Music as pedagogic discourse: an ethnographic case study of one Year 9 class of pupils and their music teacher in a South Wales secondary school.
University of Wales Institute, Cardiff.
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This thesis seeks to examine the nature of pedagogic discourse in Music and its relationship to pupils' inclinations to persevere with it as a subject after Key Stage 3. An ethnographic case-study was conducted in one South Wales secondary school, referred to as Aberquaver High School, focusing on one class of Year 9 pupils, 9C, and their music teacher, Mrs- Metronome. It reflects my experience of entering the study as a music professional and teacher educator and leaving it with a commitment to the necessity to work from appropriate theory, in this case that of Bernstein and, subsidiarilly, Bourdieu, through adequate empirical means. In seeking to understand 9C pupils' intentions to carry on with Music at Key Stage 4, a conceptual apparatus was required with reach that carried from consideration of how knowledge and policy in the primary context originates and was shaped or recontextualised through a variety of offìcial and pedagogic agencies so that it became the text, in this case the programme of study that constitutes Key Stage 3 National Curriculum Music, from which schools and teachers, including Aberquaver and Mrs Metronome, read. Specifically, this study attempts to 'stretch' the boundary between recontextualisation and reproduction, suggesting that there is no sharp line between those who shape subjects and deliver them. Mrs Metronome allowed, as teachers are by schools in our system, to impose her own judgements on her small department's work, brought a professional dynamic to its pedagogy that could not simply be 'read' from officially required Music in Wales. A product of Western Art Music tradition and teacher education, she valued other musics. Constrained by school organisational imperatives, themselves upshots of National Curriculum and assessment requirements, particularly as to time, her long service, personal acumen and subject success had allowed her to accumulate relative resource riches in terms of instruments and ICT facilities- These were the basis for her characteristic rejigging of more conventional group based classroom music, coupled with the ability and desire to imbue each pupil with instrumental skills in a pedagogy strongly centred on music performance and its evaluation. Such an approach still appeared to have differential gender and social class effects in a prevailing peer and wider cultural climate of popular and other non classical musical forms. Despite the variety of musical genres included in her curriculum and her department's resource wealth, for some pupils, particularly boys, it was not sufficiently 'real music', especially for those denied access to 'real' instruments. Though most young people avow the importance of music to their lives, in a prevailing climate of the 'usefulness' and vocational sígnificance of school subjects, its choice as a Key Stage 4 subject, here and elsewhere, tend to be further constrained by the limits of school option choice systems. Nonetheless, Music at Aberquaver still managed to engage disproportionate numbers across the ability range at GCSE in comparíson with other Welsh secondaries and achieve good standards. It is argued that these were a function of Mrs Metronome's recontextualised pedagogic discourse and practice. Policy is a complex series of events and understandings in need of theoretical elaboration rather than evaluation tinged, evidence base that is about rather than for policy change and implementation. The study contains messages for teaching colleagues, school administrators, teacher educators and other conventionally defined offìcial and pedagogic recontextualisers, as well as national policy makers, about what makes better Music that more pupils wish to persevere with for longer. Further research is, however, required to extend the scope of the present study and examine the transferability of the findings to other locations.
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