Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)


School of Music


This study investigates the experience of elementary teachers providing music instruction to students with multiple disabilities in self-contained classrooms. With legislation mandating public education for students with special needs, music teachers increasingly encounter these students in their classrooms, which range from inclusion to self-contained environments. Research indicates that music is a valid and valuable tool for supporting extra-musical learning as well as fostering musical growth in students with special needs. Additionally, research provides insight into inclusion experiences for teachers and for students. However, research into self-contained instruction is minimal. This study addressed that gap through phenomenological exploration of teachers in northwestern Virginia. A survey sent to elementary teachers in the target region provided preliminary data, indicating that the study population was small but did share common perceptions. Teachers expressed uncertainty regarding purpose and process. Interviews with three teachers who have experience in self-contained music settings provided more in-depth data. This represents a purposeful sample. Their shared experience again showed commonalities that fell into categories of worth, support, and process. Each teacher described a journey of self-discovery that led to a richly rewarding experience with this specialized form of instruction. The results, consistent with a review of literature and the personal experience of the researcher, indicate that teachers in self-contained settings value these interactions for musical and extra-musical outcomes. They do not rely on traditional curriculum or standards and frequently adapt materials. All of the teachers in this study report feeling under-qualified to work with this population and desire more training and resources, though they are typically not aware of resources that are available. Several issues surfaced that were not included in the literature review, including the teaching and learning process, working with aides, and factors involving time. These findings indicated that teachers would benefit from networking systems, allowing them to share their frustrations and successes. Administrators could support their staff by providing resources and training opportunities. Further study into self-contained music instruction for elementary students is needed. Possible areas of focus include examining the perceptions of students and parents and exploring curriculum development and presentation.

Included in

Music Commons



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