Facilitating musical learning in Scottish Primary Schools: an interview-based study of generalist primary teachers’, primary music specialists’ and community music practitioners’ views and experiences
Bhachu, Diljeet Kaur
Confidence in teaching music has been a long-standing issue for Scottish generalist primary teachers, and, amidst cuts to specialist teachers and instrumental music in Scottish schools, generalist teachers are increasingly under pressure to deliver music lessons. The thesis reports on primary school music, and community music, in which musical learning is facilitated as a part of wider community music practices. Setting generalist primary teacher voices alongside community music practitioner and primary music specialist voices, this thesis sought to better understand: 1) generalist teachers’ perceptions of teaching music in the primary school; and 2) how the experiences, views and beliefs of primary music specialist teachers and community music practitioners yield distinct and often contradictory perspectives on what it means to teach music. Taking a life stories approach, this study draws on the life-long and life-wide experiences of 30 teachers and practitioners, collected through semi-structured interviews. This approach situates teachers’ and practitioners’ current work positions within the wider frame of their life trajectories, considering both structural and individual/personal influences on their career choices and pathways. Life stories demonstrate how teachers and practitioners arrive in the powerful position of being gatekeepers of access to musical learning. Focussing on an inductive approach to analysis, key themes emerged. 1. Music is ‘othered’ in numerous structural and conceptual ways, that is, it is positioned separately from the rest of the curriculum and is viewed as an activity only certain people have access to. 2. Chance plays a significant role in shaping musical life journeys and trajectories, by mediating the opportunities and barriers people face in engaging with music and pursuing their career pathways. 3. The process of teaching music is described as a performative act of facilitating musical learning, whereby the teacher enacts musical confidence and charisma to engage learners and present themselves as an authoritative leader. These themes were explored in detail, with reference to Expectancy Value Theory (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002), as a means of understanding how teachers construct self-efficacy in music teaching, and drawing on Postcolonial theories to situate Western European Art Music (WEAM) as the primary actor in ‘othering’ music in Scottish Primary schools. While music is ‘othered’ in many ways, from how it is included in Initial Teacher Training, to the presence of specialist teachers (for a specialist subject) and perceptions of the skills and knowledges required to ‘be musical’, the Eurocentric colonial dominance of WEAM can be seen as the root cause of ‘othering’ music, and of lowering teachers’ self-efficacy for teaching music. Furthermore, music is presented in life journeys as an opportunity only available to some, whether through families or school access, or through the personal and musical incompatibility of opportunities that are available. These experiences are also impacted by the dominance of WEAM within them, which acts as a barrier to participation through its rules and regulations. Lastly, teaching is described as an act of performance, raising questions over the role of subject knowledge versus teaching skills, i.e. the ability to perform musical confidence and capacity for facilitating learning. I argue that cycles of low musical confidence amongst generalist teachers can be interrupted through understanding the process of teaching music as one of performed facilitation and identifying examples of colonialism in music education. Thus, this thesis recognises the need for a conceptual shift that could decolonise music education in order to make the subject more accessible for generalist teachers.
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