Teaching music, learning culture: the challenge of culturally responsive music education

Music Learning and teaching Music education Cultural diversity Pacific Area

This research investigates experiences of music teaching and learning within culturally diverse school communities and examines the ways cultural diversity informs pedagogical practices in music education. The following key questions were investigated: In what ways is music education, as experienced by the participants, informed by or responsive to cultural diversity? What barriers to culturally responsive and inclusive music education are identified? What do students and teachers believe about content and pedagogy within a successful music programme? The project used a collective case study methodology and sought perspectives from teachers and students within high schools in New Zealand, Australia and the United States, each selected for participation based on its reputation for offering successful music education practice within a culturally diverse school community. The principal conclusions are that while most of the teacher participants articulated positive views regarding cultural diversity, as well as a belief that pedagogical decisions should not privilege Western musics or musicianship, student perceptions reflected a limited understanding of the global diversity of musical expression and experience. Most students expressed interest in participating in more inclusive, culturally diverse music education programmes. Key barriers identified by students and teachers to a more inclusive and informed educational response to cultural diversity were: assessment requirements, the limiting nature of school choral and instrumental ensembles, performance schedules, festivals and competitions, the conservative nature of teacher education experience for some teachers, lack of resources and professional development. The implications of the research findings are that music educators need to foster a more critical approach that includes some explicit teaching of culturally inclusive values, operationalised through culturally informed and responsive pedagogical practices.

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