Changing perceptions of what counts as music: lessons learned from a longitudinal case study of a singing based music curriculum in a UK primary school

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


This presentation draws on data from a longitudinal case study of an ‘in-school’ programme of music education for primary generalist teachers provided by a nationally renowned musical charity. Research into this form of teacher education is being conducted by a teacher educator at the local partnership university. Previous work in relation to this research project looked at situated music education focusing on the improved professional learning of teachers supported by in-class inter-active mentoring (ISME, 2014). Additionally, factors influencing the sustainability and capacity of the programme were considered (ISME, 2016). This presentation seeks to identify the key factors involved in teachers’ and pupils’ changing perceptions of ‘what counts’ as music, and to consider the contextualization of the curriculum over time.
Data collected over five years consists of classroom observations of teachers working ‘in-situ’ in their class music lessons, interviews with managers and teachers, and teacher and pupil focus groups. Transcripts have been analysed and themed, as have the accompanying programme curriculum handbooks and repertoire. Audio-clips of musical engagement will illustrate the presentation.
Ongoing research suggests that from the teacher’s perspective there has been a change in perception from wanting children to engage enthusiastically with music through the use of accessible ‘pop and rock’ songs and talent show idioms towards an understanding of how pupils’ knowledge and skills can be progressively developed through a structured curriculum based on more traditional children’s songs and games. Teacher confidence in pro-actively adapting song content has grown alongside an understanding of the way in which these resources might scaffold the progressive learning of musical skills and concepts. Music in the school is now seen as a curriculum.
Pupils are demonstrating a developing awareness and articulacy of their musicianship skills and how these were being facilitated through material they had previously considered ‘uncool’ as they engage in musicking (Small, 1998).
Drawing on the data and contextual details from the setting questions are raised about effective pedagogy, children’s musical development and cultural and age-related perceptions of appropriate repertoire for Primary Pupils. This is discussed in relation to conceptions of the curriculum and draw on key ideas in this field developed by Bruner (1978) Bernstein (2010), Shepherd (1977) and Green (2011). Implications for supporting non-specialist teachers with curriculum planning in music education will be considered.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2018
EventISME 2018: 33rd World Conference of International Society for Music Education - Baku, Azerbaijan
Duration: 15 Jul 201820 Jul 2018


ConferenceISME 2018
Internet address


  • music education primary generalist teacher education situated learning in-school training
  • singing games and songsss
  • professional learning
  • primary music curriculum
  • repertoire


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