By Rhonda Fuelberth
Inclusive music classrooms are places where: equity is commonplace; where students are treated as people and not as labels; where all students have access to high-quality, engaging instruction; where all students feel valued; where all students’ strengths are recognized; and where teachers, students, and peers are partners in creating and problem solving. Read on for tips on creating a successful inclusive music education classroom.
- Have high expectations for all students. Begin with the end in mind, and imagine each student as an accomplished musician/artist. Students will meet or exceed expectations when provided with the tools and resources that enable them to be successful.
- Accept something as beautiful even if it isn’t perfect. As music educators, we want to provide tools, models, and resources that enable each musician to develop to his or her full potential. Within that context, we also want to value each individual contribution, realizing that the end goal is a peak experience for each individual, rather than a perfect musical product.
- Recruit student interest. Maximize student engagement in music making by choosing age-appropriate music materials that are socially and culturally relevant. Help students make connections to their personal lives, to other art forms, and to the world around them through their engagement with musical materials.
- Provide resources for enhancing learning outside of the music classroom. Provide listening examples to students before presenting them in class. Pre-teaching in this way allows the learner the benefit of familiarity when new materials are introduced in class. Provide further reinforcement of learning outside the music classroom through access to recordings—CDs or web-based recordings and videos.
- Enlist and honor student input on musical decisions. Establish a vocabulary of musical elements (verbal, visual, and graphic) and use these terms regularly. Ask questions frequently, and allow and encourage student input when making musical decisions.
Rhonda Fuelberth is an Associate Professor of Music Education at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln where she teaches courses in choral music education and inclusive music education. She is also the program and artistic director for a community choir called i2Choir: Inclusive, Intergenerational, Exponentially Better Together.