Jackie Wiggins, Oakland University, jwiggins@oakland.edu

Joseph L. Shively, Oakland University, shively@oakland.edu

Deborah V. Blair, Oakland University, dvblair@oakland.edu

Gregory Cunningham, Oakland University, cunningh@oakland.edu

Danny Jordan, Oakland University, d2jordan@oakland.edu


The mainstream ideas espoused as “best practice” in today’s schools are rooted in a constructivist vision of learning and teaching. If it is true that to learn people need to construct their understanding of experience, then the education of music teachers must be designing experiences that foster their construction of understanding of music, of learning and teaching, and of music learning and teaching. If teaching music involves acting on all of these understandings in concert, then learning to teach music must involve synthesis of understandings of music, of learning and teaching, and of music learning and teaching. What kind of curriculum fosters these kinds of understandings?


Whether at the preservice or inservice level, the curriculum must provide opportunities for students to wrestle with the most important ideas central to all three fields and to formulate understanding of how they intertwine and interact. This cannot be accomplished through a set of disconnected methods courses. Students must understand theory and practice––how practice arises from theory and belief. Teacher education is not just modeling practice. Even young undergraduates need opportunities to work with the most sophisticated ideas of our field. As a profession, we tend to underestimate children’s capabilities in music as we do prospective teachers’ ability to understand pedagogy. Well-designed learning experiences coupled with appropriate scaffolding from peers and teacher will enable children to excel in music at levels we have not seen before and young teachers to excel as music teachers on levels of sophistication that we may not have thought possible.


Further, a curriculum that lives in “silos”––where what students learn in music history, theory, and performance seems to have little or no bearing on what they learn in music education courses––cannot foster the kinds of connections needed to become a music educator. Some writers have described intelligence as the ability to make increasingly acute discriminations in the context of increasingly wide connections (e.g., Dewey, 1916, p. 146; Reimer, 2003, p. 204). The understandings it takes to be a music teacher lie in the ability to make increasingly acute discriminations within increasingly wider connections in the areas of music, education, and music education. To enable students to accomplish this, faculty who interact with music education students need to work together at some level; they need to have conversations about what and how they teach. Each needs to understand and value his or her role in the process. How do you accomplish this in a system that has traditionally thrived in silos?


In this collaborative presentation, we will share the design of the music and music education curricula at our own institution and the principles that have guided our decisions in the development of this curriculum over the past 10 years. Participants will include the three members of the music education faculty plus faculty members in performance and music theory.




Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. NY: The Free Press.


Reimer, B. (2003). A philosophy of music education: Advancing the vision, 3rd Ed., NJ: Prentice Hall.