Policies that Matter: Creating a Voice through Policy Awareness for Music Teacher Educators


Roque Diaz, University of Minnesota


Bryan Maurer, University of Minnesota



In conjunction with the symposium theme, “Imagining Possible Futures,” as well as the work of the Policy ASPA, we will address how awareness and understanding of policy issues may help assure quality music education programs and build foundations for serving all students’ music learning needs and interests. If Schmidt’s (2012, p. 59) observation is correct that the music education profession has a “poor track record of educating teachers in and for policy,” then it must also be recognized that cultivating policy awareness among music educators is a complex task (Jones, 2009; 2017).  Incorporating policy awareness into teacher preparation can provide guidance to music educators by developing a “set of concepts and experiences that can lead to greater policy capacity” (Schmidt and Colwell, 2017, p. 6). Further, this presentation will illustrate the intersecting ways education and music education policies of various organizations and agencies may influence the practice of music teaching and how understanding these influences may relate to issues such as teacher retention, attrition, and isolation.


Derived from the notion of hard/soft power (Nye, 2004; 2008), the theoretical concept of hard/soft policy (Jones, 2009; 2017) provides a necessary context for critically thinking about policy in music teacher education.  Hard policies include accreditation standards, government mandates, compulsory curricular requirements, and state teacher preparation and licensure criteria.  Soft policies are those that influence perceptions, values, and personal goals, such as curricular guidelines, music teacher organizations’ recommendations, textbook and sheet music publications, musical products industries, etc. (Jones, 2009; 2017).


Within the discipline of music education, influential policies include those that relate generally to education and those that carry more specific implications for the learning and teaching of music (Aguilar and Richerme, 2016).  Navigating this web of policies (Jones, 2009) requires that music teacher educators foster a capacity and agency for critical thinking about policy (Schmidt, 2017). 


Examples of derived case studies/scenarios on policy related issues will be used to illustrate the impacts policy has on practice. Music teacher educators are heavily influenced by local, state, and federal policies, both hard and soft. The case studies/scenarios are used as exemplars out of which we will pursue further with music teacher educators to derive principles relevant (i.e., methods for teaching policy) to content that might be included in teacher preparation programs, or in the professional development of practicing music educators. 


The guiding question is: What do music educators in K-12 and higher education need to understand about policies (hard/soft) to encourage critical thinking about policy in their own professional careers, and in those of their students?  Connecting the voice of music teacher educators to researchers, administrators, and policymakers, can encourage more thoughtful considerations on the part of music teachers and more active engagement with policy makers and policy itself.




Aguilar, C. E., & Richerme, L. K. (2016). A descriptive study of music teacher educators’ beliefs about policy. Journal of Music Teacher Education, 25(2), 37-49.

Benedict, C. L., & Schmidt, P. K. (2012). Music policy in place-centered education: Finding space for adaptability. Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, 111(1), 51-73.

Jones, P. M. (2009). Hard and soft policies in music education: Building the capacity of teachers to understand, study, and influence them. Arts Education Policy Review, 110(4), 27-32.

Jones, P. M. (2017). Policy and higher education. In P. Schmidt & R. Colwell (Eds.), Policy and the political life of music education (pp. 241-251). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Nye, J. S. (2004). Soft power: The means to success in world politics. Cambridge, MA: Perseus.

Nye, J. S. (2008). The powers to lead. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Schmidt, P., & Colwell, R. (2017). Introduction. In P. Schmidt, & R. Colwell (Eds.), Policy and the political life of music education (pp.1-8). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.