Preparation, Continuing Education, and Professional Development of Instrumental Music Majors Teaching Elementary General Music


Christa Kuebel, Case Western Reserve University


When undergraduate students enter a 4-year degree program to become music educators, they are most often required to declare themselves as an instrumental, vocal, or general music major. Music teacher licensure in many states, however, is K-12 music, qualifying recipients to teach band, choir, orchestra, and general music, along with other non-performance music courses, for all grades, kindergarten through twelfth grade. Due to a variety of circumstances, music educators often teach at least one course outside of the specialization area they chose during their teacher preparation program (Brophy, 2002; Corfield-Adams, 2012; Groulx, 2015; Robinson, 2010; Shouldice, 2013). The most common out-of-specialization

placement is instrumental music majors teaching elementary general music (Groulx, 2015).


The purpose of this multiple case study was to examine the teacher preparation, continuing education, and professional development of five educators who identified as instrumental majors during their undergraduate degree programs and who were teaching elementary general music at the time of the study. The questions guiding the study examined factors that influenced the participants’ decision to take a teaching position outside of their undergraduate specialization, undergraduate experiences that most prepared the participants for teaching elementary general music, aspects of teaching elementary general music for which the participants were most and least prepared, sources of continuing education and professional development, and the effects of working outside of one’s specialization.


Data collection included an initial survey, interviews, observations, and journal entries. I analyzed data within each case in order to describe the specific experiences of each participant, including their progression through the theoretical framework of Social Cognitive Career Theory (Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994). I then completed cross-case analysis based on themes established by the original research questions.


My conclusions relate to the work of four ASPAs: critical examination of the curriculum; music teacher educators: identification, preparation, and professional development; supporting beginning music teachers; and professional development for experienced teachers. I developed three assertions regarding undergraduate music education preparation programs: the need for broader preparation, the importance of focusing on transferable skills, and the value of general music methods to prepare instrumental music educators to teach elementary general music. In a fourth assertion I identified that the most salient forms of professional development for instrumentalists teaching elementary general music are developing professional communities and experiences in specific methodologies, such as Orff-Schulwerk.


The resulting implications for music teacher educators which I established address the importance of developing an understanding of elementary-aged children’s musical development, providing additional authentic-context experiences during music teacher undergraduate preparation, discussing the contemporary job market with preservice teachers, and considering the development of personality traits, such as self-efficacy, as beneficial dispositions among preservice teachers. The implications for the field of music education include supporting novice teachers through revised mentorship programs and considering the alignment of licensure and music teacher preparation. This research will allow music educators to imagine the possible future in which preservice music educators are appropriately equipped for multiple teaching situations.




Brophy, T. S. (2002). Teacher reflections on undergraduate music education. Journal of Music Teacher Education, 12(1), 10-16. doi:10.1177/10570837020120010501

Corfield-Adams, M. (2012). A qualitative study of undergraduate instrumentalists teaching elementary general music education (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Maryland, Maryland.

Groulx, T. J. (2015). Perceptions of course value and issues of specialization in undergraduate music teacher education curricula. Journal of Music Teacher Education, 25(2), 13-24. doi:10.1177/1057083714564874

Lent, R. W., Brown, S. D., & Hackett, G. (2002). Social cognitive career theory. In D. Brown & Associates (Eds.), Career choice and development (255-311). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Robinson, M. (2010). From the band room to the general music classroom: Why instrumentalists choose to teach general music. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, 185, 33-48. doi:10.2307/41110364

Shouldice, H. N. (2013). Trading Hindemith for “hugs, high-fives, and handshakes:” One preservice music teacher’s decision to teach elementary general music. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, 195, 41-57. doi:10.5406/bulcouresmusedu.195.0041