Back to the Future: Pre-Service Teacher Attitudes and Beliefs about General Music Instruction


Daniel C. Johnson, University of North Carolina - Wilmington


As the basis for all other musical study (Regelski, 2004), general music instruction holds a unique place in K-12 music education, being a one of the most foundational and influential aspects of music teaching (Edwards, Kerchner, & Knight, 2003). Both in terms of teaching positions and promoting music learning, the impact of general music has the potential to engage every child and inspire a life-long love of music.


The purpose of this qualitative study was to trace the progression of general music students’ attitudes and beliefs during their university classroom methods course. Because college students are closest in experience to participating in secondary choral or instrumental ensembles, they often identify with high-school music teachers when imagining their career path (Rickels, et al., 2013). While this presents a challenge for general music teacher educators, it also presents an opportunity for students to re-discover the importance of and joy in classroom music.


To explore pre-service teacher attitudes and beliefs about general music pedagogy during their classroom methods course, twenty-four students served as participants and completed initial, mid-term, and final versions of an open-ended questionnaire. In responding, participants articulated: the definition of general music, why schools teach it, its role in the relation to the rest of the school curriculum, the requisite skill set for general music teachers, the level of difficulty in teaching general music, and how general music might fit into their future teaching career.


Initial questionnaire responses reflected students’ attitudes and beliefs before studying general music. As a key instructional activity at the middle of the semester, respondents began presenting a series of mini-lessons in area schools. Therefore, mid-term responses reflected corresponding attitudes and beliefs after beginning their mini-lesson experiences, while final responses indicated their summative views after completing the mini-lessons and final classes.


Using axial coding, the researcher found that the respondents’ journey through general music methods paralleled their preparation and delivery of mini-lessons. Participants moved from an introduction through observations to practical teaching experiences. Emergent themes included three shifts: from the conceptual to the practical; from the general to specific; and from naiveté to appreciation. For triangulation, the researcher performed peer and member checks to provide internal validity for the findings (Creswell, 2008).


Future research includes re-examining college syllabi to identify what teaching and learning experiences are most impactful for pre-service music teachers. Potential applications include using backward design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) to parallel the new national standards for music education. A quantitative instrument to measure changes in the beliefs and attitudes among pre-service teachers on their journey through general music pedagogy may also be an outgrowth of this research.


Implications for music education include guiding student development of music-teacher identities and socialization into the profession (Dolloff, 1999). Understanding students’ attitudes and beliefs before, during, and after their general music methods class may enable teacher-educators to mentor and guide future teachers to a successful career. Examining the students’ attitudes and beliefs could also provide valuable insights into the efficacy and impact of general music methods courses.




Creswell, J. W. (2008). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (3rd Edition), Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.

Dolloff, L. A. (1999). Imagining ourselves as teachers: The development of teacher identity in music teacher education. Music Education Research, 1(2), 191-208.

Edwards, K., Kerchner, J., & Knight, J. (2003). Prelude to music education (p. x198). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Regelski, T. A. (2004). Teaching general music in grades 4-8: A musicianship approach. Oxford University Press.

Rickels, D. A., Brewer, W. D., Councill, K. H., Fredrickson, W. E., Hairston, M., Perry, D. L., ... & Schmidt, M. (2013). Career influences of music education audition candidates. Journal of Research in Music Education, 61(1), 115-134.

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.