|Teaching and Learning Forum 2000 [ Proceedings Contents ]
Listening to the 'voice' of beginning music teachers: An opportunity for empowermentBelinda Yourn
School of Music
University of Western Australia
As both the researcher and supervisor I aimed to provide opportunities for the student music teachers to discuss and analyse their experiences. The researcher sought to create a space within the course whereby the beginning teachers could develop reflective processes and locate their 'voice'. It was intended and hoped that a further implication of the research process would be that of a reciprocally educative encounter between what would more commonly be perceived as the researcher and the researched (Lather, 1988).
The program sought to achieve several aims:
Rust (1999) describes teachers stories as their lived experience intersecting with their real experience and that this impacts in a significant way upon their subsequent future as teachers. Black (1992) points out the potential of narratives as a way of questioning and redefining practice from the teachers own perspective and this becomes an empowering experience. Simon (1987) draws attention to the opportunity that beginning teachers have to participate on equal terms. Fried (1980) reveals that empowerment through reflection is more about the 'mutual sharing of ideas, intuitions and experiences (p.30)'. Gitlin (1990) stresses that when the student teachers' voice is heard it provides scope for developing identity within the context.
Diamond (1990) and Lather (1988, 1992) both refer to the possible benefits for both the researched and researcher. The acknowledgment that beginning teachers' personal and professional knowledge is important becomes central to the reflective process for both. Smyth (1989) observes that by allowing novice teachers to create pesonalised narratives that it guards against outsiders providing packaged answers for problems.
Providing opportunities for the beginning teachers to find their voice will be essential to this project. It is hoped that they will define , analyse and reconstruct their experiences from their own perspectives and possibly achieve significant understanding of the teaching and learning process.
The intersection of teachers' personal and professional knowledge provides an opportunity for what Craig (1999) refers to as safe places where teachers can establish raw dialogues regarding their experiences and understanding of teaching. The safe place of this project is defined as the place where the participating student music teachers have no fear of their confidences and reflections affecting for example their grades. It is hoped that negotiating meaning from ones own and others stories will contribute to their professional growth beyond the mere sharing of experiences. Essentially, beginning teachers can begin to chart their own professional growth and teacher educators can begin to understand the concerns of beginning teachers from a different perspective (Grumet, 1988.,Clandinin 1996., Bullough, 1991).
Empowerment is therefore defined for this project as the student teacher gaining confidence through reflecting on their experiences.
Fuller & Boun (1975) describe the first stage as being more about survival and indicative of student teachers or beginning teachers. In the Fuller (1969) study the data revealed that beginning teachers have (a) concern with self, (b) concern with teaching and (c) concern with pupils. During the survival stage beginning teachers are concerned mostly about their:
"adequacy and survival as a teacher, about class control, about being liked by pupils, about supervisors' opinions, about being observed, evaluated, praised and failed". That they were also worried "about having to much work with too many students or having too many instructional duties, about time pressures, about inflexible situations, lack of instructional materials, and so on" (Fuller and Boun p.37).Fuller & Boun (1975) conclude their study with several recommendations that include the development of 'procedures' to encourage the beginning teacher to confront their concerns. In this project the introduction of a reflective process will be defined as such a 'procedure'. It is hoped that this will enable the beginning teacher to become less concerned with the issues of survival and be more focussed on student needs. In this project the beginning music teacher is provided with the opportunity to analyse from a multiple of perspectives their teaching . They are encouraged to be reflective and to attend to the discrepancies that occur in their teaching through their own experiences of teaching and the perspectives of others of their teaching.
As the supervisor and researcher I felt that if some form of reflective process was introduced to address the concerns of the student teachers that they would find their voice, become empowered and achieve professional growth.
The project design cannot lay claim to impartiality as the researcher is an inscribed participant. Lather (1992) and Teitelbaum and Britzman (1991) say that the research paradigm that is described formerly is more concerned with description and interpretation rather than with prediction and measurement. This project was as much about the perspectives of the student teachers as it was an investigation to inform course structures for the researcher.
This study provided opportunities for beginning teachers to reflect upon their experiences to develop an understanding of their teaching. It was an aim of the study to encourage the 'voice' of beginning teachers as a valued and empowering aspect of their professional growth. An unexpected result was that the beginning music teachers remained enthusiastic during the project. I believe that they particularly enjoyed the discussions and individual support and as a consequence invested much of themselves in the project. The group has developed a high level of trust and their 'voice' is confident in this safe place.
It was satisfying to observe that the structured reflective process did enable the beginning music teachers to go beyond the 'trial and error' approach to teaching (Ferguson 1989). However, some students remained firmly within the identifiable 'survival' stage and were more concerned with 'technical competence' ( Calderhead 1989, Campbell-Evans & Maloney 1998). The student teachers demonstrated that there is potential for the reflective process to affect personal change especially when the process is owned and hence significant to the participants. Although there were many instances of struggle and frustration they in the end became the significant events that required the student teacher to analyse, interpret and reconstruct.
I believe that the students developed at varied levels responsibility for their actions as beginning music teachers. Some have developed the skill to be critical of themselves and their teaching. There is merit in allowing beginning music teachers the opportunity to reflect in a meaningful way upon their own experiences. Further that there were moments when the beginning music teachers demonstrated their empowerment in the reflective process. Empowering the beginning music teacher through the development of 'voice' has with this group of students been an effective way to encourage professional growth whilst managing the practicum requirement.
As a teacher educator this has been a reciprocal learning experience that will have impact on my own practice. I have found that to encourage a deeper level of interpretation and professional growth that the beginning music teachers require supported and structured experiences. I also found that I cannot take for granted that the beginning music teachers will all become insightful and critical of their practice given the opportunity to be so. An implication of this project has been that initial support is required before the student teacher can feel confident to take full responsibility for their actions. There is opportunity for more consideration to be given to how the practicum experience is managed and possibly how the theory can support this prior to the students' entering the school setting..
Through reflective processes, such as were used in this project, the concerns of the student teachers did move towards the 'bigger picture' of becoming an educator. Through the analysis of their own experiences they found their voice and subsequently were empowered. Ultimately each student teacher started to chart their own professional growth as new educators. As the supervisor and researcher my own investigation has revealed that the anxiety of beginning teachers can be addressed with careful consideration given to the concerns that the student teachers have. Consideration will be given to promoting self-reflection as a strategy for encouraging professional growth and effective music teachers.
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|Please cite as: Yourn, B. (2000). Listening to the 'voice' of beginning music teachers: An opportunity for empowerment. In A. Herrmann and M.M. Kulski (Eds), Flexible Futures in Tertiary Teaching. Proceedings of the 9th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 2-4 February 2000. Perth: Curtin University of Technology. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2000/yourn.html|