For music educators, each year brings new research regarding teaching methods, the effects of learning music, and the impact of encouraging creativity. Here are five predictions for music education that reflect some of the most influential trends and most significant challenges in 2017.
Increased Diversity in Music Education
Image via Flickr by Jesse Kruger
For decades, school systems across the United States have emphasized exposing students to music with Western origins or utilizing teaching methods with European roots. As the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) explains, many educational programs have long positioned Western music as the pinnacle of musical experience.
As classroom makeups across the U.S. become increasingly diverse, this emphasis on Western music tends to isolate students with non-traditional backgrounds. This practice can also set the stage for cultural bias, creating even larger learning and cultural issues for minority students.
If current trends are any indication, in 2017 and beyond, music professionals will incorporate increasing levels of diversity into their classroom materials. According to NAfME, many music educators have begun to encourage fellow teachers to approach their curriculum through the lens of their students’ backgrounds. This can lead to greater cultural understanding as well as heightened senses of curiosity and creativity.
The push toward greater diversity may not end with curricula and teaching methods. The Journal of Research in Music Education reports that as recently as 2012, nearly 90 percent of music teachers seeking licensure in the U.S. identified as white. A workforce composed of music teachers of different backgrounds and with more varied musical skills may be another step toward incorporating a greater range of cultures in the classroom.
Focus on Student-Centered Classrooms
In some ways, this increased emphasis on diversity in the school opens the door for student-centered classrooms, which is another emerging trend in music education. Traditional classroom methods and teacher-led environments do not always adequately convey 21st- century skills, which emphasize proficiencies such as critical thinking, collaboration, and self-discipline.
Several recent studies have explored the innovative ways that music teachers introduce these skills into the music classroom. According to a recent study discussed in the Music Educators Journal, several new initiatives have begun to encourage a shift from teacher-led to teacher-facilitated classrooms that enable students to lead activities and instruction.
Initiatives such as Arts PROPEL and Comprehensive Musicianship have aided in advancing this substantial change in approach, which aims to inspire students to work together, solve problems, and communicate effectively. In 2017, music teachers will likely experience a continued push to facilitate learning as they allow students to lead the way.
Continued Inquiries Into the Impact of Creative Thinking
As experienced educators — including those who have completed an Online Master of Music in music education program — know, learning does not stop when the lesson ends or when students leave the classroom. Instead, effective teaching goes beyond the school walls and can even inspire new avenues of thought. In 2017, teachers are likely to consider the impact of music education on creative thinking more than ever before.
While only a small percentage of students will go on to pursue careers as professional musicians, the Music Educators Journal explains that the creative skills that students explore in music classes can have a lasting impact on their personal and professional growth. Creativity may inspire improved critical thinking, problem solving, and ethical decision making, which are all skills that extend beyond the music discipline. As music teachers seek new methods for incorporating 21st-century skills into their curricula, the wide-ranging impact of creativity will likely become increasingly important.
Added Emphasis on Secondary Effects of Music Education
Of course, creativity is far from the only 21st-century skill that students typically learn in a music classroom. In 2017, educators will likely continue to explore and publicize the secondary effects that music education can have on young students.
For instance, Education Week shared a recent study explaining the impact of music study on high school students. Those who studied music for two years demonstrated an improved ability to process sound and distinguish between meaningful sound and mere noise. This ability improves the brain’s sound processing potential and may also impact bilingualism and aging.
As music teachers continue to demonstrate the importance and impact of their subject matter, studies like this are increasingly important. In 2017, music educators may rely on hard facts to show that students of all ages gain important lifelong learning abilities and coping techniques from the study of music.
Interaction With STEM Subjects
When it comes to making a case for funding and resources, music teachers may have to consider how music mixes with STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math). While proficiency in STEM subjects may pave the way for lucrative career opportunities and global leadership, music professionals must demonstrate the links between music education and STEM performance.
For instance, data from the Special Music School at Kaufman Music Center in New York City reveals that this music-focused K-12 public school produces some of the best test scores in the state of New York. Standardized test scores are regularly at the top of their classes in math, reading, and English, suggesting that students’ study of music also aids their mastery of STEM subjects.
Ultimately, music educators must apply these findings to demonstrate the need for music in a well-rounded approach to education. Since compromised resources and reduced funding for music education could be real causes for concern in 2017, professionals in this field will need to continue to make the case for high-quality music instruction in schools at all levels.
As NAfME suggests, this may even require advocacy at the federal level, as music educators make the case for adequate funding of the U.S. Department of Education’s Every Student Succeeds Act. The organization has already expressed disappointment with Congress’s decision to appropriate a mere $400 million for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant program, but continued advocacy will likely be necessary throughout the year.
As a music education professional, you will undoubtedly face many of these challenges as you incorporate the latest trends and research into your curriculum. When you earn a graduate degree in music education at the Hugh A. Glauser School of Music at Kent State University, you may even have the opportunity to apply your expertise and guide developments in the field for years to come.
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