“Will you be my in-school dad?” A Phenomenological Study of Male Elementary General Music Teachers


Tiger A. Robison, The Hartt School, University of Hartford



The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe the essence of being a male elementary general music teacher (MEGMT). In January through April of 2015, I recruited participants who met the criteria of being male elementary general music teachers currently practicing in the public schools of one New England state. I found participants’ information through a website search and through snowball sampling. In keeping with Polkinghorne’s (1989) recommendations for phenomenological studies, I strived to recruit at least ten participants. I emailed each MEGMT individually with a recruitment letter and a request for names of other MEGMTs in the state. I corresponded with dozens of potential participants. Of those willing to take part in semi-structured, in person interviews during January through April, I selected twelve participants for maximum variation concerning years of teaching experience and socio-economic conditions of their districts. I used two participants in interviews designed to refine my initial interview questions and then gathered data from the remaining ten.


Through interviews, I gathered data about workplace experiences in general, but my specific research questions were (a) what are the perceived uniquely male experiences in elementary general music teaching? and (b) in what ways might gender be a consideration in the preparation of elementary general music teachers?


I collected and analyzed data simultaneously as recommended by Creswell (2007). I conducted semi-structured interviews at places and times of the participants’ choosing. The average interview lasted about 35.


I recorded all interviews with Voice Record, an application on my mobile phone. I wrote observations as personal asides during interviews and I transcribed all interviews into separate Word documents. After de-identifying the data, I conducted member checks with all participants and corrected minor changes as necessary. For example, one participant indicated that I accidently typed the wrong name of a recording discussed in the interview. Then, I entered the data into HyperRESEARCH software, read the data multiple times, and created lengthy analytical memos in the style of Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw (2011).


Before coding, I heeded Maxwell’s (2005) recommendations and spent time reflecting on coding categories, discussing them with two colleagues and a mentor. To code the data, I used two cycles of coding (Miles, Huberman, & Saldaña, 2014). In the first cycle, I used open coding. I paid special attention to emic or in vivo codes (Creswell, 2007) of which there were several that were poignant in my view (e.g., parental role/fatherhood). In the second cycle of coding, I combined first cycle codes into “pattern codes” and narrative descriptions (Miles, Huberman, & Saldaña, 2014, p. 88–91).


As a practicing MEGMT at the time of this study, I made an effort to suspend my judgments about participants’ answers. However, it is possible that my background was helpful in eliciting candid and honest responses.


I found four emergent themes, which were (a) perceived uniquely male issues in teaching, (b) the hiring process and early years, (c) workplace gender issues, and (d) urban teaching overall. These findings both corroborated and contradicted those of the limited studies about MEGMTs, yielding support to investigate MEGMTs’ multi-faceted essence further.




Creswell, J. W. (2007). Qualitative, inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (2nd ed.). London, UK: Sage.

Maxwell, J. A. (2005). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Miles, M. B., Huberman, A. M., & Saldaña, J. (2014). Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Polkinghorne, D. E. (1989). Phenomenological research methods. In R. S. Valle & S. Halling (Eds.), Existential-phenomenological perspectives in psychology. New York: Plenum Press.