In New South Wales, the primary school curriculum is structured around six compulsory key learning areas. The Creative Arts is one such area, which comprises the four strands of Music, Visual Arts, Dance and Drama. Generalist classroom teachers are required to teach these disciplines as part of their compulsory curriculum. However, the trend towards high levels of accountability, linked predominately to a testing environment mainly focused on the development of literacy and numeracy has resulted in a gradual marginalisation of arts education. This trend, which has been evident in many countries, was initially identified by Eisner (1989) as a decline in the status of arts education and its relegation to the periphery of curriculum importance. It could be argued that this lessening of importance has resulted in a lower emphasis on the number and scope of creative arts lessons taught in primary schools. As a result many generalist classroom teachers demonstrate a lack of belief in their perceived contextual competence to teach in these curriculum areas.
This paper will examine this trend and explore teachers' perceptions of competence in the specific disciplines of Music and Drama. These perceptions will be investigated through the lens of the social cognitive construct of Self-Efficacy (Bandura, 1986). The impact of the environment and the messages and influences received from it to regulate thoughts, feelings and perceptions of competence, will be examined through a discussion of the influence of student learning outcomes on teaching self-efficacy. These key influences will be discussed in relation to the data gathered in two research studies undertaken with classroom teachers to examine their belief in their abilities to teach and influence student learning in Music and Drama. The paper will further discuss and explore the implications of these findings for teacher education and for future planning of curriculum focus in the Creative Arts.