Music Teacher Preparation for the Urban Classroom

Amorette B. Languell, University of Arizona

The purpose of this multiple instrumental case study was to explore music teachers’ preparedness for teaching in an urban setting, looking specifically at beginning music teachers’ perceived preparedness for the urban environment and possible changes to pre-service music teacher education. Fiese and DeCarbo (1995) identified that pre-service music education coursework may not prepare the majority of music teachers for success in the urban environment. Fitzpatrick (2011) and Doyle (2012) agree that a special skill set must be developed for successful urban music teaching. Research questions were (a) How did participants decide to teach in an urban setting? (b) What are participants’ perceptions of their preparedness to teach in an urban setting? (c) How did participants perceive the experiences their university programs offered for preparing them for urban teaching? and (d) What other experiences or individuals, as identified by participants, may have prepared them for urban teaching?

Participants: Four participants were selected for this instrumental case study through purposeful sampling. Three participants completed traditional undergraduate music education programs and one received a graduate certificate in music education; three diverse locations within the United Stated were represented; three participants were female and one was male; three were instrumental specialists and one was a vocalist; their teaching experience in an urban setting was between two and three years, with two participants possessing some previous experience as long-term substitute teachers; participants represented elementary, middle, and high school classrooms with topics including: general music, World Drumming, choir, drama, music appreciation, band, and art; two participants taught in public schools, one taught in a public charter school, and one taught in a private Catholic school.

Methodology: This instrumental case study included multiple forms of data, such as a background survey for contextual knowledge of each participant, three semi-structured interviews, two full days of participant observations, and a series of five participant journals (Seidman, 2013; Stake, 1995).

Findings/Results: The themes derived from the research questions were opportunity knocked; perceptions of preparedness; perceptions of pre-service experiences; and external experiences. Emergent themes were outsider perspectives; relationship development; and challenges and rewards of the urban setting.

Implications: Some implications for future practice may include field experience requirements in urban settings; guided observations in urban settings, which are followed by immediate discussion in an effort to weaken stereotypes or biases as perceived by pre-service teachers; and requirements that involve both observation and teaching prior to student teaching. Further, adjustments to pre-service curriculum may include a focus on popular music learning; the importance of arranging and non-traditional ensembles; and modeling culturally relevant teaching for pre-service teachers.


Doyle, J. (2012). Music teacher perceptions of issues and problems in urban elementary schools. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, 194, 31-52. doi:10.5406/bulcouresmusedu.194.0031

Fiese, R. K. & DeCarbo, N. J. (1995). Urban music education the teachers’ perspective. Music Educators Journal, 81(6), 27-31. Retrieved from

Fitzpatrick, K. R. (2011). A mixed methods portrait of urban instrumental music teaching. Journal of Research in Music Education, 59(3), 229-256. doi:10.1177/0022429411414912

Siedman, I. (2006). Interviewing as qualitative research (3rd ed). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Stake, R. E. (1995). The art of case study research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.