music Teacher: Participation in a Metamorphosis,” in Symposium in Music Education, ed. Richard J. Colwell (Urbana, IL.: University of Illinois, 1982), 256.
4. Kenneth M. Zeichner, “Myths and Realities: Field-Based Experiences in Preservice Teacher Education,” Journal of Teacher Education 31 (Nov.-Dec. 1980): 45.
5. Zeichner, 46.
6. C. D. Glickman and R. T. Tamashiro, “Clarifying Teachers’ Beliefs about Discipline,” Educational Leadership 67 (March 1980): 459-64.
7. See Manny Brand, “Measuring Behavior Management Skills of Preservice Instrumental Music Teachers,” Dialogue in Instrumental Music Education 3 (Fall 1979): 36-41.
8. Manny Brand, “Effects of Student Teaching on the Classroom Management Belief and Skills of Music Student Teachers,” Journal of Research in Music Education 30 (Winter 1982): 255-65.
9. Brand, “Effects of Student Teaching,” 263.
10. Brand, “Effects of Student Teaching,” 263.