The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between the frequency of particular authentic-context learning (ACL) activities during undergraduate instrumental music teacher training and the initial teaching performance (ITP) of undergraduate instrumental music student teachers. Subjects (N = 30) were instrumental music student teachers at four major universities. Four A CL activities, identified from the literature and limited to instrumental music settings, included (a) early field experience teaching episodes, (b) peer-teaching episodes, (c) episodes of subjects watching videotapes of their teaching, and (d) episodes of subjects watching videotapes of their teaching with a coaching instructor ITP was determined by evaluating teaching episodes, which occurred within the first 3 weeks of student teaching, using the Survey of Teaching Effectiveness (Hamann & Baker, 1996). Significant correlations were found between ITP and three of the four A CL activities. In addition, an overall A CL experience value was calculated and categorized into high, medium, and low levels. Those with a high level of A CL experiences were significantly better teachers than those with medium or low levels of A CL experiences.
Authentic-context learning (ACL) activities are those in which problems that need to be solved are presented within an environment that resembles actual professional practice, thus providing for the "need to know" (Katz & Raths, 1982). Students tend to be highly motivated when working directly on problems within an authentic context (Barrows, 1986; Kinsley & McPherson, 1995). ACL activities were introduced in medical education when medical schools began looking for an improved interface between academic (fact-based) learning and clinical (patient-based care) learning (Barrows, 1986). Before the authentic-context model had been widely used, medical students would spend several years in the academic classroom, and then enter the hospital poorly equipped to deal with the realities and complexities of patient complaints, drug interactions, supervision of nurses and other staff, and administrative paperwork demands. Implementation of authentic-context learning strategies reversed the sequence of activities. Medical students spent significantly more time at the beginning of their training dealing with actual patient cases, seeking out solutions to patients' problems. Instead of academic exercises, diagnoses became research problems for the direct benefit of patients. This approach has been found to enhance the clinical performance of medical students (Levesque, 1999), as well as the knowledge acquisition and decision-making skills of practicing physicians (Doucet, 1997).
Although not to the degree found in the medical field, music teacher education curricula include courses that typically contain ACL activities. Such courses are the student teaching practicum and courses that contain early field experience and peer teaching. Peer teaching and early field experiences typically occur in one or two teaching methods courses, while the student teaching practicum is usually the capstone experience in one's undergraduate training. Courses that contain ACL activities also typically include an element of reflective practice.
Reflective practice occurs when practitioners effectively critique their actions, both in-practice and afterward, continually working toward improved practice. Schon (1987) delineated the model of reflective practice, which is common in many professions today, and...