The Status of Music Education Conducting Curricula, Practices, and Values


John Thomas Hart, Jr., University of Hartford's The Hartt School


The purpose of this study was to gather information about (a) the demographics, degree programs, course offerings, and instructors’ perceived pedagogical values in music education divisions, (b) the roles, education, experience, and pedagogical values of the instructors, and (c) information about conducting course structure, content, and the relative emphasis instructors placed on areas of Shulman’s (1986, 1987) PCK framework. One-hundred sixteen (N = 116) conducting instructors from NASM-accredited colleges responded to an online questionnaire. Music education divisions require two conducting courses for a variety of degree specializations. Course enrollment typically represents a mixture of music education and non-music education majors, suggesting that music education faculty do not feel compelled to tailor conducting courses to meet music education majors’ unique needs.


Instructors are mostly male, well-educated, Full or Assistant Professors, and have extensive college-level, though comparatively little K–12 teaching experience. The instructors reported using a variety of teaching techniques, including textbooks, supplementary materials, audio recordings, various systematized movement theories, and significantly more individualized instruction than in past studies. Shulman’s PCK framework served as a theoretical lens to examine pedagogical values of the instructors’ and their perceptions of the pedagogical values of their institutions’ music education divisions. Conducting instructors and music education divisions place similar rank value on the three broad categories of Shulman’s Pedagogical Content Knowledge framework (1: musical content knowledge, 2: music pedagogical content knowledge, 3: general pedagogical knowledge).


Most music education majors (76.1%) do not have a concurrent field experience while enrolled in conducting courses, and few opportunities to conduct school-aged ensembles exist, suggesting a lack of authentic context learning/conducting (ACL) experiences. The author advocates cooperative curricular and planning policies that give music education students more and varied opportunities to practice thinking, feeling, and acting like both teachers and conductors. Whenever possible, music education faculty should provide ACL experiences that give music education students the chance to link conducting and methods course learning (Abrahams, 2011; Austin, Isbell, & Russell, 2010; Ballantyne & Packer, 2004; Berg, 2014; Fant, 1996; Haston & Russell, 2012a; Haston & Russell, 2012b; Varvarigou & Durrant, 2011).




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