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Investigating how composing teaching and assessment in English secondary school classrooms reinforce myths about composers and their creative practices

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 May 2022

Kirsty Devaney*
University of Wolverhampton, The Performance Hub, Gorway Rd, Walsall, WS1 3BD


Although composing has been a significant part of formal classroom music education in England for over 30 years, there still remains uncertainty about how to teach and assess composing in secondary schools. This research investigates the under-researched area of teaching and learning of composing in upper secondary schools in England whereby students (aged 14–18) may opt to study music for a national qualification. Taking a mixed methodology approach, data were collected through a survey of 182 music teachers, interviews with five prominent composer-educators, as well as research with five case study schools involving observations of teaching and interviews with teachers and students. This paper reports on three prominent beliefs about composers that seem to underpin teaching and assessment practices; firstly that composers have innate musical talents; secondly that composing is solely an individual process and finally that students must learn the ‘rules’ of composing before being creative. This article proposes that these perceptions do not reflect the diversity of composers’ creative practices and may result in reinforcing stereotypes and myths about composers that have the potential to disadvantage certain students in the examination.

© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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