Rethinking the Structure and Delivery of College Methods Courses


Debra (Gordon) Hedden

University of Kansas



Introduction: Many institutions of higher learning are delivering college methods courses in the same manner in which they were delivered fifty years. These courses typically include class meetings three or four times per week for a semesterŐs duration, mostly focused on assigned readings, paper-and-pencil tests, and an occasional interface with children, either as an observation or a short-term teaching assignment. Essentially, these courses do not frequently facilitate the future music educatorŐs work with authentic teaching experiences, i.e., planning and delivering instruction in music classes with ŇrealÓ children in a consistently sequenced fashion. While these future music educators will be teaching, the amount of actual instruction in teaching, specifically in music teaching, is quite limited.

Problem: Given the hours devoted to methods and teaching instruction in college in comparison with the total hours required in an undergraduate degree program, it appears that music programs are not sufficiently providing the time nor consistency needed for future teachers to learn, reflect, re-teach, and succeed. The curriculum is often more test-based than practice-based, and not offered to allow the students sufficient growth in their chosen field. Often the expectation of the educational arena is that future music educators will utilize the information learned in one context and apply it in different settings. In essence, we expect them to treat a small amount of information learned in the course in such a way that they readily can transfer it to larger contexts with students, despite the lack of interface with children in the learning process.

Proposed Solution: The idea of immersion -- one that allows students in methods classes to meet each morning for three or four hours – would provide preparation in curriculum, methodology, pedagogy, classroom management, and assessment. The methods students would then spend each afternoon in the music classroom with the methods instructor, the music teacher, and the K-12 students to observe, teach mini-lessons, and then assume more teaching responsibilities as the semester progresses. In this way, they will acquire skills in teaching much the same way that one learns language: through observation, initial learning by trial and error, and eventually through full engagement. They also would be exposed to a broad perspective about teaching music, one that includes singing, performing, listening, moving, reading/writing, and improvising throughout the semester as an every-day occurrence. These experiences will assist them in gaining comfort in delivery and in learning to integrate the teaching of concepts through different activities to effectively meet the needs of the K-12 students. And finally, the collaboration between the university methods teacher and the classroom music teacher would provide a model of teamwork, one that is beneficial to future teachers in terms of planning and delivering curriculum.