Effective Professional Development for Music Educators: Public School Administrators’ Perspectives

Jennifer L. R. Greene, Fayetteville-Manlius Schools
Jacqueline C. Smith, University of Hartford
Paul K. Smith, East Hampton Public Schools
David M. Brown, Ithaca City School District

In 2012, members of NAfME’s Society for Music Teacher Education “Professional Development for Experienced Teachers” Area for Strategic Planning and Action (ASPA) published an eKit for Professional Development (Stanley et al.). The goal was to identify the seven essential elements of effective professional development (PD) for music educators as found in the research, as well as to provide practical examples of each element for both beginning and experienced teachers. While the examples illustrate the possibilities for effective professional development, there is little evidence of any significant change in the current PD offerings for music teachers. It may be that teachers need to educate their administrators and self-initiate within their districts or regional areas. However, what would be the best way for music teachers to formulate an informed request to school professional development planners? In the current climate of accountability and state mandates, we wondered what school professional development planners had to consider when planning school-wide PD. What would they need in a proposal in order to provide or allow the type of effective and music specific PD as outlined in the eKit?

There are many existing studies on best practices for PD that indicate one-shot, one-size-fits-all, unsustained PD is not effective for teachers (Conway, 2008; Eros, 2011; Hammel, 2007; Stanley, 2011). This begs the question then, “Why is this still the predominant model in schools?” According to Smylie (2014) “. . . states and school districts have never made sufficient investments in, developed the capabilities for, or been motivated or held accountable for making such change on a systematic basis” (p. 105). So what are the perceived barriers for making this investment in effective PD? How could effective PD for music teachers in this system become a reality? Perhaps it is time for music educators to create this accountability from the bottom up, rather than waiting for top down policy to catch up with best practice research.

The purpose of this presentation will be to examine the administrator point of view regarding effective PD for music teachers in order to gain insight into requirements and to make recommendations to music educators. The panel of presenters will include a music teacher educator, a public school teacher, and two public school administrators, all of whom have both practical and research experience. Through purposeful sampling, school administrators responsible for PD in the northeast region of the US will be identified and approached for participation. Using the eKit as a jumping off point, these administrators will be engaged in conversation regarding effective PD for music educators compared with how state mandates may impact their planning and decision-making. The goal will be to present some practical and direct ways for music teachers to request and get approval for effective, music specific PD. With this information, music teacher educators can empower pre-service teachers to take charge of their PD when they enter the profession. Ultimately, if we can envision a large-scale grassroots effort to incorporate effective PD into school planning, we may be able to envision eventual policy changes.


Conway, C. (2008). Experienced music teacher perceptions of professional development throughout their careers. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, 176(Spring, 2008), 7–18.

Eros, J. (2011). The career cycle and the second stage of teaching: Implications for policy and professional development. Arts Education Policy Review, 112(August 2015), 65–70. doi:10.1080/10632913.2011.546683

Hammel, A. M. (2007). Professional development research in general education. Journal of Music Teacher Education, 17(1), 22–32. doi: 10.1177/10570837070170010106

Smylie, M. A. (2014). Teacher evaluation and the problem of professional development. Mid-Western Educational Researcher, 26(2), 97-111.

Stanley, A. M. (2011). Professional development within collaborative teacher study groups: Pitfalls and promises. Arts Education Policy Review, 112, 71–78. doi:10.1080/10632913.2011.546692

Stanley, A. M., Snell, A., Duling, E., Kastner, J. D., Draves, T. J., Floyd, E., Greene, J. L. R., Minear, C., Reynolds, A., & Stringham, D. (2012). Professional development eKit. Retrieved from National Association for Music Education website: http://www.nafme.org/my-classroom/professionaldevelopment/professional-development-ekit/