What Every Canadian Should Know
Welcome to the field of music education in Canada!
As a new Canadian teacher you are expected to meet the ever-diversifying needs of your students in an engaging manner while at the same time fulfilling the projected learning outcomes issued by the province of B.C. Unfortunately there is no definitive advice I can share with you that will instantly imbue you with the tools and knowledge to understand how Canadian students operate, however hopefully the following will help you in your future teaching endeavours.
Let me begin by clarifying some of the expectations Canadian students may have of their teacher, regardless of the subject area. Students appreciate friendliness, transparency/openness, praise when they succeed, and encouragement from their teacher when they are incorrect. It is important that the teacher demonstrates patience, a willingness to slow down and address questions when needed, and that the teacher presents the curriculum content in a relevant and meaningful way. Canadian students not only expect that their teacher is knowledge about the course material, but also that he/she will teach the material in a clear and easy to understand way. In his article “Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching” Shulman proposes that teachers should break down their own understanding of content knowledge in the following way:
“I suggest we distinguish among three categories of content knowledge: (a) subject matter content knowledge, (b) pedagogical content knowledge, and (c) curricular knowledge.” (Shulman 1986)
If you take Shulman’s categorization of content knowledge and apply it to the skill set of a music educator, you may come to better recognize your own strengths, weaknesses and tendencies as a teacher. All too often what brings teachers towards the field of music education is the teacher’s own interest in what Shulman describes as the subject matter content knowledge, however this is only a single aspect of the overall content knowledge required from music educators. Teachers who fit this definition above frequently emphasize the aspect of musical performance as the be-all-end-all product of student accomplishment. Although musical performance is a valuable tool for the developing student, music educators must realize that the over-prioritization of musical performance can very easily influence a student’s experience of music education in a negative way. Of course instrumental performance/competency and musical literacy are essential skills to teach the developing music student, however there are many other skill sets that are taught in music classrooms that are frequently neglected for the tangible end product of a musical performance.
Upon mentioning this, it is important for the music educator to recognize that the materials set out in the core curriculum can (and should) be used as a springboard for initiating the learning process, as opposed to being perceived as strict guidelines to which the teacher must follow. Much of the curriculum in this way is presented in a manner emphasizing the teaching of “what” students should know instead of the process itself of “how” they have come to know what they know.
Further reflecting on the content knowledge identified in the core curriculum, it would undoubtedly be beneficial for the music educator to understand that each student brings their own set of meanings, experiences and conceptions of music into the classroom. With reference to Rowley’s data, information, knowledge and wisdom pyramid (found in the article “The wisdom hierarchy: Representations of the D.I.K.W. hierarchy,” Rowley 2007) it is to the advantage of the teacher to utilize, and build off of this prior knowledge, data, or information each student already possess. This can be useful to not only accommodate the diverse backgrounds of your students, but also to assist in the transformation process of knowledge creation and meaning making.
Although the above characterizations of the average Canadian classroom/student are important to understand, it is critical that the teacher is able to channel this information through his/her own ability to cater to the needs of his/her individual students in a flexible manner. Hopefully some of the above teaching experiences I have shared with you will help you gain a better insight towards how music education is conducted in many of the different classrooms across Canada.
Rowley, J. (2007). The wisdom hierarchy: Representations of the DIKW hierarchy. Journal of Information Science, 33(2), 163-180. Web.
Shulman, L. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4-14. Web.