The music preparation of the elementary teacher
Clifford, Timothy Francis
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The Problem. An evaluation of the music preparation of the elementary teachers currently being offered in the state teachers colleges of Massachusetts was the problem on which the study was based. Two principal questions were to be answered. 1. To what degree do the nine state teachers colleges of Massachusetts conform to a recommended program of music preparation? 2. To what degree do the elementary education seniors at these nine colleges possess the attitudes and skills necessary to guide children in the five-fold music program (singing, playing, creating, responding to rhythms, and listening)? The criteria used were taken from Bulletin Number Five, an official research report of the National Music Educators Conference, a department of the National Education Association. Sources of Data. Personal visits to each campus, the gathering of catalogues and other printed data, the collecting of data from registrars and administrative personnel, and interviews with each college president and with each music education professor were the four sources of data on which to evaluate administrative and faculty contributions to the music preparation of the elementary education students. As a measure of the effectiveness of this training on the students a questionnaire on the skills and attitudes involved in the teaching of music was prepared for completion by each senior and an individual test of sight reading ability was administered to each of these prospective elementary teachers. Eighty-six percent (398 out of the 463 enrolled for the year l954-1955) completed questionnaires and took the sight reading test. The principles and specific requirements detailed in Bulletin Number Five, The Musical Development of the Classroom Teacher, were used as criteria in order to ensure norms of national prestige for evaluating the data collected during the survey. Findings. Too little time was devoted to musical growth on the adult level to result in significant personal development for the typical senior. The six semester hours of required music, the average amount of training these seniors had received, allotted four hours to music for the classroom and two hours to music for personal culture. That instruction was effectively geared to the college student's musical level was not suggested by the pronounced avoiding of music electives where available, nor by student responses to the questionnaire. Only forty students had chosen elective courses in the six colleges which scheduled music electives. Whereas fifty-eight percent of the group indicated in the questionnaire that they would enjoy teaching music in the primary grades (I- III) only thirty-seven per cent indicated they would enjoy the assignment of teaching music in the intermediate grades (IV-VI). Likewise the numbers responding that they would merely accept(106) or even avoid (23) primary grade music increased sharply (to 197 and 35) when asked their attitude about teaching intermediate music. Five institutions did not require some music each year; only two of these five colleges had electives, for the few who might choose them, to fill the gap in training. Because the average teachers college freshman has comparatively little musical background, continuous training ought to be offered to provide for a growth which is necessarily slow. Eighteen desirable Environmental influences are listed and described in Bulletin Number Five. The figures recorded as a result of physical count of library books, records, and music libraries, as well as reports in instrumental experience, college sponsored concerts, intramural sings and ensemble organizations, all these revealed a neglected area. The need for equipment is an obvious and easily remedied one. Faculty effort and administrative financial aid are all that is needed. However, its persistence is disturbing. A 1934 study of midwestern teachers colleges emphasized this lack of equipment and a 1937 survey of Massachusetts teachers colleges criticized the substandard condition of supplies in the music departments. Conformity of music education courses to modern concepts was excellent judged by the outline for a music methods course jointly developed and adopted by the music departments of the colleges. Because teachers are inclined to teach as they have been taught this outline augurs well. Less auspicious is the fact that only three of the colleges have enough time scheduled for the methods course to permit coverage of the entire outline. A second complaint might be registered at the devotion in other phases of the music program to outmoded concepts: "fundamentals" first and appreciation second; persistence of survey and music history approaches in listening where orientation to music and all the fine arts is more needed. The sight reading test was so arranged that a student reading through the second measure of Exercise Six would have sung all the rhythmic and pitch problems common to over 300 hymns as determined by research reported in a 1949 Boston University thesis. By use of this standard it was found that only forty-nine students could be considered able to sight read hymn tunes; 236 had ability to read quarter and two eighth note rhythms in stepwise or easy skip movement; 113 had little or no skill in vocalizing from notation at sight. Results of this test along with the oral check on use of the pitchpipe, given at the same time, revealed these discrepancies between the questionnaire responses and student performance: 1. Of the sixty-four who checked they were unable to sing rote songs alone in tune nine did sing in tune during the sight reading test. 2. Of the 244 who checked that they could sight read a hymn tune 196 did not display this level of reading skill in the test. 3. Of the 344 who claimed ability to use a pitchpipe to start a class in a song fifty-five could not indicate in the oral test such an ability. 4. Of the forty-one who checked NO to the question on use of a pitchpipe twelve responded during the oral test with answers revealing an acceptable skill in use of the pitchpipe. Some degree of error in questionnaire responses is to be expected, but these wide variations between self rating and performance seem too much to ascribe to carelessness, nervousness, or deception. Apparently students don't know and are not told precisely what are their skills and what are their lack of skills. Conclusions. As now observed in the nine state teachers colleges, the range in limits of required courses, electives, and equipment is both extreme and undesirable. An immediate and entirely feasible improvement could be effected by raising the substandard conditions at certain colleges to the maximum level now achieved in other colleges. Administrators and faculty should cooperatively plan long range developments in curriculum, equipment, and personnel. Professional courses need to be turned from mastery of theory and isolated skills to an easy familiarity with the variety of music experiences used in elementary schools; and, as a liberal art, more music should be presented on an adult level. Carefully organized guidance techniques should be made operative so that both music faculty and the individual student are exact in their knowledge of the student's musical abilities and deficiencies through the four years of college. Subsequent to needed changes in music education courses and after significant increases in supplies and equipment have been attained, the teachers colleges might well adopt a policy of continuous self-survey of the music preparation phases of the elementary curriculum. Constant evaluation is needed for the music training program itself and for the achievement by graduating students of the objectives of the program of music preparation for the elementary teacher.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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