Innovators in the Classroom: In-service Teachers Creating and Implementing Non-BCO Courses in Their Schools


Elizabeth J. Tracy, Case Western Reserve University


Scholars have suggested that considering all students’ needs (D. B. Williams, 2011) and keeping them at the center of music education is paramount for the survival of music education (Kratus, 2007; Miksza, 2013; Thibeault, 2013). Non-BCO courses (Sanderson, 2014) include any and all music electives that are not band, choir, or orchestra. A number of non-BCO course models involve student-centered learning within authentic contexts (Constantine, 2015; Giotta, 2015; Kennedy, 2002; Menard, 2013; Tobias, 2012, 2013, 2015). Despite the growing awareness and demonstrated benefits of non-BCO courses, Dammers (2012) and Sanderson (2014) each suggested that there are still relatively few instances of these classes in United States’ high schools. A potential reason for this is the limited information available to music educators about how such courses might be created and implemented. With this research, I intend to explore the experiences of teachers who have constructed new non-BCO courses in their schools.


The purpose of this multiple case study (Creswell, 2013) was to explore teachers’ experiences in creating and implementing a new music elective outside of the ensemble paradigm. The questions guiding this research included:

1.     What influences a music educator’s choice to create and implement non-band, choir, and orchestra (non-BCO) courses?

2.     What resources, education, or experiences do music educators call upon in creating non-BCO courses?

3.     What are the common and disparate experiences teachers encounter in the process of creating and implementing a non-BCO course?

4.     What social, academic, musical, and financial impacts do stakeholders observe in the school after the implementation of a non-BCO course?


Data collected at each of three school sites included two interviews with the primary participant, one interview with two to four secondary participants, fieldnotes from observations of four class periods, and course syllabi and artifacts. All data were coded using the following scheme. Within each case, I used attribute and structural coding to organize the data sources and establish “a ‘grand tour’ overview,” (Saldaña, 2013, p. 48) followed by a round of open coding. After the within-case analysis, I completed cross-case analysis using the primary research questions to organize the findings.


Results suggested that the music educators themselves chose to pursue the creation and implementation of new non-BCO courses in secondary schools and were subsequently supported by their school administrators. Reasons for implementing the new courses included teachers’ desire to offer additional opportunities to students in the school. Each educator indicated that there was a relationship between the course they taught and previous music experiences from either their teacher education programs or their personal interests. Scheduling and situating the course within the teacher’s workload varied among the three participants. Secondary participants provided disparate responses regarding the effects that the new course had on the school landscape.


Implications from this study include the modification of teacher preparation programs to include course design and implementation. Preservice teachers may benefit from experiences that include traditional and non-BCO music education. Additionally, teacher educators might consider seeking out examples of non-BCO courses for preservice teachers to observe during field work.




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