Singing a joyful song : an exploratory study of primary school music leaders in Aotearoa New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
This thesis explores the work of generalist primary school teachers who work in music
leadership roles in their schools. There is an absence of research into the work of such
teachers who play a key role in children’s formal and informal music learning, and who
represent the musical ‘face’ of their primary schools. This study addresses this music
research gap by collecting and analysing the stories and observing the work of a sample
of teachers for whom music is both a personal and professional passion, and contributes
to our general understanding of the work of primary school teachers who love music
and share it in their schools and classrooms.
Five men and five women representing a range of personal and teaching experience and
demographics participated in the study. All participants were interviewed about their
work as primary school music leaders and were also observed undertaking a regular
music leadership activity of their choice. Interview transcripts and observation notes
were analysed in relation to the three research questions that address who the teachers
are and how they came to be music leaders; the work they do and the skills, knowledge
and understandings that underpin that work; and the significance of their work.
Key findings related to the interplay of personal and professional factors in the
development of these teachers’ identities as primary school music leaders, the complex
and multi-faceted nature of the role, and the broad significance of their work to the
teachers themselves, the children they teach, and their wider school communities.
In addition, themes of identity, emotionality and curriculum context emerged as
important frameworks for understanding the data with Wenger’s (1998) ‘communities
of practice’ utilised as a unifying theory.
The study contributes to a body of locally-based and international research concerned
with music’s place in the primary school curriculum, the role of music teachers and
leaders in sustaining music in the curriculum, and the value and benefits associated with
music teaching and learning. In addition, it has practical and theoretical implications
for teachers, teacher educators, and curriculum leaders at institutional and policy levels.