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expectations, which limit opportunities for students in our classrooms (Jellison, 2015).

Social Environment

Often we think of music classrooms as social environments; yet, once instruction starts there is actually very little interaction between students unless the teacher purposefully plans for these opportunities. We know from extensive research that children learn from each other and the musical lives of children can be improved when same-age peers interact in inclusive classrooms. Some teachers are hesitant to include structured interactions because of management concerns; but the research literature provides recommendations that will lead to more effective, productive, and successful outcomes (Jellison, Brown, & Draper, 2015).

First, establish rules for the group work. By having a set of guidelines, students know the expectations during interactions and are able to be productive. Some teachers establish that everyone contributes, learns the material, listens to each other, shares ideas, asks each other questions, and asks each other for help (Johnson, Johnson, & Taylor, 1993). Once rules are in place, the teacher needs to monitor and praise groups for appropriate behaviors (Rohrbeck, Ginsburg- Block, Fantuzzo, & Miller, 2003). Second, when grouping students, form heterogeneous groups. Though our instinct may be to place students of similar academic achievement in groups, research indicates that both high- and low-achieving students benefit academically from being placed in heterogeneous groups (Ginsburg-Block, Fantuzzo, & Miller, 2006). Young children benefit from same-gender peer groupings both academically and socially; however, gender does not affect outcomes as students age (Ginsburg-Block et al., 2006; Rohrbeck, Ginsburg-Block, Fantuzzo, & Miller, 2003). It is important to place students in groups where they can avoid conflict, as groups that avoid conflict report more enjoyment; meaning friends may need to be separated not for the risk being off-task, but for knowing how to “push each others’ buttons” (Anderson et al., 2001).

Third, vary the tasks and activities. Structured peer interactions can be as quick as reviewing the material covered in the last

ala breve

class period to composing a piece to be performed for the class. By varying the tasks students are able to participate with their peers in ways they can be successful in a range of activities. Students with disabilities will be able to take on leadership roles in some tasks, decreasing negative stereotyping and low expectations of capabilities by typical students.

Finally, start structured peer interactions early. Students learn from the first day of school that group work is important and a regularly occurring activity; they learn the expectations of group work; and they learn to work together and help each other throughout the year. Also, when students have multiple experiences participating in small-group music activities, positive interactions and attitudes of typical students toward their classmates with disabilities increase (Jellison, Brooks, & Huck, 1984).


Creating a classroom environment of inclusion does not happen by accident; as teachers we need to take steps to ensure all of our students have positive music making experiences. By adjusting the physical environment, students can have physical access to the music room. Using principles of UDL guides us to provide students’ access to the curriculum, instruction, and assessment in a variety of ways, and have options when showing what they know and can do. Structuring social interactions as a regular part of instruction increases learning and can breakdown prejudices from developing, creating a positive learning environment where all students are valued.


Anderson, R. C., Nguyen-Jahiel, K., McNurlen, B., Archodidou, A., Kim, S., Reznitskaya,


Tillmanns, M., & Gilbert, L. (2001). The snowball phenomenon: Spread of ways of talking and ways of thinking across groups of children. Cognition and Instruction, 19, 1-46. doi: 10.1207/S1532690XCI1901_1

CAST. (2015). Universal design for learning. Retrieved from Center for Universal Design. (2008). About universal design. Retrieved from ud/about_ud/about_ud.htm

Ginsburg-Block, M. D., Rohrbeck, C. A., & Fantuzzo. (2006). A meta-analytic review of social, self-concept, and behavioral outcomes of peer- assisted learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 732- 749. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.98.4.732

Jellison, J. A. (2015). Including everyone: Creating music classrooms where all children learn. New York: Oxford University Press.

Jellison, J. A., Brooks, B. H., & Huck, A. M. (1984). Structuring small groups and music reinforcement to facilitate positive interactions and acceptance of severely handicapped students in the regular music classroom. Journal of Research in Music Education, 32, 243-264. doi: 10.2307/3344923

Jellison, J. A., Brown, L., & Draper, E. A. (2015). Peer-assisted learning and interactions in inclusive music classrooms: Benefits, research, and applications. General Music Today. doi: 10.1177/1048371314565456

Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., & Taylor, B. (1993). Impact of cooperative and individualistic learning on high- ability students’


self-esteem, and social acceptance. The Journal of Social Psychology, 133, 839-844. doi: 10.1080/00224545.1993.9713946

Rohrbeck, C. A., Ginsburg-Block, J. D., Fantuzzo, J. W., & Miller, T. R. (2003). Peer-assisted learning interventions with elementary school students: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95, 240-257. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.95.2.240

Ellary Draper serves as AMEA Special and Multicultural Chair


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