Inservice and Preservice Music Educators' Changes to Beliefs and Instructional Practices through Culturally Responsive Teaching-Focused Professional Development


Donna J. Gallo, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Janet R. Barrett, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Culturally responsive teaching (CRT) practices include educators’ beliefs, attitudes, and dispositions towards their students, and more defined pedagogical techniques such as selecting relevant content and utilizing language to affirm students’ cultural identities (Gay, 2010; Ladson-Billings, 2009). Preservice music educators enrolled in CRT-related courses tend to have more positive attitudes toward culturally diverse students than those who have not taken such courses (Doyle, 2014). Similarly, inservice music educators who attend CRT-related professional development (PD) engagements may view these practices as more central to their work (McKoy, Macleod, Walter, & Nolker, 2016) although the efficacy of these PD activities still remain in question. The nature of CRT requires educators to orient themselves toward empowering students as cultural experts who inform instruction; thus, these practices vary from context to context. In an effort to engage more deeply with area music teachers and establish stronger partnerships between school districts and the university, we sought to examine the ways in which local music educators align their practices to reflect the cultural diversity and learning styles of their students. Additionally, we were interested in how preservice educators in our program described intersections of their own beliefs, course content and workshops related to CRT, and their field experiences with local inservice music educators.


The purpose of this study was to examine inservice and preservice music educators’ conceptions of culturally responsive music teaching and their potential changes to beliefs and instructional practices after they have engaged in a series of related workshops and discussions. The following research questions guided the study: 1) In what ways do preservice and inservice educators describe their current practices or beliefs as responsive to and inclusive of students’ diverse cultures? 2) How does a PD series focused on culturally responsive music teaching engender change in educators’ beliefs and instructional practices? Data collection for the study, still in progress, includes a series of interviews and roundtable discussions with twelve participants (four inservice educators and eight preservice educators). Though primarily a community in which residents identify as White, African American, or Hispanic/Latino, the four inservice music educators also work in neighborhoods in which Asian/Pacific Islander, Indian, Congolese, and Mayan cultures contribute to the rich cultural diversity within the schools. Our preservice educator participants encompass students at different stages of their degree programs and who vary in their views of music-related curricular decisions. We used the following principles to guide our initial data analysis in order to identify culturally responsive beliefs and purported practices: 1) affirming students’ diverse beliefs and knowledge; 2) acknowledging varied learning styles; 3) legitimizing cultural heritages and dispositions; 4) focusing on the students and their learning as opposed to content alone; and 5) placing oneself as part of the school community and the larger surrounding community (or future community) (Gay, 2010; LadsonBillings, 2009; Villegas & Lucas, 2002). Findings from the completed data analysis will be presented. Implications will include ideas for fostering preservice and inservice music educator collaborative learning experiences related to CRT topics, as they apply to diversity within local communities.




Doyle, J. (2014). Predictors of culturally relevant attitudes and expectations of urban music teachers in the USA. Music Education Research, 16(4), 436-453.

Gay, G. (2010). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, & practice (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2009). The dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American children (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

McKoy, C. L., Macleod, R. B., Walter, J. S., & Nolker, D. B. (2016). The impact of an in-service workshop on cooperating teachers’ perceptions of culturally  responsive teaching. Journal of Music Teacher Education. Republished February 9, 2016, doi:10.1177/1057083716629392

Villegas, A. M., & Lucas, T. (2002). Preparing culturally responsive teachers: Rethinking the curriculum. Journal of Teacher Education, 53, 20–32.  doi:10.1177/0022487102053001003