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West, J. J. (in press). Is music teacher professional development becoming more effective? Evaluating practice and policy in the U.S., 1993–2012. Journal of Research in Music Education.
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to evaluate music teacher professional development (PD) practice and policy in the U.S. between 1993 and 2012. Using data from the nationally representative Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) spanning these 20 years, I examined music teacher PD participation by topic, intensity, relevance, and format; music teachers' top PD priorities; and the reach of certain PD-supportive policies. I assessed these descriptive results against a set of broadly agreed-upon criteria for "effective" PD: content-specificity, relevance, voluntariness/autonomy, social interaction, and sustained duration. Findings revealed a mixed record. Commendable improvements in content-specific PD access were undercut by deficiencies in social interaction, voluntariness/autonomy, sustained duration, and relevance. School policy, as reported by teachers, was grossly inadequate, with only one of the nine PD-supportive measures appearing on SASS reaching a majority of teachers in any given survey year. Implications for policy, practice, and scholarship are presented.
West, J. J. (2020). Understanding the process of proximate change following music teachers’ participation in large-scale conferences: A grounded theory. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, 225, 67–94.
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to understand the process of proximate change following music teachers’ participation in large-scale conferences (i.e., the near-term integration of conference learnings into classroom practice). I conducted 60 interviews with 32 active music teacher attendees to three selected music conferences: Midwest Clinic, NAFME National In-Service Conference, and Texas Music Educators Association Clinic/Convention. Three waves of grounded theory analysis (Corbin & Strauss, 2015) revealed a three-phase process: consideration, realization, and decision. The core category was identified as convergence and represented participants’ pursuit of relevance, practicability, and impact in their conference professional development (PD) experiences. Contextual conditions included participants’ perceptions of and histories with PD, as well as the influence of policy on their PD participation. Dimensionalized quotes, an integrative diagram, theoretical propositions, implications, and recommendations for further research are put forward.
Abstract: In this article, we apply the concept of systemness (Fullan, 2014) to music and arts teacher professional development (PD), arguing that to address perennial issues of access and scale, PD policy should be understood as a systems issue. Using systems theory as a lens and the robust and integrated PD system in Singapore as an exemplar, we address the following questions: What policies might ensure all music and arts teachers are provided high-quality PD opportunities? How might PD efforts be coordinated for comprehensive change in music and arts teachers, for music students, and for the profession writ large? We close by setting forth systems-minded PD policy recommendations for nations whose PD structures fail to meet the needs of all music and arts teachers.
Abstract: Short-term or “one shot” professional development experiences are sometimes deemed less effective because they lack mechanisms for deep and ongoing engagement. Using the music conference as an example, I outline a simple framework on how music teachers might nevertheless use short-term professional development experiences as an impetus for long-range and high-impact professional growth.
West, J. J., & Frey-Clark, M. L. (2019). Traditional versus alternative pathways to certification: Assessing differences in music teacher self-efficacy. Journal of Music Teacher Education, 28(2), 98–111.
Abstract: Teacher-credentialing policy debates often center on questions of whether traditional or alternative pathways to teacher certification better position future teachers for success. Given the growing number of teachers entering the profession via alternative pathways, we sought to compare the self-efficacy of alternatively and traditionally certified music teachers using a sample from Texas (n = 143). Our findings indicated that traditionally and alternatively certified music teachers reported comparable levels of self-efficacy. We also found that, regardless of certification pathway, teachers with 10 or fewer years of experience reported lower self-efficacy than teachers with 11 or more years of experience. We conclude that alternative pathways to certification may offer a viable entry point into the profession and may be particularly advantageous in diversifying the teacher pool and addressing areas of music teacher shortages. We also offer recommendations for cultivating high self-efficacy in preservice teachers, irrespective of certification pathway, as well as avenues for future study of the alternative pathway.
Abstract: Teacher professional development (PD) is often extended as a driver of good teaching and effective schools. In recent years, teacher PD has increasingly focused on developing teacher social capital by placing teachers within professional communities to collectively solve instructional problems. Using Bourdieu’s and Coleman’s conceptions of social capital as a theoretical and practical lens, this article explores how a social capital frame could generate more effective PD policy in music education. Areas examined also include the specific ways in which social capital becomes a lever for teacher growth and school improvement and the social dimensions of music teacher PD. The article concludes with principles of social capital-advancing PD policy, examples of principle-aligned PD policies, implications for research and advocacy, and an accounting of challenges and opportunities for the future. The author argues that centralizing social capital development as an aim of PD represents a new frontier in music teacher learning.