A framework of music literacy based on the experiences of KS2 children, and their teachers, when music making in various outdoor, rural locations
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This thesis investigates the experiences of Key Stage 2 children, aged 7-11 years old, when making music in outdoor rural locations. A framework of music literacy is constructed using analysis of the data obtained from interviews with the children and their teachers, together with and observations from the researcher. The social-constructivist view of literacy (Lankshear and Lawler, 1987, Lankshear and Knobel, 2011, Lambirth, 2011, Gee, 2014), that sees literacy as a social practice, is the theoretical underpinning of this model. Within this perspective, literacy is “expressive fluency through symbolic form” (Barton, 2014, p.289) and therefore there is no one singular definition of literacy. Furthermore, literacy is viewed as being transformational (Freire, 1996), creative and something that is enacted. Moreover, the object for the purposes of our exploration into music literacies is not a pure noun, ‘music’, but rather conforms to Small’s (1996) concept of ‘musicking’, which is a gerund. Music here is viewed as a verb, ‘to music’, as music, like literacy, is something that people do. Interpretivism was the paradigm within which this research study operated. The analysis aimed to interpret the experiences of those that participated in the investigation. The study adopted a grounded approach (Charmaz, 2017) whereby the theorising was led by the data collection and analysis. The investigation began by exploring children’s experiences of making music at a prehistoric site, because previous research seemed to show that these sites had provided the children with rich music-making opportunities. Subsequent research and data analysis indicated that it was the outdoor rural nature of the location, rather than its prehistoric connection, that was having a significant impact on the children’s experiences (Adams and Beauchamp, 2018). Therefore, further data collection focussed on children’s experiences in outdoor rural locations rather than at prehistoric sites. Analysis of the data revealed that the children experienced a heightened connectivity to nature while making music in the outdoor rural environment. Their music-making in these environments had also created a sense of freedom; a heightened sensual experience; and had enabled an augmented ‘life of feeling’, an affective and imaginative experience. These three categories (freedom, senses, life of feeling) are not discrete as the data show that they overlapped. Most significantly, the data consistently show that these categories had allowed the children to experience an unusual state of mind, an experience of ‘flow’ (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990) that included a liminal (Turner, 1969) state or change in consciousness. This change in consciousness in turn had led to a feeling of transcendence, or what could be called a peak experience (Maslow, 1970), ecstasy (Laski, 1961) or communitas (Turner, 1974). During these transcendent or optimal experiences, the children reported feeling an increased sense of wellbeing feeling more complete, calm and focussed. These experiences are also related to conceptions of spirituality, (Best and Kahn, 1996; Hay and Nye, 2006; Schein, 2018) and Buber’s (1970) philosophy of dialogue. It is hoped that the framework of music literacy provides useful insight into children’s experiences of music-making. In addition, the findings provide evidence for the benefits of making music outdoors in rural environments. Combining music-making with being surrounded by nature seems to have resulted in the children feeling an enhanced sense of interrelatedness with nature and having optimal experiences. The analysis suggests that these optimal experiences are akin to what might be described as spiritual moments (Schein, 2018). These findings could be of significance for increased understanding of children’s spiritual development and the impact music-making can have on children’s holistic development and wellbeing.
PhD Thesis- School of Education and Social Policy
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