Factors Affecting the Enrollment and Persistence of African American Music Education Doctoral Students


Jason D. Thompson, Arizona State University


Joyce McCall, Indiana University


Steven A. Anderson, Georgia State University



A part of the mission of the Cultural Diversity and Social Justice ASPA is a commitment to explore and report on issues affecting recruitment and retention of a diverse teaching force. An issue worth further inquiry is the underrepresentation of people of color among music teacher education faculty. Undoubtedly, the participation of minority voices in music teacher education is essential as the profession seeks to fulfill a stronger, richer community of individuals committed to the purposes of SMTE.


The framework for this current study was borrowed from a previous study (King & Chepyator-Thomson, 1996) that identified factors influencing African American physical education doctoral students’ decision to enroll and persist through degree completion. These researchers found that factors fell into three main categories: institutional (the programs and policies of higher education institutions such as admission requirements, financial aid, academic support), environmental (the outside forces such as campus climate, role models/mentors, family support), and motivational (the attitudes, beliefs, and values which prompt individuals to achieve goals).

The purpose of this current instrumental case study (Yin, 2003) was to ascertain the factors that influenced the decision to enroll in a doctoral program and persist through degree completion for African American music education doctoral students. Two research questions guided the inquiry: (1) What factors influenced the decision to enroll in doctoral study?; and (2) What factors led to the persistence and completion of the doctoral program? The three authors responsible for this study also served as study participants. Although two of the participants have completed doctoral degrees, all participants were doctoral students during the study period.


Our methodology included both qualitative and quantitative inquiry. We generated qualitative data of our individual and shared experiences regarding enrollment and persistence factors. Data were interpreted for emergent themes related to conceptual frame for the study. Additionally, we each took the Short Grit scale (Duckworth & Quinn, 2009) and used those scores to better assess two interrelated components of persistence—interest and effort. Duckworth and Quinn (2009) defined grit as a “personality trait of perseverance and passion toward a long-term goal” (p. 166) that empowers individuals to “pursue goals despite failure, adversity, plateaus in progress, and lack of positive feedback” (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007, p. 1087).


The purposes of this session will be to share the findings obtained across our shared experiences as African American music education doctoral students. By providing a view of the doctoral experience from the perspectives of African Americans themselves, we believe the findings of this study may help to improve the effectiveness of recruitment and retention efforts, increase minority faculty in music teacher education, and open a dialogue about appropriate policies and programs needed to assure a diverse teaching force in music teacher education.




Duckworth, A. L. & Quinn, P. (2009). Development and validation of the grit scale (Grit-S). Journal of Personality Assessment, 91(2), 166-174.

Duckworth, A. L., Matthews, M. D., Kelly, D. R., & Peterson, C. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1087-1101.

King, S. E., & Chepyator-Thomson, J. R. (1996). Factors affecting the enrollment and persistence of African-American doctoral students. Physical Educator, 53(4), 170-80.

Yin, R.K. (2003). Case study research: Design and Methods (3rd ed). London: Sage Publications.