Effectual thinking and music education: One view of creative adaptation in an underserved urban middle school


This descriptive case study superimposed Effectuation Theory onto the experiences of an American music educator and the challenges and opportunities facing him in an economically disadvantaged teaching context. Luke Guerra, the primary participant, possessed 11 years of teaching experience in an underserved urban middle school. His military experience, lack of canonical content knowledge, social activism, and exclusive use of popular music set him apart from conventional music educators. Data collection comprised semi-structured interviews with the participant and his colleagues, direct observation and documentation of the participant’s teaching, logging of researcher memos, and analysis of artifacts and participant reflections. Four themes emerged from inductive analysis that suggested the salience of Effectuation Theory: (a) teaching ethos informed by unique personal circumstances; (b) embracing uncertainty; (c) socially conscious, student-centered teaching and learning; and (d) collaboration. Rather than allowing the limitations of his teaching context and knowledge gaps to exert control over his program, Luke created an alternative future by leveraging his means and limitations into a vision around which others could rally and invest. Luke’s story and its connections to the principles of Effectuation may provide transferable benefits to music educators working in teaching contexts hindered by uncertainty.

Publication Title

International Journal of Music Education