Investigation of music literacy teaching strategies among selected accomplished choral directors in Texas Title I high schools



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This study was designed to investigate the teaching strategies of four accomplished choral directors who have developed viable and flourishing programs in Title I schools with an ethnic distribution reflective of Texas population demographics. The investigation process included delivery of an electronic survey to identify teachers meeting established criteria, on-site observation visits of selected teachers, and on-site interviews conducted within a two-month time frame before the spring 2009 University Interscholastic Choir Contest. Between the four directors for this study, 9 choir rehearsals were observed and video-recorded. The data collected regarding the identified strategies included information obtained from the survey, the on-site rehearsal observations, and the on-site interviews. Emerging themes and characteristics were categorized based on similarities among the four directors. This included similar characteristics from the survey, similar communication characteristics from the rehearsal observations, and similar themes during the interviews. The most frequently mentioned themes emerging from the combination of survey, observation, and interview data included:

  • Length of teaching experience and its connection to the success of the director’s choir program
  • Establishment of a family-friendly choir room environment
  • Treatment of students including fairness, patience, and relationships - Personality traits such as humor, compassion, energy and selflessness
  • Implications that the director presentation is more important than the specific methodology used
  • Use of simple directives to teach complex music literacy information
  • Commitment to excellence and avoidance of mediocrity through competition
  • Sight reading techniques taught on average 27% of each rehearsal recorded Data from the interviews also revealed several characteristic traits that were not identifiable through the survey data. All four directors never profiled their students as being “at-risk” or a low socio-economic status. Every director referenced “kids as kids” and maintained that persona throughout the rehearsals and the interviews. All four directors exhibited emotional responses when explaining why they continue to serve in a Title 1 setting. All four directors prefer serving in a Title 1 setting as opposed to a non-Title 1 setting. Results are discussed in terms of implications for further research and include advice for practicing and pre-service music educators.