School of Music


Doctor of Music Education (DME)


Rebecca Watson


Special Needs, Special Education, Music




This qualitative study analyzed the current required coursework of pre-service music educators to prepare for teaching students with special needs at Pennsylvania degree-granting institutions. It surveyed graduates of Pennsylvania degree-granting institutions on their experience in preparing teaching students with special needs and the challenges and barriers faced as in-service teachers. An additional survey targeted the perceptions of current Pennsylvania music education professors and their thoughts on preparing pre-service music educators for teaching students with special needs. The surveys explore the answers to whether coursework designed for pre-service music educators to teach students with special needs successfully are adequate. The current literature on in-service teachers teaching music to students with special needs targets in-service teacher professional development on the topic. While there is research on the perceptions of music teachers teaching students with special needs and inclusion, very little research exists on examining the undergraduate level coursework required to successfully teach music to special needs students. Data collected identifies deficiencies in specific music courses on teaching students with special needs in the undergraduate curriculum, as well as the need for field experience. Findings include the quality of the current coursework in the undergraduate curriculum, in-service teachers’ perceptions and attitudes toward their individual preparedness for teaching special needs students, intersection with music therapy, and calls for future research. Future research includes revising curricula at higher education institutions, targeted professional development for in-service music educators, and collaboration with music therapists and special educators.

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