Joseph Shively

Oakland University


The purpose of this position paper is to articulate a reconceived vision of music teacher education that reflects constructivist perspectives with regard to the nature of learning and teaching. In doing so, key components of undergraduate music teacher education will be examined and reconsidered through a constructivist lens. In this paper, I address the nature of music educator as domain practitioner and include recommendations about restructuring curriculum and rethinking how we teach within that curriculum. Issues such as performance, academic courses, music education methods, technology, popular music, and non-traditional ensembles are considered.


Constructivist approaches value experiences that reflect complexity, multiplicity, and authenticity and support efforts to make meaning. Further, recognition of the knowledge base that learners bring to the classroom and apply in new contexts lies at the center of this approach. Domain practitioners are distinguished by how they use the knowledge within a particular domain. For example, the varying ways in which a performer, theorist, or educator might use music theory knowledge reflects three distinct knowledge domains. We should consider how to best educate music educators rather than add together one part each solo performer, theorist, conductor, and educator. This is not to devalue the need for experiences in these areas, but rather to consider how best to approach work in the areas that they might inform the practice of music educators.


One common experience for music education majors is performance. There are implicit assumptions made about how ensemble experiences and applied lessons prepare pre-service teachers for their work in the field. While musical growth is an important part of the undergraduate experience, students in these settings are left to make meaning from the activity itself rather than what they might experience through interaction with a university teacherŐs process model. For example, we assume that pre-service teachers learn how to teach a middle school band by participating in a university wind ensemble. While there are some similarities and we want provide appropriate music experiences in both settings, what students are left with is a product model. Rather than a direct product model of conducting or rehearsal technique, conductors could provide process models where they share how the programmed for that concert or provide ensemble members with a copy of their score analysis and discuss how that informs decisions about conducting, interpretation, or rehearsal techniques.


Efforts to support transformative practice within our field might always occur in the shadows of traditional post-secondary music programs. Nonetheless, music education programs must reflect the needs of music education and not music as a whole or the institution itself. In this paper, I provide the foundation and framework for this transformation.