Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group Consultation 2014


Submission by the Music Trust

This submission concerning issues in teacher education was made on June 13, 2014 in the form prescribed by the Advisory Group set up by the Federal Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne. Its focus is on music education in primary schools.

The Advisory Group has the right to require a response to questions it seeks to answer in the form that suits its purposes. This form did not suit The Music Trust’s purposes well, because the situation of music education in the schools is not that of the “mainstream” subjects and needs to be understood before the detail is explored. That situation is instead described too briefly in the last section of this paper (“Area” 5).

The submission was prepared with contributions from Dr Richard Letts, Prof Gary McPherson, Roland Peelman, Mandy Stefanakis and Assoc Prof Robin Stevens.

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Areas for Response

1 What characteristics should be fostered and developed in graduate teachers through their initial teacher education?

How can those best suited to the teaching profession be identified?

What are the skills and personal characteristics of an effective beginning teacher?

How can teacher education courses best develop these?

The Music Trust is advocating that primary school music should be taught by music specialists (see section 5). As it happens, this is supported by new moves to require teachers in all subjects to achieve Master’s degrees or possibly Post-Graduate Diplomas. There could be two paths for such a qualification. Those with teaching degrees could add a subject-area specialisation, or those with subject-area degrees could add a post-graduate qualification in pedagogy.

We note in section 5 that the core skills in music are not based upon the normal literacy/numeracy core curriculum taught from Kindergarten onwards, although the latter will be used to assist learning. We observe further that the acquisition of musical skills is slowly cumulative. People entering tertiary study in music as preparation for a professional musical career will mostly have been acquiring musical skills since early childhood. Some people with teaching degrees who choose to add a music specialty will not have this prior experience in acquiring musical skills and cannot be expected in 18-24 months to make up the lost ground. Therefore, by preference, those seeking to become specialist music teachers will begin with a music degree and add a post-graduate qualification in education.

As it happens, across Australia the Deans of Education have lobbied to move away from four-year integrated degrees where students train in education and their discipline. These are being supplanted by three-year discipline degrees followed by one and a half to two-year end on Masters of Teaching or Education.

In music, there is some doubt that the three-year degree has sufficient discipline-based knowledge. Music education could be considered to be a double major (two areas of music – theoretical and practical), as was once the case in the four-year models where students would often study a major and a minor area of teaching. A problem in music is in finding a balance between the discipline and pedagogical skills. It is common in school concerts to see teachers who have no knowledge of how to conduct because there was no instruction in their university courses.

International benchmarking

We note that in the Students First paper, the Advisory Group is charged with reviewing international benchmarking. In the above matters and others, The Music Trust recommends review of the Project Zero report:

Seidel, S., Tishman, Shari., Winner, E., Hetland, L., Palmer, P. (2009), The Qualities of Quality: Understanding Excellence in Arts Education. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Project Zero.

We also refer you to the new and invaluable international reference edited by Professor Gary McPherson of the University of Melbourne.

McPherson, G. E., and Welch, G. (Eds.) (2012) The Oxford Handbook of Music Education Volumes 1 and 11. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

2 What teaching practices should be developed in graduate teachers through their initial teacher education?

How can the teaching practices that produce the best student outcomes be identified?

How can teacher education programmes encourage teachers to reflect on evidence to support their choice of teaching practice?

How does reflection on evidence translate into student outcomes?

Music teachers at all school levels must be competent performers. They will require not only a competence on a special instrument of study, as is the usual focus in conservatoria, but more generally across a range of instruments, singing for young voices and the management of vocal and instrumental ensembles used in a range of musical genres. They need a working knowledge of digital music technologies applicable to all stages of music creation, production and learning. These are significant demands. They differ in important ways from the focus of the usual professional degrees in music.

Through the arts, children can acquire skills and attitudes that enable creative production. Music, as an abstract art, may offer a special opportunity for creative activity that transfers to other disciplines. The traditional forms of teaching music emphasise skilled performance of music created by others. We could say that the purpose is to pass on a tradition rather than renewing or extending it. While this also entails creativity of a sort, it does not begin with a blank page. Those who have been taught only in this traditional way may not be comfortable with the blank page. It is important that somewhere in their musical trajectory, teachers become comfortable, preferably passionate, about musical creation and take that into the classroom.

Some skills mentioned in the last two paragraphs may not be learnt in the prior music degree course. These skills, including the ability to facilitate learning of music-based technologies and composition, are essential to meet the standards of the Australian Curriculum: The Arts. In that case, they should be included in the post-graduate pedagogy course. The detail could be discussed and negotiated between the providers of the two courses.

Improvement in teaching depends not only on strengthened curriculum and better teacher education, but through provision to teachers of adequate resources and professional programs to implement change. The creation of a national curriculum should lead to a national market that makes viable the commercial provision of related teaching resources. If such commercial provision does not eventuate, then the states must help generate these resources in order to constantly update and redefine music teaching and relevant content.

3 What level of integration should there be between initial teacher education providers and schools?

What evidence is there that effective integration achieves good teaching practice? What are the most effective types of integrated experiences in preparing new teachers?

What are the cost implications of more integrated professional experience? Are there more effective ways in which professional experience might be funded?

What other methods, or combination of these methods, could achieve better outcomes than the current approach to professional experience?

How can partnerships between teacher education providers and schools be strengthened to make teacher education more effective?

How can teacher education providers and schools best work together to select and train mentor teachers to effectively support pre-service teachers on professional experience?

How can consistency of good practice and continuous improvement across teacher education providers and schools be assured?

In the normal primary school, all teachers teach all subjects. We know, nevertheless, that most teachers are not educated in music and therefore cannot teach it adequately nor supervise nor evaluate the music teaching of teacher trainees undertaking practicums. Probably in those circumstances, music is forgotten, passed over or given token recognition or approval.

This is bad enough. If music teaching is to become the responsibility of music specialists and the practicum is to be taken seriously, an entirely new structure is required, involving specialist on-site mentors.

For music teachers, and perhaps for teachers in other areas, there has to be greater support in the practicum. It would assist the teaching profession if teachers acting as mentors in schools for pre-service teachers had to be ‘identified’ as mentors on an ongoing basis as recently introduced in NSW, and even accredited as such. There is no such regulation in most states and therefore the experiences of pre-service teachers can be detrimental to their professionalism. Mentors should have fully professional, properly remunerated status.

A high level officer in a state education department suggested to us that the deficiencies of the preservice music education are remedied by on-the-job experience once teachers are employed. This surely is fantasy. If the teachers at a school are not equipped to support music teaching in the practicum, new teachers will not find them an expert source for on-the-job training either. In a minority of schools, there is by one means or another a good music program and in those cases, competent practicums in music could be undertaken and new teachers may pick up some musical skills by osmosis. However, this is the lucky dip approach. We are looking for professional competence and consistency and that will be achieved through purposeful structure and provision.

That may be easier to achieve in ensuring useful practicums for specialist music teachers than effective music practicums for generalist teachers.

There needs to be much greater communication between all teacher-education providers, that is:

a. Education departments at federal and state levels

b. Curriculum developers and disseminators

c. Universities

d. Accredited Professional Development Providers

e. Schools (including administrators, mentors etc)

f. Teacher registering bodies (AITSL and state based bodies)

to ensure that all stakeholders in the provision of teacher training in arts education are on the same page and assisting each other in the facilitation of accreditation practice. This does not just apply to the logistics of accreditation but the recognition of common standards as has been described.

To expect instrumental teachers who, in Victoria, are already only paid for between 32 and 35 weeks a year, to forgo another 5 weeks of pay whilst they undergo practicum, takes away any incentive there may be for graduate musicians (often highly credentialed and with many years of teaching practice) to work towards a teaching qualification.

4 What balance is needed between understanding what is taught and how it is taught?

What is the desirable interaction between content knowledge and teaching practice for developing teachers?

What is the difference for primary and secondary teaching? Why is there a difference?

Should there be explicit training in how to teach literacy and numeracy in all teaching courses?

How can the balance between the need for subject specialisation and a generalist approach in primary teaching qualifications be addressed?

What, if any, changes need to be made to the structure of teacher education courses? Should content be studied before pedagogy (i.e. should ‘what’ to teach be studied before the ‘how’ to teach)?

What barriers are there to restructuring teacher education courses to ensure they address these concerns, and how may they be overcome?

Why does Australia face a shortage of maths, science and language teachers?

What can be done to encourage teaching students to develop a specialisation in these areas?

There is a need for a pedagogical framework, similar to the Australian Curriculum frameworks, which provides guidelines and standards for the development of courses addressing pedagogy and reflecting the aims and content of the Australian Curriculum: The Arts. This is not only the case for students, but courses, both those which are university based or online and those which are to be delivered by accredited Professional Development providers. All education service providers need to be able to demonstrate that their courses meet these standards. They need to be national standards and providers need to be accredited on the basis of their demonstrated ability to meet them. This should be an ongoing requirement.

Standards for teacher-trainees need to embrace the AITSL teaching standards, but they must also include standards relevant to specific subjects and specific delivery of those subjects. For example the subject-specific standards and pedagogical approaches for primary music teachers may differ from those required for secondary classroom music teachers and for instrumental teachers (although it would be preferable if one day music teachers could competently teach all aspects of music education!). But the standards do need that level of specificity. And they must also relate specifically to the AITSL teaching standards.

We note that last year, AITSL informed The Music Trust that it did not intend to develop specific standards for music other than the ability to teach the Australian Curriculum: Music. In that case, more detailed standards either should be required of AITSL or imposed by the state accreditation authorities.

Online curriculum and pedagogical methodologies (and some university-based courses) lack relevance to the needs of training teachers. Particularly in the arts, which are active processes, ‘distance learning’ can mean that students are studying theoretically-based aspects of the arts, but not practical aspects – simply because it is cheaper to provide this kind of course. Some such courses are distressingly inadequate.

5 Other. Any other comments in response to the Issues Paper may be provided here

63% of primary school principals responding to a national survey said that their schools offer no classroom music. We know that the percentage is much lower in some systems, therefore it must be 80% or more in others.

It can be inferred that a main cause of this situation is that the primary school generalist classroom teachers who usually have responsibility for delivering music education are unable to do so. On average, the mandatory music component of a preservice undergraduate degree consumes 17 contact hours, or 10 hours for postgraduate qualifications. This is supposed to cover studies in both discipline and pedagogy, and to be preparation for teaching seven years of music K-6. It is risible.

Note that in most subjects, literacy is the prerequisite core skill. In music, it is not. The core skills lie in recognition of pattern and meaning expressed in pitch, rhythm, timbre etc. Most trainees, graduates of the school system, present at university without these skills. Compare with Australia’s superiors in the PISA rankings. In the top five countries (2009), music is taught by specialist teachers or far better educated generalist teachers: in Korea, music is taught by generalists with 160 hours of preservice music, in Finland, 350+ hours. In all cases, more class time is devoted to music than in Australia, but still (therefore?) their academic outcomes are superior.

The Australian Curriculum in music has been widely accepted in the profession. It is the benchmark for students and therefore, for teachers also. It presents a reasonable challenge to children but far greater challenge to generalist, musically uneducated teachers. The Music Trust suggests that the minimum necessary preservice education in music is 112 hours. The ABS says that we have 250,000 primary school teachers. Say 100,000 would need 100 hours of music education to be able to deliver the curriculum. Who would teach them and how would it be funded? It seems impossible.

Apparently in present circumstances, there is no prospect either of new teachers receiving adequate music education. We have been told by universities that they do not have resources to provide more.

The most feasible solution, producing the best learning outcomes, is to introduce specialist primary school music teachers into all schools. This solution has long been in place in Queensland and reaches 87% of government primary schools.

Around the same percentage of independent primary schools offer a “sequential, developmental, continuous” music education, taught, incidentally, by specialists. This compares, according to the same study, to 23% of government schools. 88%:23%. In a phone survey, 87% agreed that it should be mandatory for schools to offer the opportunity for a music education to all children.

In summary, for music, we suggest that the Advisory Group focuses on optimal provision of music education by specialist primary school music teachers.

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