Music Student Teachers' Perceptions of Their Seminar Experience: A Pilot Study Exploration through Focus Groups
Christopher M. Baumgartner, University of Oklahoma
Kimberly H. Councill, Bucknell University
In most colleges and universities, the student teaching seminar is understood to align and support the practicum aspects of student teaching. Zeichner and Liston (1987) proposed that the purpose of the student teaching seminar is “to help students broaden their perspectives on teaching, consider the rationales underlying alternative possibilities for classrooms and pedagogy, and assess their own developing perspectives toward teaching” (p. 32). Although researchers have recently reported seminar instructors’ perceptions of the purpose, structure, and content of music student teaching seminars (Baumgartner 2014; Baumgartner & Councill, 2017; Councill, 2013), there is no known research that examines these contexts from the perspective of current student teachers. The purpose of this study was to examine music student teachers’ perceptions of the student teaching seminar, specifically regarding the purpose, structure, and content of the course.
Student teachers immersed in their practicum and the accompanying seminar served as focus group participants in our research. The selected research sites for this project included three NASM-accredited, 4-year degree granting, state universities in the Midwest where the music department was charged with leading the student teaching seminar. We participated in two of the seminars in-person and one virtually (a regular practice for this seminar), utilizing a researcher-developed predetermined questioning route. Thirteen prompts were used in all three focus groups. Following demographic prompts, questions focused on interns’ perceptions of seminar structure, seminar content, methods in which they were assessed in the course, experiences with other student teachers, and their perceived purpose of the seminar.
Findings suggest that music student teachers overwhelmingly perceived the seminar as a professional learning community (PLC)—a place for learning and problem-solving (Bausmith & Marry, 2011)—as well as a “safe place,” where they felt comfortable sharing both successes and challenges from the internship with peers who were embarking on the same experience. Participants continually reinforced the importance of reflective practice toward their personal growth as teachers. High-stakes assessments appeared to be the focus of seminar content; formal assessments (e.g., edTPA, state-mandated portfolio, Teacher Work Sample) were required for licensure at two universities. While some interns felt more time per seminar was needed, others expressed difficulty in focusing after a full day of teaching.
Music teacher educators who lead the student teaching seminar should consider the importance of creating a community among interns. We suggest time at each seminar be set aside for student teachers to share and “vent,” supporting the perceived importance of “therapy time” as described by participants in this study. While formal state-mandated assessments may take up a vast amount of time, we recommend incorporating other activities (e.g., lesson planning, special needs instruction, music education methods) that support continued pedagogical growth and socialization into the profession; such topics are suggested as important for continued study by both music education researchers (Baumgartner & Councill, 2017; Conway & Hodgman, 2006) and music student teachers from the present study. Our future research will compare the seminar perceptions of music student teachers at various points throughout the internship.
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