Philosophy, Policy, Practice Visions and Realities of Cultural Diversity in Selected Primary Music Classrooms in Brisbane and Singapore
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Abstract :Music educators are busy people, dealing with a crowded curriculum, an assortment of teacher duties, and the pressure to create and present performances at different grade levels. Everyday obligations leave teachers little opportunity to reflect on their work and to critically assess the values which underlie their educational choices. Practical survival, suggests Broomhead, “is a more potent motivator than ensuring the philosophical soundness of daily classroom activities” (2004, p. 21). Over the past twenty-five years, school music programs across the globe have increasingly aimed at being more diversified and culturally inclusive. This has been an outcome of policy makers, theorists, and practitioners responding to changes in contemporary school populations and societies, the result of decolonisation, economic migration and other aspects of globalisation. These cultural and demographic changes have led to some music programs being modified and expanded to better reflect the cultural diversity of student bodies, but seem to have barely affected others. In order to examine this trend, this thesis investigates the occurrence, place and role of cultural diversity in a selection of primary music programs in Singapore and in Brisbane, Australia, highlighting the ways in which philosophy, policy, curriculum and teacher training influence teacher practice. The three main objectives of this study are: 1) to provide an overview of current practices in this field in both cities; 2) to examine the appeals for more diverse music programs by current music philosophers and the rhetoric of policy makers in response to these requests; and 3) to report on discrepancies between policy and actual practice occurring in primary music classrooms and teacher training, and the challenges and obstacles teachers face when attempting to include a variety of music cultures in their programs. Between June 2008 and February 2010, data was collected at twenty primary schools and six teacher training institutions in Singapore and Brisbane through 44 interviews, extensive observation of music classes and scrutiny of curricula and policy documents. In both cities, one can find examples of schools with a strong focus on Western musical concepts and skills, and also schools committed to providing students a music education based on a greater diversity of music cultures. These cities provide an interesting contrast with respect to the history of nation building, governance, cultural policy, educational policy and cultural make-up, while also presenting many similarities. The choice of these specific research locations was also informed by my own teacher training and teaching experience in both cities, which has led to a personal interest in researching the changes in music education programs over the past twenty-five years, and has facilitated access to people and sources. This document opens with an auto-ethnographic introduction in order to highlight how my education and work experience has led me to research this topic. This section introduces the research questions and a description of the methodology used, which is in turn informed by an extensive review of relevant literature. The importance of philosophical inquiry and critical reflection on teacher practice is reiterated throughout this thesis. Key themes are summarised and highlighted in the personal reflections that conclude each chapter. These reflections have allowed me to critically analyse the research topics and the role they play in my own teaching situation. It has been beneficial for me to weigh up the various positions presented by theorists writing on culturally diverse music education, and to make professional decisions on the major issues that affect my practice. I believe my teaching has already been positively impacted by this exercise, as I have been encouraged to revisit these issues frequently and make changes accordingly. Through the analysis of interview data several main themes emerge. The findings across these themes highlight that while many music teachers are indeed making attempts to address a variety of music cultures in their classrooms, several influential factors such as state and national educational policies, music curriculum documents, teacher training courses and most importantly constructs – professional and personal philosophies of music education – greatly impact the success and continuance of these attempts. In this way, this study aims to provide important insights to inform teachers, teacher educators and policy makers about the current state of cultural diversity in primary music classrooms in Brisbane and Singapore. It highlights examples of best practice and presents recommendations to developers of educational policies and school curricula. In addition, it is anticipated that results of this study may inform changes in teacher training in other parts of the world, with the aim of equipping educators to be more competent and confident in addressing cultural diversity in the music classroom.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Queensland Conservatorium of Music, Griffith University.
Item Access Status
School Music Program
Primary Music Programs in Singapore
Primary Music Programs in Brisbane, Australia