Being musical : teachers, music and identity in early childhood education in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Music Maori people Early childhood education New Zealand

The early childhood centre is a meeting place of many different musical threads. Teachers bring with them their own conceptions of music and also have to contend with musical influences from both within and beyond the centre, for example, the children, parents, the community, the curriculum. All of this takes place within the overarching cultural influences that make up Aotearoa/New Zealand: issues of Pakeha identity, Maori identity, biculturalism, and multiculturalism. This study combines perspectives from education, ethnomusicology, and ethnography in its approach and examines the early childhood teacher's development as a teacher of music within this context. It applies Bronfenbrenner's (1979) ecological systems framework to show how early childhood teachers are influenced musically by participation in a series of settings. The format of this thesis follows the presentation style of research in the discipline of music, and more specifically ethnomusicology, in terms of presenting data and results.Chapter 1 provides a background to the study and introduces the subject area. The second chapter focuses on the microsystem level of the teacher contributing to music in the early childhood centre. Chapter 3 examines the mesosystem connections between the centre itself, and other microsystems that the teacher participates in. The focus of Chapter 4 is the exosystem level, what is brought into the centre musically by others, such as pop songs from the children's homes. Chapter 5 looks at the macrosystem level of nation and culture, and how these influence the developing teacher musically. Finally, Chapter 6 draws together the different threads of the research and discusses the findings and outcomes of the study.Research was carried out in twelve different early childhood centres throughout Aotearoa/New Zealand. Forty-five teachers from five kindergartens, three childcare centres, and four language groups (two kohanga reo and two a'oga amata) were interviewed and observed. The centres represent the three largest providers of early childhood education in Aotearoa/New Zealand and three different cultures: Pakeha, Maori, and Samoan. Particular attention is paid to the influence of cultural concepts of music and musicality: on the way that music occurs within the cultural context of the centre, and on the musical self-concepts that evolve.The results of the study show that Pakeha early childhood teachers have a significantly lower level of musical confidence than their Maori and Samoan counterparts, and have identified certain inhibitors and stimulants that contribute to these outcomes. Inhibitors influence the teachers' abilities to see themselves as musical, and consequently affect the amount and kinds of musical experiences that occur in the early childhood setting. This research deconstructs the concept of being musical, and provides a model for the formation of musical identity. The findings of the study suggest an approach to the musical professional development of early childhood teachers that focuses on two levels: the practical and the personal. It argues that the most significant factor for teachers is their musical identity: in order to contribute most effectively to music in the early childhood centre they need to be able to think of themselves as being musical.

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