Seeing and hearing music teaching and learning: Transforming classroom observations through ethnography and portraiture

Martina L. Miranda, Janet Robbins, Sandra Stauffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to engage preservice teachers in thoughtful examination of teaching and learning in music classrooms through application of ethnographic and portraiture techniques, and to ascertain the efficacy of this approach in undergraduate music teacher preparation courses. Participants included faculty members at three universities and the preservice students enrolled in elementary general music methods courses. Students were coached in ethnographic data collection techniques (e.g., observations and field notes, memos, peer debrief, collection of artefacts) by their respective professors. Schwab's (1973) four curriculum commonplaces served as frames for students' observations in music classrooms. Students constructed ethnography-portraiture projects based on their data records and participated in exit interviews at the end of the semester. Data, comprised of students' projects and interviews, were analysed by the faculty participants for evidence of preservice teachers' ability to engage in the ethnography process, their thoughtful critique of the culture of the music classrooms and the teachers and children they observed, and changes in preservice teachers' perceptions and thinking about music teaching and learning. Analysis indicated that ethnographic techniques enabled the preservice teachers to articulate a multi-layered picture of teaching and learning in elementary music classrooms, to engage in nuanced reflections about their identity as teachers, and to provide detailed descriptions that were both analytical and critical as supported by data and informed by connections made with material from their methods coursework. Additional findings include evidence of insightful learning characterised by clarification of career goals, appreciation of the unexpected, changes in perspective, and emerging teacher identities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-21
Number of pages19
JournalResearch Studies in Music Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Music


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