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Some of these groupings overlap; for example, a cooperative learning group could be teacherassigned and include homogeneous abilities, and student-chosen groupings are likely to be heterogeneous by learning styles and ability. Furthermore, each grouping strategy provides an opportunity for differentiation. If a teacher grouped homogeneously by ability, she could vary the difficulty level of assigned material accordingly. If a teacher assigned cooperative learning groups heterogeneously by learning styles and ability, she is providing an opportunity for students to learn from one another (both regarding different ways to think about the topic, and also in terms of musical skill level). Student-chosen groupings may be more democratic, and they might more closely approximate how music learning occurs outside of the music classroom (Greene, 2008).

Most of the group work described in the current study was undertaken in student-chosen groupings. Only Ms. Stevens considered musical ability in assigning grouping when she ensured that weaker students were paired with a stronger musician. Ms. Wheeler and Ms. Davis both allowed students to choose their own groups, which seemed to result in groups based on friendships. Some of these groups were widely heterogeneous in musical ability and others were somewhat homogenous. Although group composition projects were described in research regarding elementary general music settings, researchers did not focus on grouping practices.

Not all authors specified how students were grouped, and, when they did, the groupings were student-chosen (e.g., Christensen, 1992; Freed-Garrod, 1999).

Assuming that students are able to focus on the learning task at hand, friendship-based groups could have a number of benefits, including peer coaching, an increased feeling of democracy in the classroom, and enjoyment of the social aspects of musicking and music learning. However, I observed some evidence of students feeling left out of these friendshipbased groups (e.g., CD Field Notes 4/19, p. 2) and the appearance of some groups that were comprised of “leftovers” (e.g., CD Field Notes, 4/28, p. 4). A mixture of student-chosen, teacher-assigned, and random groupings may remind students that they are expected to work well with everyone and might ease the burden for students who are unpopular or unskilled (Cornacchio, 2008). Furthermore, not all high-achieving students enjoy peer coaching or leadership, which is typically their role in groups that are heterogeneous by ability (Adams & Pierce, 2006). Occasional use of teacher-assigned groupings, in which high-ability students work together, could relieve this obligation.

Approaches to differentiation for students with special needs. Each participant in the current study taught children with a variety of special needs. Students with special needs were not an intended focus of this study. However, when I asked about differentiating instruction, participants frequently brought up this topic. They mentioned specific strategies and struggles related to teaching students who had special needs, and their differentiation of instruction for these students was often readily apparent in observations. Perhaps the nature of students’ special needs demanded adaptations or modifications to music instruction, making differentiation essentially required. Participants used a variety of specific strategies to differentiate for mainstreamed students, and these strategies were different from the ways participants taught music to self-contained classes.

The special education populations taught by participants in the current study varied based on district configurations. Ms. Wheeler’s building housed resource rooms for students with English as a Second Language (ESL) and milder forms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as well as pull-out special education services for students with learning disabilities (LD). Students who had special needs were always mainstreamed when they came to music class. Ms. Davis’s building housed the programs for students with moderate to severe cognitive impairments (CI) and the Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) program for her district. Her school also had pull-out programs for students who had LD or were “gifted and talented” (GATEways). Gifted students and those with LD attended music with their home classroom. The ECSE students came to music as self-contained classes. CI students attended music both with their home classroom and also as self-contained classes. In addition, one of Ms. Davis’s students, “Isaiah” was quadriplegic and had a wheelchair/respirator that he operated with his mouth (CD Field Notes 4/19, p. 2). Ms. Stevens’ building housed two classrooms for students with moderate to severe ASD as well as resource programs for students with LD, ESL, and Giftedness. The students with ASD were occasionally mainstreamed for music. However, students with ASD typically attended music as a group, with the upper elementary and lower elementary self-contained classrooms combined. Students in the remaining populations (LD, ESL, Gifted) came to music mainstreamed with their home classrooms.

To summarize, participants in this study reported teaching special education populations including: LD, ESL, Gifted, CI, ECSE, ASD, and students with physical impairments. Only Ms. Wheeler had any formal training in teaching students with special needs. This training was specific to ASD, and she also taught students with ESL and LD. This lack of formal preparation to teach children with special needs is prevalent among music teachers (Hourigan, 2007;

Salvador, 2010). Nevertheless, participants in this study found ways to vary their music instruction to meet the music learning needs of children with a variety of special needs, whether they were mainstreamed with their age peers or they came to music with their self-contained class.

Differentiation of instruction for mainstreamed students. Students with special needs likely benefited from differentiated instructional techniques targeted at all students, such as opportunities for individual response and flexible grouping strategies. Participants in this study also used specific strategies to differentiate music instruction for students with special needs when they were mainstreamed with their age peers. Paradoxically, when I analyzed how participants differentiated specifically for students with special needs, I primarily found strategies for inclusion—it seemed that individualizing instruction for these students meant finding the ways they could best participate with the whole group.

All three participants mentioned utilizing the assessments of other teachers in their differentiation of instruction for students with special needs. Participants learned about the results of these assessments by reading the students’ Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and/or The special education populations taught by participants in this study included most of the diagnoses an elementary general music teacher might expect to teach (Adamek & Darrow, 2005), with the notable exception of students with Emotional Impairment (EI). None of the participants taught in a school that housed a categorical classroom or resource room for students with EI, and none of them mentioned mainstreamed students with EI.

IEP-at-a-glance forms, and through regular communication with special education and classroom teachers regarding specific children. Participants suggested familiarity with the IEP and talking with a child’s other teachers as ways to understand more about each child’s needs and learn ideas for successful inclusion in music, including incorporating behavior plans and any need for specific modifications. This approach is also recommended by Adamek and Darrow (2005) and in Atterbury’s seminal text on mainstreaming special education populations in general music (1990). In addition, participation in IEP meetings may assist music teachers to differentiate music instruction and could also contribute information about the child’s behavior in a musical setting to assist the treatment team (Hammel, 2004; McCord & Watts, 2006).

Ms. Wheeler and Ms. Davis reported using peers to help students with special needs participate in music. Peer instruction was also a tactic employed to differentiate instruction for students without identified special needs, but the type of assistance peers provided was different for students with special needs. The assistance was often logistical, social, or physical rather than (or in addition to) musical. Ms. Wheeler sometimes employed “Links” partners from the school-wide peer-buddy system for students with ASD as one way to differentiate instruction.

She also considered students’ special needs when assigning seats, so students would have a helper available during seatwork.

Ms. Davis also relied on peer support to help students with special needs, although she rarely specifically assigned a “buddy.” Instead, various students helped those with special needs (and their paraprofessionals) when they noticed that someone required assistance with a task or they foresaw a need for help. One notable exception was made for Isaiah, whose wheelchair was bulky and tall, so that anytime his classmates sat on the floor he was isolated from them. Ms.

Davis’s students sat on the floor frequently, and anytime this occurred, a buddy stood up next to

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differentiating instruction is mentioned in the elementary education literature (e.g., Tomlinson, 2000), and its use is not limited to students with special needs. Music educators and researchers also have suggested use of peer assistance for mainstreamed students in music class (Adamek & Darrow, 2005; Hammel, 2004; Haywood, 2005).

Ms. Wheeler and Ms. Stevens both mentioned the need to modify written work for some students with special needs, particularly those with LD. When she assigned written work, Ms.

Wheeler reported “checking in” with students she knew might need additional help to be sure they understood the directions and to get them started. She sometimes adapted or modified written assignments by shortening the amount of material required, reducing the number of items to answer, or changing the nature of the work to be done. For example, Ms. Wheeler might ask a paraprofessional to read the questions on a quiz aloud and write down the student’s oral responses. Ms. Stevens mentioned that, if she noticed that a child’s performance on a written assessment did not match his typical musicking abilities, she would modify the assessment and find a way to give it aurally to be sure the student’s performance reflected his musical skills and not his academic abilities. A review of the literature did not reveal specific research regarding adaptations and modifications to written assignments for elementary music students with special needs. However, in Music and Special Education, Adamek and Darrow (2005) suggest similar modifications and adaptations to written work as those described above, including shortening assignments, offering oral alternatives to written work, and changing the nature of the written task (e.g., from composing to copying).

Isaiah had quadriplegia as the result of an automobile accident at age 4 and used a bulky motorized wheelchair/respirator that he drove with his mouth.

All three participants asserted that a student’s musicality was not necessarily affected by his special educational needs. Particularly for students who were developmentally typical (i.e., those with ESL, giftedness, or LD), participants reported that musical development seemed unrelated to the special education diagnosis. When these students sang (especially without words), moved, and/or played instruments, their musical development often seemed within the

typical range of other children their age. Gfeller stated:

From a review of the aptitude and achievement research of students with disabilities, one thing is clear: musical potential and ability vary greatly from one disability to another, but also within each category of exceptionality, depending on the severity of the condition as well as the particular musical task (1992, p. 630).

The music aptitude of an individual student and the etiology of his specific disability label may be unrelated. Therefore, in addition to reading the IEP and speaking to special educators, assessments of music aptitude and achievement may help music teachers differentiate of instruction for mainstreamed students with special needs.

Strategies for teaching music to self-contained classes of students with special needs.

Ms. Davis and Ms. Stevens both taught self-contained classes of students with special needs.

Carrie’s CI students had functional ages between 6 months and 3 years, and Hailey’s ASD students ranged from ages 2 to 5 developmentally (HS Initial Interview, p. 4). In these classes, many students were nonverbal. Neither Carrie nor Hailey had any formal training in how to teach music to students with such needs. However, they both arrived at the same solution: To use an early childhood approach influenced by Music Learning Theory (MLT, HS Initial Interview, pp. 9-10).

The MLT-influenced approach consisted mainly of immersing students in musical experiences and not requiring any particular response. Musical experiences in this context comprised singing songs and chants to and with the students (with and without words), movement activities, and use of manipulatives and percussion instruments. Teachers encouraged participation through the use of engaging activities and props and by incorporating student ideas.

Teachers interacted on an individual musical level with students who chose to respond through movement, chanting, and singing. There is some support in the literature for teaching students with acute special needs by using an approach based on the MLT early childhood instructional model (e.g., Gruber, 2007; Griffith, 2008; Stringer, 2004).

Summary of impact of assessment data on differentiated instruction. In retrospect, my research question, “What was the impact of assessment on differentiation of instruction?” presupposed that the relationship of assessment data and differentiation would be straightforward and unidirectional. This relationship might be found in a quantitative design like Froseth’s (1971). His use of a research design with a pretest, posttest, treatment and control groups allowed him to isolate the effects of using the results of assessment data on music achievement.

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