The Role of the Music Educator in a Professional Learning Community

Working Together for Student Success:

The Role of the Music Educator in a Professional Learning Community

By NAfME Member Dr. Melanie Harris


Have you ever wondered how music educators could provide evidence of the value of music in our schools?

Music educators are valuable in schools, because K-12 music teachers are multi-year teachers.

I pondered this question throughout my 30-year career as a music educator while music programs in Florida were cut and dismantled. Driven by a concern to keep music in our schools, my doctoral research looked at the value of music in schools as well as the uniqueness of the music classroom. Through this research, I found that the aesthetic value of music was almost impossible to measure, but there was a unique feature that all music teachers shared.

Music educators are valuable in schools, because K-12 music teachers are multi-year teachers.


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Most educators teach their students for one year, but music educators build relationships with their students and subsequently their families over multiple years. This provides an opportunity to have great insight and information about every student, hence music educators as one of a few teachers in the school with this multi-year teaching status are a valuable asset within a professional learning community. Multi-year teachers have information about their students gleaned over a period of years that could prove valuable to their colleagues.

Students may struggle in other classes and yet work diligently and participate fully in the music classroom. My research, developed while working within a professional learning community of 9th grade teachers, suggested that music teachers can enact significant changes in a students’ academic success by using their multi-year student/teacher relationships to support other teachers and meet the needs of the students they share. Music educators, by providing this support and working together in a professional learning community, then have the potential to provide evidence of the value of music in our schools.

In this presentation at NAfME’s National In-Service Conference, I will share specific ways music educators can contribute to student academic achievement through participation in a professional learning community (PLC). This session will discuss the collaborative experiences of a music educator and two core subject teachers who worked together to understand, develop, implement, and assess the ways in which the music teacher, utilizing their long-term student-teacher relationships and contextual knowledge, infusing music into academic learning, and using the multi-grade music classroom can lead to changes in teacher practice to better support learning for all students.


Session: Saturday, November 12, 2016 11:30am-12:30pm


About the author:

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NAfME member Melanie Mills Harris is an award–winning high school choral director. She received her Bachelor of Music Education with a principal in voice from The University of Florida in 1979, her Master of Music from The University of Florida in 2009, and her Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from The University of Florida in 2015. Dr. Harris is an assistant professor and Director of the Performing Arts Program at P. K. Yonge Developmental Research School attached to the University of Florida. Melanie enjoys sharing her classroom experiences with other educators and has done so at conferences and workshops in Florida. Melanie is a 30–year veteran music educator who is a member of the Florida Vocal Association, the Florida Music Educators Association, the American Choral Directors Association, and the National Association for Music Educators. Melanie resides in Gainesville, Florida, with her two daughters.


Melanie Mills Harris will be presenting on her topic “The Role of the Music Educator in a Professional Learning Community: Working Together for Student Success” at the 2016 NAfME National In-Service Conference this November in Grapevine, TX! Register today!

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Join us for more than 100 innovative professional development sessions, nightly entertainment, extraordinary performances from across the country, and tons of networking opportunities with over 3,000+ other music educators! Learn more and register today: And follow the hashtag #NAfME2016!

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