A Qualitative Study of Undergraduate Instrumentalists Teaching Elementary General Music Education

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Corfield-Adams, Maggie
Carter, Bruce
Hughes, Sherick
The central purpose of this multiple-case study was to describe the professional identities of six general music teachers who identified as instrumentalists as undergraduates. The study builds upon research addressing why students choose music education (Bergee, et al., 2001; Bright, 2006; Gillespie & Hamann, 1999; Lee, 2003; Madsen & Kelly, 2002) and the reasons some instrumentally "tracked" students may choose general music (Anderson-Nickel, 1997; Robinson, 2010). This study investigated tensions between the participants' instrumental backgrounds and the professional demands of general music teaching, and the role of those tensions in shaping professional identities. The conceptual framework is grounded in the work of Gee (2000) who suggests that the existence of identities requires interpretive systems through which individuals and institutions interact. The study describes tensions between institutional identities and core identities as important to the process of participants' professional identity development. Participants were general music teachers, 24 - 51 years of age, from different undergraduate institutions and who teach in different regions of the country. Semi-structured interviews, participant essays, transcripts, notebooks, and institutional websites were used for data collection. Participants' stories represent both narrative inquiry and case study approaches to qualitative research. Data analysis included a process of recontextualization (Coffey & Atkinson, 1996) to facilitate the production of narratives and coding techniques in individual and cross-case analysis. Cross-case analysis revealed seven emergent themes: (1) concerns about "perceived limitations" (Robinson, 2010, p. 41) of ensemble teaching as an important factor in the choice to teach general music, (2) the structure and requirements of directing a band as a factor in a turn toward working with younger students, (3) the unique structure of general music classes as a source of initial challenge, (4) a given curriculum or scope and sequence as something of value, (5) vocal teaching as a unique challenge for some instrumentally-trained general music teachers, (6) changes in self-identification as linked to agreements between institutional identities and core identities, and (7) professional positionality in relation to students, not colleagues. The concluding section offers suggestions for future research and implications for undergraduate music programs and school systems.