Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-8bljj Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-23T12:06:38.809Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Rethinking pedagogic identities for Key Stage 3 general classroom music teacher education: an autoethnographic study

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 December 2023

Ian James Axtell*
College of Education and Social Work, Birmingham City University, UK
Rights & Permissions [Opens in a new window]


My role as a university-based, general classroom music teacher educator in England has become unclear, exacerbated by policies that have undermined the field of classroom music in schools and the role of universities in teacher education. Using self-critical inquiry enacted as critically reflexive autoethnography, I interrogated my professional practice to rethink my pedagogic identity. Theoretical perspectives, drawn from Bernstein and Bourdieu, were used to chart my shifting identity. This paper introduces a theorised model to illustrate a range of pedagogic identities for Key Stage 3 (KS3) general classroom music teacher education.

Creative Commons
Creative Common License - CCCreative Common License - BY
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
© The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press


This paper is drawn from doctoral research which used critically reflexive autoethnography (CRA) to analyse my shifting position within the field of general classroom music (Odendaal et al., Reference ODENDAAL, KANKKUNEN, NIKKANEN and VAKEVA2014; Larsson and Georgii-Hemming, Reference LARSSON and GEORGII-HEMMING2019). I question the types of pedagogy I employed over the course of my career to deepen my understanding of general classroom music and to enhance the teacher education I offer beginning general classroom teachers who wish to enter the field. Axiologically, I sought to move beyond ‘limiting conversations [that] focus on educational outcomes that can be measured reliably and economically’ (Rosiek & Gleason, Reference ROSIEK, GLEASON, Clandinin and Husu2017, p.42) by researching my own practice. My CRA was ‘consciously built and explicitly based on identity work in teacher education’ (Beijaard & Meijer, Reference BEIJAARD, MEIJER, Clandinin and Husu2017, p.188), and although my research was informed by a recognition that ‘teaching is an oral and storied culture’ (Smyth, Reference SMYTH and Loughran1999, p.73) I did not just tell my story, I placed narratives in historical and social contexts (Goodson et al., Reference GOODSON, ANTIKAINEN, SIKES and ANDREWS2017) through critical inquiry to move away from a self-indulgent approach based purely on my perceptions. CRA sought to reveal the relationship between my micro-individual agency and the macro-social structures that frame my work so that I can better serve those who wish to enter the teaching profession as general classroom music teachers.

Through CRA I sought to reveal the complexities of pedagogic practice by identifying a social field, or ‘multidimensional space of positions and relationships in which the expert discourse and the serious and the authoritative way of thinking and acting is produced, reproduced and transformed’ (Simola, Reference SIMOLA and Popkewitz1993, p.161). Bourdieu illustrates a field of practice as a ‘universe of discourse’ (UoD) (Reference BOURDIEU1977, p.168), using a minus sign (-) under heterodoxy and a plus sign (+) under orthodoxy to represent the negative and positive terminals of a battery, ‘an electro-mechanical metaphor’ (Söderman, Reference SÖDERMAN, BURNARD, HOFVANDER-TRULSSON, Burnard, Hofvander-Trulsson and Söderman2015, p.6). Like the flow of electricity, the flow of ideas, opinions and positions in a UoD are essential for a field to remain dynamic and responsive. Analysis revealed that, like my identity, my position in a UoD for general classroom music has shifted over time. This analysis provided a foundation from which to rethink pedagogic identities that are fluid rather than fixed.

I was a general classroom music teacher in various schools in England for 20 years. In 2004, I moved to work an inner-city university in central England as a general classroom music teacher educator. Initially, I was a Subject Lead for Music Education in the School of Primary and Early Years. Here, my general classroom music teacher education involved classroom-based subject sessions and classroom observations for general classroom teachers teaching children in the Early Years and Foundation Stage (children from birth to the age of 5 years) Key Stage 1 (children aged 5–7 years) and Key Stage 2 (children aged 7–11 years). In 2008, I took on the additional role of Subject Lead for Music Education in the School of Secondary Education where I taught music specialists who were preparing to teach general classroom music to young people aged 11–14 years, or Key Stage 3 (KS3). The CRA that underpins this paper was centred on rethinking pedagogic identities in KS3 general classroom music when preparing specialist musicians to become KS3 music teachers. I draw on my historical practice teaching music to pupils at KS3, but I also refer to beginning KS3 music teachers.

Methodological considerations

Wodak and Meyer (Reference WODAK and MEYER2016, p.7) indicate how ‘[r]esearchers … are not situated outside the societal hierarchy of power and status but subject to this structure’. As a critical researcher, I wanted to rethink my social practice as a teacher, to identify my ‘own needs and interests’ and to ‘root out’ any ‘particular kind of delusion’ (ibid, p.7). Sayer (Reference SAYER2009, p.768) also indicates the importance of the ‘reduction of illusion’ in critical research, and CRA helped to enact a reduction of illusion to my own perceptions of practice.

Teaching is a form of action imbued with assumptions (Brookfield, Reference BROOKFIELD2017) and tacit knowing (Polanyi, Reference POLANYI1966; Andersson & Östman, Reference ANDERSSON and ÖSTMAN2015). Revealing assumptions and turning tacit knowing into explicit or shared knowledge underpins my pedagogic practice as a KS3 music teacher educator. CRA revealed assumptions and tacit knowing and moved from the personal, tacit and biographic towards the social, explicit and ethnographic by employing theoretical concepts to help frame professional knowing.

Theoretical framing

Figure 1 provides a theorised visualisation of my perception of a field of KS3 general classroom music education. Bourdieu’s positions of orthodoxy and heterodoxy have been switched in Figure 1 to emphasise a perception of time, the past being to the left (looking backwards) and the future looking to the right (looking forwards). This is not to suggest that one is more important than the other; both are important. As a learner of music, I focused on music from the past to help me construct my musical identities (Green, Reference GREEN2011). As a KS3 music teacher, I looked to the past helped me identify the musical knowledge that I thought needed to be taught. The orthodoxy of both traditional and vocational pedagogies were significant features of my teaching, but I was conscious that my teaching also needed to acknowledge music as a creative art form, orientated towards the future. In Deweyan terms:

The doctrine of the value of consequences leads us to take the future into consideration. And this taking into consideration of the future takes us to the conception of a universe whose evolution is not finished, of a universe which is still … ‘in the making’, ‘in the process of becoming’, of a universe up to a certain point still plastic (Dewey, Reference DEWEY and Thayer1931, p.33).

Figure 1. Pedagogies in the field of KS3 general classroom music education.

Bernstein’s concepts of classification and framing were used to identify four types of pedagogy in Figure 1. Bernstein (Reference BERNSTEIN2000, p.30) identified that ‘dominant power relations establish boundaries’ and that ‘the concept to translate power at the level of the individual must deal with the relationships between boundaries and the category representations of these boundaries’. He uses classification as the concept to identify the strength or weakness of the boundaries established within the field. In Figure 1, it is the strong or weak classification of distinct types, styles or genres of music that influences the power relationships in the pedagogic discourse within the field of classroom music education. Bernstein (ibid, p.36) also uses the concept of framing: ‘the form of control which regulates and legitimises communication in pedagogic relations’. Strong framing relates to where the teacher’s ‘voice’ is predominant, and communication is ‘closed’. Weak framing occurs where the ‘voice’ or perceptions of learners are recognised and valued as contributors to the pedagogic discourse, where the communication is ‘open’. Framing identifies forms of symbolic control (ibid, p.24).

Subsequent discussions centre on the four types of pedagogical categorisation identified in each of the quadrants in Figure 1. Drawing upon theoretical perspectives and perceptions of practice, I engage in a process of critical ethnography, centred upon ‘discovering system relations’ (Carspecken, Reference CARSPECKEN1996, p.41). These discussions provide justifications for each of the categorisations whilst concurrently engaging in critical analyses, charting my shifting pedagogic positions within the field over time. These shifting positions reveal my shifts in pedagogic identity from teacher to teacher trainer, and teacher trainer to teacher educator, always recognising that ‘[a] certain identity is never possible’ (Schutz et al., Reference SCHUTZ, HONG and CROSS FRANCIS2018, p.10).

Traditional pedagogy

From my point of view as a KS3 music teacher, traditional pedagogy reduced decisions about what to teach. Propositional knowledge and contextual knowledge were defined using verbal and written language, usually from an external source like a published resource and/or an examination syllabus. I was able to teach music as a separate, rational object, studied calmly and dispassionately. This common-sense view of education is what Taber (Reference TABER and Hassaskhah2012, p.42) would describe as the facsimile of information reproduction. Curriculum was regarded as content and education as transmission (Kelly, Reference KELLY2009, p.56); with a strong classification based on an external and impersonal selection of historical knowledge where ‘knowledge is treated as largely given and established by tradition’ (Young, et al., Reference YOUNG, LAMBERT, ROBERTS and ROBERTS2014, p.59). Bernstein classifies traditional pedagogy as ‘retrospective’, focusing on ‘grand narratives from the past’ (Reference BERNSTEIN2000, p.86). When engaging in a traditional pedagogy I taught from the front, leading the classroom discourse. The perceptions of my pupils were less important, only as far as they related to the knowledge or content studied, so I engaged in strong framing. The transmission of knowledge was controlled by me, the teacher; a formal approach where I was the authority figure (Kitchen, Reference KITCHEN2014). Strong classification and framing through formal teaching can be helpful for beginning KS3 music teachers who need to establish themselves as a teacher within a music classroom over a short period of time.

Over time I found a traditional pedagogy, underpinned by objectified aesthetic distance (Regelski, Reference De Baets and Buchborn2014, p.16), became problematic. The objective distance, further emphasised by the Western tradition of commodifying music where performers are separated from listeners or consumers (Small, Reference SMALL1998, p.73), created tensions between the music chosen by me as the teacher, and the wide variety of musical preferences in my KS3 music classrooms. Over time, I realised that determining the ‘best in the musical canon’ (DfE, 2013b, p.1) could not be done by the teacher in a manner that appeared arbitrary to KS3 pupils or beginning KS3 music teachers. I could not sustain the hegemonic symbolic control, or the ‘imposition of a cultural arbitrary by an arbitrary power’ (Bourdieu & Passeron, Reference BOURDIEU, PASSERON and Nice1990, p.5) on people who had very strong opinions about music. Music linked to their sense of identity (MacDonald et al., Reference MACDONALD, HARGREAVES and MIELL2017).

Elliott (Reference ELLIOTT1995, p.68) identifies a praxial approach towards music education with ‘knowing anchored in the contexts and purposes of specific music practices’ (ibid, p.68). My KS3 music teaching drew upon The National Curriculum Council Arts in Schools Project (NCC, 1990, pp. 55–56), where procedural skills were informed by propositional concepts and contextual information concurrently through the act of performing. A KS3 pupil’s interest in music was enhanced when they engaged in some form of music practice. Through shared musicking (Small, Reference SMALL1998; Odendaal et al., Reference ODENDAAL, KANKKUNEN, NIKKANEN and VAKEVA2014), I could incentivise KS3 pupils, even those pupils who had little experience of making music. Illeris (Reference ILLERIS and Illeris2009, p.8–11) identifies the interactive processes that are required to incentivise pupils to connect with content or knowledge. A praxial approach exemplifies this interactive process, a process enhanced when classroom musicking was recorded.

Embedding propositional concepts and contextual information through procedural skills was enhanced when my KS3 pupils listened to recordings of their musicking with guidance from me as their teacher and their peers. KS3 pupils could consider what they had achieved (a sense of achievement was important) and what they might do in the future. I found that the atmosphere in KS3 music changed when recordings were involved. They not only helped promote critical engagement (Fautley and Daubney, Reference FAUTLEY and DAUBNEY2015: 7) through shared thinking, but recordings were also a powerful form of classroom management, promoting participation, engagement and access (Ellis & Tod, Reference ELLIS and TOD2018). This perception was shared with beginning KS3 music teachers, and regular recording became a fundamental activity during my subsequent KS3 music teacher education workshops.

A praxial approach meant a greater range of pedagogical decisions needed to be made and acted upon. These decisions were revealed to beginning KS3 music teachers by asking them some key questions based on their experiences of real music classrooms. Which instruments are available and appropriate? Does the recording equipment work? What could be an appropriate repertoire? Could the class or classes access the chosen repertoire? I used my own KS3 teaching to exemplify and question my own perception of a praxial approach towards KS3 music. I made a conscious decision not to undermine the incentive of a praxial approach by trying to perform music that was too challenging. During the initial stages of musicking, I felt responsible for ensuring that my KS3 pupils could experience fluency and flow (Csikszentmihalyi, Reference CSIKSZENTMIHALYI2002) through entrainment (Clayton et al., Reference CLAYTON, SAGER and WILL2005). The aim was to enable pupils to feel like musicians as quickly as possible. To share these perceptions with beginning KS3 music teachers, musicking became an important starting point for critically examining situated and appropriate repertoire for KS3 music teaching. This critical examination revealed that praxial musicking was more akin to vocational pedagogy than traditional pedagogy.

Vocational pedagogy

When I entered the teaching profession in 1984, my initial assumption was that my pedagogy needed to be teacher-centric and traditional. A similar assumption occurred when I moved into higher education in 2004. These assumptions were made based on the impression that I needed to be the authority in the classroom. My musical habitus was centred on performing ritualised Western art music, often associated with traditional pedagogies, but I now realise that my musical learning was not separate and academic. Learning ‘about music’ (McPhail, Reference MCPHAIL2013, p. 44) occurred concurrently whilst learning ‘in music’ (ibid, p. 44). It was practice-based or praxeological (Biesta, Reference BIESTA2015), learning through action, informed by new and recurring knowledge-rich experiences, powerfully situated in engaging contexts like a concert hall or large church.

The vocational pedagogy identified in Figure 1 can be defined as ‘curriculum as product and education as instrumental’ (Kelly, Reference KELLY2009, p.67–82). Kelly uses ‘instrumental’ in the non-musical sense relating to ‘training or instruction’ (ibid, p.79), which has extrinsic goals, determined externally, often prioritising work-related activities. This was a default pedagogy or doxa (Bourdieu, Reference BOURDIEU1977) (Figure 1) for my KS3 teaching, centred on acquiring procedural skills through praxial musicking. However, classification remained strong because opportunities to address a ‘selected past’ (Bernstein, Reference BERNSTEIN2000, p.87) were taken into consideration, features of a ‘prospective’ pedagogic identity (ibid, pp.87–88). Within my practice as a KS3 music teacher, musicking centred on the pupils and their learning, often starting from their own musical preferences based on the commercial and contemporary world of music practice, so the framing was weak. Prioritising pupils’ own preferences underpinned a pedagogy centred on informal learning (Green, Reference GREEN2008).

Even when KS3 pupils’ preferences were prioritised, strong classifications of knowledge underpinned their choices. KS3 pupils wanted to know how to play instruments related to particular types of music. Developing performing skills on instruments features significantly in classroom music education across the world (Fautley & Daubney, Reference FAUTLEY and DAUBNEY2019). Perceptions of instrumental teaching have become more prominent in classroom music education in England via education policy discourse and through financial support from successive governments over the last 20 years (ibid). Of particular importance during my role as a KS3 music teacher educator was the first National Plan for Music Education (NPME) (DfE/DCMS, 2011), which promoted the creation of Music Hubs and the delivery of Whole Class Ensemble Teaching (WCET) in England.

The emphasis on instrumental teaching that underpinned my vocational pedagogy was important, but there was a danger that it provided a limited perspective of music education: ‘“training music performers” … does not perform the same function as music education as a way of knowing’ (Fautley et al., Reference FAUTLEY, KINSELLA and WHITTAKER2019, p.249). Within my KS3 music, instrumental skills centred on tuned and untuned percussion instruments, including the Drum Kit, a range of guitars and electronic keyboards. Pupils needed time to gain control of these instruments, but pupils accrued this control during a range of music activities. The focus was on KS3 general classroom music where ‘the mediating affordances of playing the instrument’ were considered, ‘but also going beyond it’ (ibid, p.248).

On reflection, the pedagogic intention behind teaching pupils how to use instruments in my KS3 teaching was to provide pre-generative scaffolds (Fautley, Reference FAUTLEY2005) for composing. This composing was also praxial, frame by making and appraising (NCC, 1990). The making process (also a form of musicking) centred on structured improvising leading to composing (Burnard, Reference BURNARD2000; Larsson and Georgii-Hemming, Reference LARSSON and GEORGII-HEMMING2019). Composing was central to my KS3 teaching, recognising that ‘composing is at the heart of music pedagogy’ (Winters, Reference WINTERS2012: 21). Composing provided opportunities for KS3 pupils and beginning KS3 music teachers to experience ‘how artists think’ (Howard, Reference HOWARD, Bowman and Frega2012, p.259).

Despite seeking to provide freedom to choose through composing, the musical knowledge in my classrooms was tightly classified. Composing usually happened after the exploration of a particular type or types of music with a particular conceptual focus (Paynter, Reference PAYNTER1982; NCC 1990). The strong classification underpinning composing became more prominent when pupils opted for music as a school-based public examination. My KS3 classroom composing was underpinned by a vocational pedagogy. Composing was for a particular purpose, linked to assumptions about how composers work in the outside world. The priority was to produce something for assessment against predetermined assessment criteria. Bernstein identifies this type of pedagogy as a performance model which ‘places the emphasis upon a specific output of the acquirer [pupil]’ (Reference BERNSTEIN2000, p.67).

When classification is strong, the teacher becomes a cultural amplifier (Kelly, Reference KELLY2009, p.62). Like traditional pedagogy, vocational pedagogy looks to the past, emphasising learning so it is ‘congruent with the requirements of the culture’ (Bruner & Haste, Reference BRUNER and HASTE1987, p.1). The type of vocational pedagogy I employed included ‘the stability of subject concepts … and the activities involved in learning’ (Young et al., Reference YOUNG, LAMBERT, ROBERTS and ROBERTS2014, p.68). The stability of subject concepts relates to strong classification. Changes in content and a focus on the activities involved in learning relate to weaker framing. These changes in content did not just come from the specialist field. Pupils brought their own ideas and perceptions. This open communication or weaker framing (Figure 1) provided opportunities for teacher learning in addition to pupil learning. Pupils’ ideas enriched my own perceptions of music. Prioritising the voice of the learner is not always prominent when the classification of knowledge is strong. Including more open and creative approaches towards music education where music is treated as a creative art form provided opportunities to enact pedagogies that were future-orientated (Figure 1).

Progressive pedagogy

Progressive pedagogy moves away from symbolic control of traditional and vocational curricula, prioritising the phronesis or care (Regelski, Reference De Baets and Buchborn2014, p.19) that underpins child-centred approaches towards music education (Finney, Reference FINNEY2011). Curriculum as process and education as development (Kelly, Reference KELLY2009, p.89–112) exemplifies this pedagogy. Cunningham (1988, p.1) identifies that progressive ideals include ‘individuality, freedom and growth’, putting children (pupils) and their future first, not restricting them to knowledge classified by other people but opening up new creative possibilities (hence, the weaker classification in Figure 1). Education was for its own sake, not as a servant to an examination system, emphasising ‘a concern with the nature of the child and with his or her development as a human being’ (Kelly, Reference KELLY2009, p.91). Bernstein identifies a progressive pedagogy as a competence model based on the idea that every child possesses ‘an in-built procedural democracy, an in-built creativity, an in-built virtuous self-regulation’ (Bernstein, Reference BERNSTEIN2000, p.66). Recognising children’s ‘natural resources of wonder, imagination and inventiveness’ (Mills & Paynter, Reference MILLS and PAYNTER2008, p.1) seemed ethically sound, where KS3 pupils’ musical ideas could be fully valued and recognised.

Within the realities of the KS3 music classroom, I found that progressive approaches that had weak classification still required strong framing to manage the social complexities of the classroom. This also applied to beginning KS3 teachers. Bernstein identifies how progressive pedagogy and associated constructivism are too idealistic, focusing too heavily on the individual. He asserts that progressive pedagogy:

… is bought at a price; that is, the price of abstracting the individual from the analysis of distributions of power and principles of control which selectively specialise modes of acquisition and realisations (Reference BERNSTEIN2000: 66).

There is a potential imbalance between broader structural systems, particularly surrounding the classification of knowledge within ‘specialist modes’ or discrete subjects, and the interactionism that takes place within particular contexts. This has led to critiques of progressive approaches that prioritise pupils’ perceptions of knowledge (Peal, Reference PEAL2014). Within my own practice, this imbalance overemphasised the ‘micro context’ (Bernstein, Reference BERNSTEIN2000, p.66) through intense symbolic control or strong framing. This ‘de-centred market’ pedagogic identity (Bernstein, Reference BERNSTEIN2000, pp.88–89) emphasised the child as a consumer of education where ‘education becomes a commodity’ (Finney, Reference FINNEY2011, p.3) rather than a liberating experience.

After a change in government in 2010, there appeared to be a return to the strong classification of knowledge in some subjects (DfE, 2013a), but this did not occur within general classroom music education. The current National Curriculum documents for music (DfE, 2013b) contain very few words (Fautley & Daubney, Reference FAUTLEY and DAUBNEY2019, p.226; Savage, Reference SAVAGE2020, p.3). This had a knock-on effect of implying that music lacks value as a curriculum subject, and in some schools, it is disappearing as other forms of intense knowledge classification require more curriculum time (ISM et al., 2019). My challenge was to prepare beginning KS3 music teachers to teach general classroom music in a diverse range of music classrooms. The focus was on more open, creative and learner-centred approaches that aspired to engender agentic professionals who could enter the teaching profession with a sensitive awareness of the diverse range of pupils they have in their classrooms. The focus here is on an ethical approach towards the education of teachers, more akin to a ‘de-centred therapeutic’ (Bernstein, Reference BERNSTEIN2000, pp.89–90) or an emancipated pedagogic identity.

Emancipatory pedagogy

Biesta highlights the ‘emancipation of the child’ (Reference BIESTA2015, p.15) as an important principle when thinking about education as a discrete discipline. This could be called child-centred education, strongly associated with progressive education and harshly critiqued by some because the focus is on the child rather than the knowledge that children need. Recent education policy orthodoxy in England places the focus firmly on the teacher and the declarative or propositional knowledge that ‘needs’ to be taught (DfE, 2010, DfE, 2013a, DfE, 2016), emphasising the strong classification that underpins traditional pedagogy. Within the context of my professional practice as a KS3 teacher educator, I wanted to aim for emancipation, but an emancipation informed by different forms of musical knowing, so beginning KS3 music teachers develop the confidence to become active agents in relation to their own pedagogic identities.

I perceived emancipation as underpinned by knowledge-rich environments where beginning KS3 music teachers can ‘select from a relatively extensive range of alternatives’ (Bernstein, Reference BERNSTEIN1971, p.77). They are cognisant of the existing field of music practice by looking backwards, but this is not tightly framed by complying with what has been done before. I wanted to avoid the implication that teachers should always rely on others to provide the knowledge frameworks or ‘predicting the patterns’ (ibid, p.77), but able to lead musical learning communities that contribute alternatives, informed by the pupils in their care. Emancipatory pedagogy draws upon the agency of the learners involved. This approach is particularly pertinent to creative arts, where pupils’ own making should be a priority (NCC, 1990; Marsh et al., Reference MARSH2017). Recognising the distinct nature of emancipatory pedagogy would have been helpful for me as a KS3 music teacher. Having opportunities to recognise and employ a broader range of human, social and decisional capital (Hargreaves & Fullan, Reference HARGREAVES and FULLAN2012) through active agency would have provided greater confidence when working with large groups of pupils in professional isolation, which formed the greater part of my professional practice.

From a teacher’s perspective, emancipatory pedagogy is challenging. Common sense would suggest a preference for highly structured, traditional environments that are teacher-centred. This view of education, based on objectivism (Giroux, Reference GIROUX2011, p.31–43), leads to Freire’s concept of banking in education where the teacher deposits knowledge and pupils ‘receive, memorize and repeat’ (Reference FREIRE1970, p.52). This makes sense from a macro-structuralist perspective, particularly if those in power want to control the discourse and the participants within it (Ball, Reference BALL2007). It also makes sense for beginning KS3 music teachers. They are required to demonstrate how they establish control over the pupils in their classes (DfE, 2011, DfE, 2019). This is important and at times necessary, but inflexible practice can ignore the identities of the pupils, their contributions, their potentialities and the intersubjectivity that exists within complex classroom environments. There is a real danger that an unthinking application of traditional and objectivist perspectives of education become unethical (Giroux, Reference GIROUX2011, p.35), building reliance and dependency or downwards conflation (Priestley et al., Reference PRIESTLEY, BIESTA and ROBINSON2015, p.21) rather than promoting the independence that leads to active agency.

When preparing beginning KS3 music teachers to teach within schools, it was important that I was aware of the need to engage in ‘the transformation of the individual into the existing order’ (Alhadeff-Jones, Reference ALHADEFF-JONES2016, p.143) as part of a training process, but my aspiration was that my KS3 music teacher education at the university should involve ‘an orientation towards autonomy and freedom’ (ibid, p.143). This perception of emancipatory pedagogy did not ignore the objectivity and realism of acquiring ways of knowing by accessing social knowledge and associated knowledgeable practices (Young & Muller, Reference YOUNG and MULLER2014, p.5): ‘For we must turn to history in order to understand the traditions that have shaped our individual biographies and intersubjective relationships with other human beings’ (Giroux, Reference GIROUX2011, p.41). However, the intention was to demonstrate that the broader structures and theories that underpin social and shared perceptions of knowledge were not static and ahistorical but that they shift over time. Rather than receiving banking education, I wanted beginning KS3 music teachers ‘to become active participants in the search for knowledge and meaning’ (ibid, p.43) through their own critical enquiry, developing their understanding of why they might adopt a particular pedagogic approach. Despite emancipatory pedagogy suggesting relinquishing control with no distinct role for the teacher, potentially undermining their position within the complexities of a classroom environment (Kitchen, Reference KITCHEN2014, p.42), I aspired to apply an ethical pedagogic approach, where beginning KS3 music teachers engaged in ‘freeing or liberating (oneself) from a state of dependency’ (Alhadeff-Jones, Reference ALHADEFF-JONES2016, p.142) by engaging in research into their own practice. I exemplified this research orientation by critically examining my own pedagogic approaches.

Concluding discussion

I now realise that the traditional pedagogy I used in schools and as a teacher trainer focused on propositional concepts and contextual information rather than on developing an understanding of music (Rogers/ISM, 2020) and knowing why music has value (Fautley & Daubney, Reference FAUTLEY and DAUBNEY2019). When I first entered higher education in 2004, I was tasked with looking after early years and primary music education. I enjoyed going into Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) settings where there was a real sense that each child’s perceptions were prioritised. Freedom and choice through play seemed to dominate what was happening. As I spent more time observing teaching in these EYFS settings, it became apparent that there was a relationship between the children’s autonomy through play, and their dependence on the teacher to manage the rhythms of the day. Singing was used as a framing device to instil control and order, and carefully prepared spaces with a rich array of resources began the process of knowledge classification: ‘classification constructs the nature of social space: stratifications, distributions and locations’ (Bernstein, Reference BERNSTEIN2000, p.36).

The pedagogy employed by the EYFS teachers appeared emancipatory but included aspects of classification and framing that linked to other types of pedagogy. Within emancipatory education, Alhadeff-Jones (Reference ALHADEFF-JONES2016: 145) identifies that ‘autonomy and dependence appear as two intertwined qualities that cannot be separated from each other because they are inscribed simultaneously within complementary, antagonistic and contradictory relationships’. The pedagogies in Figure 1 are forms of embodied professional capital and, rather than seeing these pedagogies as separate and fixed, a more fluid relationship, employing different pedagogies at distinct times for specific purposes, seems more appropriate to reflect the complexities of the classroom environment.

Emancipatory pedagogy continues to be aspirational, shifting my pedagogic identify from a teacher trainer to a teacher educator. Teacher educators move from prioritising their own teaching towards prioritising the teaching of others. This became particularly important for me when I became Subject Lead for Music Education in 2008. My professional capital, evidenced through my active agency, shifted over time from teaching my own personal perceptions of creative music practices towards facilitating research-orientated heutagogy within beginning KS3 music teachers (Axtell et al., Reference AXTELL, FAUTLEY, DAVEY NICKLIN, Smith, Moir, Brennan, Rambarran and Kirkman2017). Fertile questions (Harpaz, Reference HARPAZ2014) promoted creative enquiry in communities of thinking. Informed creative activities provided spaces where personal knowings could be shared, critiqued and even transformed. Rather than prioritising data for normative summative assessments, performances became complex demonstrations of understanding (ibid, p.114).

My pedagogic identity was centred on a habitus of vocational pedagogy whilst a KS3 music teacher. Choices within composing activities moved beyond the strong classification of pastiche towards the weaker classification and framing associated with creativity as I sought to counter the impression that there was a ‘right way’ or a ‘right answer’. My vocational pedagogy was still framed, but the framing was weaker because there were spaces for knowings to be negotiated (Carpenter & Bryan, Reference CARPENTER, BRYAN, Capel, Leask and Younie2019, p.337). Vocational pedagogy became my KS3 music teaching doxa, but to avoid the same happening to beginning KS3 music teachers, I encouraged them to question its application. Experience suggests that learners respond positively to composing, but too many compositions in my KS3 classrooms were Western and commercial (usually through composing songs), reflecting a classification of knowledge that was too strong. Charting my shifting pedagogic identity has revealed my aspiration to apply an emancipatory pedagogy, particularly with beginning KS3 music teachers.

Looking forwards

Critically reflecting on my position within the field of KS3 classroom music teacher education, two aspects of quantity and quality become apparent. Traditional pedagogy firmly centres on quantity, particularly in terms of knowledge acquisition measured through regular testing, whereas emancipatory pedagogy emphasises the quality of social interactions, particularly in terms of how individual people are valued: ‘emancipation as an ongoing movement, built up through always evolving interactions’ (Alhadeff-Jones, Reference ALHADEFF-JONES2016, p.146).

The ‘corporeity, discursivity and sociality’ (Alhadeff-Jones, Reference ALHADEFF-JONES2016, p.146) that underpins emancipatory pedagogy are features of active agency that underpin identity negotiation and renegotiation (Schutz et al., Reference SCHUTZ, HONG and CROSS FRANCIS2018). Corporeity emphasises a focus on the individual, but discursivity and sociality suggest intersubjective discourses across a field of practice. The language of the ‘education with Es’ (Claxton, Reference CLAXTON2021, p.112), where corporeity, discursivity and sociality become ‘embodied … embedded … enactive’ (van der Schyff, Reference VAN DER SCHYFF2018, p.5), merit further research in general classroom music teacher education. Supporting beginning KS3 music teachers to perceive music as a creative art form, I aspired to look forward to the future whilst also drawing inspiration from the past, creating the potential for including ‘extended approaches towards music creativity’ (ibid: 7).


ALHADEFF-JONES, M. (2016). Time and Rhythms of Emancipatory Education: Rethinking the Temporal Complexity of Self and Society. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
ANDERSSON, J. & ÖSTMAN, L. (2015). A transactional way of analysing the learning of ‘tacit knowledge’. Interchange, 46, 271278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
AXTELL, I., FAUTLEY, M. & DAVEY NICKLIN, K. (2017). Popular music meta-pedagogy in music teacher education. In: Smith, G. D., Moir, Z., Brennan, M., Rambarran, S. & Kirkman, P. (eds.), The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Music Education. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge: 357368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
BALL, S. J. (2007). Education plc. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
BEIJAARD, D. & MEIJER, P. C. (2017). Developing the Personal and the Professional in Making a Teacher Identity. In: Clandinin, D. J. & Husu, J. (eds.), The Sage Handbook of Research on Teacher Education (pp. 177192). London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
BERNSTEIN, B. (1971). Class, Codes and Control: Theoretical Studies towards a Sociology of Language. London: Routledge: Kegan Paul PLC.Google Scholar
BERNSTEIN, B. (2000). Pedagogy, Symbolic Control and Identity: Theory, Research, Critique. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.Google Scholar
BIESTA, G. J. J. (2015). On the two cultures of educational research, and how we might move ahead: Reconsidering the ontology, axiology and praxeology of education. European Educational Research Journal, 14(1), 1122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
BOURDIEU, P. (1977). Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
BOURDIEU, P. & PASSERON, J. C. (1990). Reproduction in Education Society and Culture. Second Edition. (Trans: Nice, R.): Los Angeles, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
BROOKFIELD, S. D. (2017). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher: Second Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
BRUNER, J. & HASTE, H. (eds.) (1987). Making Sense; The Child’s Construction of the World. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
BURNARD, P. (2000). How children ascribe meaning to improvisation and composition: Rethinking pedagogy in music education. Music Education Research, 2(1): 723.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
CARPENTER, C. & BRYAN, H. (2019). Teaching Styles. In: Capel, S., Leask, M. & Younie, S. (eds.), Learning to Teach in the Secondary School: A Companion to School Experience: 8th Edition (pp. 330343). London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
CARSPECKEN, P. F. (1996). Critical Ethnography in Educational Research. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
CLAYTON, M., SAGER, R. & WILL, U. (2005). In time with the music: the concept of entrainment and its significance in ethnomusicology. ESEM Counterpoint, 1, 145.Google Scholar
CLAXTON, G. (2021). The Future of Teaching: and the myths that hold it back. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
CSIKSZENTMIHALYI, M. (2002). Flow: The classic work on how to achieve happiness. New York: Ebury Press.Google Scholar
CUNNINGHAM, P. M. (1998). The social dimension of transformative learning. PAACE: Journal of Lifelong Learning, 7(1), 1528.Google Scholar
DEWEY, J. (1931). The Development of American Pragmatism. In: Thayer, H.S. (ed.), Pragmatism: The Classic Writings (pp. 2340). Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company.Google Scholar
DfE (2010). The Department for Education: The Importance of Teaching: The Schools White Paper 2010. London: Department for Education: The Stationary Office Limited: Crown Copyright.Google Scholar
DfE (2011). The Department for Education: The Teachers’ Standards. London: Department for Education: The Stationary Office Limited: Crown Copyright.Google Scholar
DfE (2013a). National Curriculum: The national curriculum for England to be taught in all local-authority-maintained schools. National curriculum - GOV.UK ( [Accessed: 10/01/2022]Google Scholar
DfE (2013b). Music programme of study: key stage 3: National curriculum in England. National Curriculum - Music key stage 3 ( [Accessed: 10/01/2022].Google Scholar
DfE (2016). The Department for Education: Educational Excellence Everywhere. The Schools White Paper 2016. London: Department for Education: Williams Lea Group: Crown Copyright 2016.Google Scholar
DfE (2019). Initial Teacher Training: Core Content Framework. Initial teacher training (ITT): core content framework - GOV.UK ( [Accessed: 10/01/2022].Google Scholar
DfE/DCMS (2011). The Importance of Music: A National Pan for Music Education. Microsoft Word - NPME FINAL ( [Accessed: 10/01/2022].Google Scholar
ELLIOTT, D. J. (1995). Music Matters: A New Philosophy of Music Education. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
ELLIS, S. & TOD, J. (2018). Behaviour for Learning: Promoting Positive Relationships in the Classroom: Second Edition. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
FAUTLEY, M. (2005). A new model of the group composing process of lower secondary school students. Music Education Research, 7(1), 3957.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
FAUTLEY, M. & DAUBNEY, A. (2015). The National Curriculum for Music: A Framework for Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment in Key Stage 3 Music. London: Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM)/SoundCity: Brighton and Hove.Google Scholar
FAUTLEY, M. & DAUBNEY, A. (2019). The whole class ensemble tuition programme in English schools – a brief introduction. British Journal of Music Education, 36, 223228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
FAUTLEY, M., KINSELLA, V. & WHITTAKER, A, (2019). Models of teaching and learning identified in Whole Class Ensemble Tuition. British Journal of Music Education, 36, 243252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
FINNEY, J. (2011). Music Education in England 1950-2010: The Child-Centred Progressive Tradition. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
FREIRE, P. (1970). Pedagogia del oprimido, Brazil: Paz e Terra, translation by Ramos (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
GIROUX, H. (2011). On Critical Pedagogy. New York & London: Continuum International.Google Scholar
GOODSON, I., ANTIKAINEN, A., SIKES, P. & ANDREWS, M. (eds.) (2017). The Routledge International Handbook on Narrative and Life History. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
GREEN, L. (2008). Music, Informal Learning and the School: A New Classroom Pedagogy Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing.Google Scholar
GREEN, L. (ed.) (2011). Learning, Teaching and Music Identity: Voices across cultures. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
HARGREAVES, A. & FULLAN, M. (2012). Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
HARPAZ, Y. (2014). Teaching and Learning in a Community of Thinking: The Third Model. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
HOWARD, V. A. (2012). Must music education have an aim? In Bowman, W. & Frega, A. L. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy in Music Education (pp. 249262). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
ILLERIS, K. (2009). A comprehensive understanding of human learning. In: Illeris, K. (ed.), Contemporary Theories of Learning: Learning Theorists in their own words (pp. 720). Kindle Edition. Abingdon: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
ISM, APPG Music Education, University of Sussex (2019). Music Education: State of the Nation: Report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music Education, the Incorporated Society of Musicians and the University of Sussex. London: Incorporated Society of Musicians/HMSO.Google Scholar
KELLY, A. V. (2009). The Curriculum: Theory and Practice: 6th Edition. London: Sage.Google Scholar
KITCHEN, W. H. (2014). Authority and the Teacher. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
LARSSON, C. & GEORGII-HEMMING, E. (2019). Improvisation in general music education: A literature review. British Journal of Music Education, 36(1): 4967.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MACDONALD, R., HARGREAVES, D. J. & MIELL, D. (eds.) (2017). Handbook of Musical Identities. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MARSH, J., et al. (2017). Makerspaces in the Early Years: A Literature Review. University of Sheffield: MakEY Project.Google Scholar
MCPHAIL, G. (2013). Informal and formal knowledge: The curriculum conception of two rock graduates. British Journal of Music Education, 30(1), 4357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MILLS, J. & PAYNTER, J. (eds.) (2008). Thinking and Making: Selections from the writings of John Paynter on Music Education. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
NCC (1990). The Arts 5-16: A Curriculum Framework: The Arts in Schools Project Team. Harlow: National Curriculum Council: Oliver & Boyd: Longman Group PLC.Google Scholar
ODENDAAL, A., KANKKUNEN, O-T., NIKKANEN, H. M. & VAKEVA, L. (2014). What’s with the K? Exploring the implications of Christopher Small’s ‘musicking’ for general music education. Music Education Research, 16(2), 162175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
PAYNTER, J. (1982). Music in the Secondary School Curriculum. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
PEAL, R. (2014). Progressively Worse: The Burden of Bad Ideas in British Schools. London: Civitas.Google Scholar
POLANYI, M. (1966). The logic of tacit inference. Philosophy, 41, 118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
PRIESTLEY, M., BIESTA, G. & ROBINSON, S. (2015). Teacher Agency: An Ecological Approach. London: Bloomsbury.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
REGELSKI (2014). Reflective Music Education as a Helping Profession. In: De Baets, T. & Buchborn, T. (eds.), European Perspectives on Music Education: The Reflective Music Teacher (pp. 1526). Innsbruck: Helbling.Google Scholar
ROGERS, K./ISM (2020). Musical understanding: an executive summary. London: ISM Trust.Google Scholar
ROSIEK, J. & GLEASON, T. (2017). Philosophy in Research on Teacher Education. In: Clandinin, D. J. & Husu, J. (eds.), The Sage Handbook of Research on Teacher Education (pp. 2948). London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
SAVAGE, J. (2020). The policy and practice of music education in England, 2010–2020. British Educational Research Journal, 47(2), 469483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
SAYER, A. (2009). Who’s afraid of critical social science? Current Sociology, 57, 767786.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
SIMOLA, H. (1993). Educational science, the state and teachers: Forming the corporate regulation of teacher education in Finland. In: Popkewitz, T. S. (ed.), Changing Patterns of Power: Social Regulation and Teacher Education Reform (pp. 161210). Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
SMALL, C. (1998). Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press.Google Scholar
SMYTH, J. (1999). Researching the Cultural politics of Teachers’ Learning. In: Loughran, J. (ed.), Researching Teaching: Methodologies and Practices for Understanding Pedagogy (pp. 6782). London: Falmer Press.Google Scholar
SÖDERMAN, J., BURNARD, P. & HOFVANDER-TRULSSON, Y. (2015). Contextualising Bourdieu in the Field of Music and Music Education. In: Burnard, P., Hofvander-Trulsson, Y. & Söderman, J. (eds.), Bourdieu and the Sociology of Music Education (pp. 112). Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.Google Scholar
SCHUTZ, P. A., HONG, J. & CROSS FRANCIS, D. (eds.) (2018). Research on Teacher Identity: Mapping Challenges and Innovations. Cham: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
TABER, K. S. (2012). Constructivism as Educational Theory: Contingency in Learning and Optimally Guided Instruction. In: Hassaskhah, J. (ed.), Educational Theory: Education in a competitive and globalizing world (pp. 3961). New York: Nova Science Publishers Inc.Google Scholar
VAN DER SCHYFF, D., et al. (2018). Musical creativity and the embodied mind: Exploring the possibilities of 4E cognition and dynamical systems theory. Music and Science, 1, 118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
WINTERS, M. (2012). The challenges of teaching composing. British Journal of Music Education, 29(1), 1924.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
WODAK, R. & MEYER, M. (2016). Methods of Critical Discourse Studies: 3rd Edition. London: Sage.Google Scholar
YOUNG, M., LAMBERT, D., ROBERTS, C. & ROBERTS, M. (2014). Knowledge and the Future School: Curriculum and Social Justice. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
YOUNG, M. & MULLER, J. (eds.) (2014). Knowledge, Expertise and the Professions. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Figure 0

Figure 1. Pedagogies in the field of KS3 general classroom music education.