The Perspectives of Two First-Generation College (FGC) Students Pursuing Doctoral Degrees in Music Education
Martina Vasil, University of Kentucky
Joyce McCall, Indiana University
The “Music Teacher Educators: Identification, Preparation, and Professional Development” ASPA has been addressing issues related to the recruitment and preparation of the “next generation” of music teacher educators. Researchers have focused on the reasons K–12 music educators pursue doctoral degrees (Shoemaker, 1970; Teachout, 2004a, 2004b), the best preparation practices for doctoral music education students (Rutkowski et. al, 2010), degree requirements for doctoral music education students (Rutkowski & Webster, 2011; Rutkowski et. al, 2013), and the socialization of doctoral music education students into the profession (Bond & Koops, 2014; Froelich, 2012; Rutkowski, Gardner, et. al, 2011; Taggart et. al, 2009).
Efforts to promote more diversity in music education faculty and to understand barriers that exist for at-risk populations has lead to some research on the experiences of minority students pursuing a doctoral degree in music education (Floyd, 1989; Schmidt & McCall, 2013). However, little research exists for another at-risk population—first-generation college (FGC) students. Thirty-seven percent of doctoral recipients are first generation (Hoffer et. al, 2002), but there is little empirical research describing the experiences of FGC students at the graduate level and particularly at the doctoral level (Brewer & Weisman, 2010; Gardner & Holley, 2011; Michell, 2014). Gardner (2014) notes that no research exists on FGC students pursuing doctoral degrees in the arts, including music education.
The purpose of this study was to compare the experiences of two FGC students pursuing doctoral degrees in music education, examining the motivations behind pursuing an advanced degree in music education, factors that facilitated degree attainment, and challenges that were faced (Adams, 2011). We conducted interviews with each other using Seidman’s (2006) three-interview method, which allowed us to reflect upon our experiences that led us to pursuing and remaining in a doctoral music education program. We employed cross-case analyses to compare the challenges we faced as we navigated doctoral degree programs in preparation for becoming music teacher educators (Stake, 1995). Our inquiry was directed by Bourdieu’s cultural capital theory (Bourdieu, 1977). His theory asserts that social occupants of the dominant culture have constructed and perpetuated cultural codes, artifacts, and meanings that regularly afford members of the dominant culture access to structures in society, particularly those in education (Bourdieu, 1993). Through his framework, we sought to highlight those structures and processes that offer tacit knowledge to students about how to pursue and succeed in higher education. For students who are the first in their families to attend college, this knowledge is often absent (Gardner & Holley, 2011). Through examining each other’s experiences, we offer suggestions for recruiting, supporting, and preparing a more diverse group of future music teacher educators.
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