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How do Secondary school music teachers undertake action research?

Cain, T. (2008) How do Secondary school music teachers undertake action research? At International Society for Music Education World Conference.. 21 - 25 Jul 2008.

Record type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


The theoretical position that underpins this study is that it is possible for practitioners to undertake ethically-informed research into their own practice whilst also changing that practice, through the process of action research. In this process, practitioners (such as teachers) operate a series of flexible cycles, deciding what is worth researching, collect and analyse data, in order to evaluate and improve their own educational influences, thereby making their teaching practices research-informed. Action research is sometimes contrasted with more traditional methods in which knowledge production is the job of external researchers. It is associated with the terms ‘teacher research’ ‘practitioner research’ and ‘Self-study’. Because it integrates research with action, it is essentially practical in nature, and it is seen as having a political purpose, particularly in empowering (emancipating) groups of people to work together for the common good.
Although there has been a proliferation of action research in education during the last sixty years there are few published studies of action research in music education – a literature search has revealed fewer than thirty such studies in academic journals, books and conference proceedings. The purpose of this study was to investigate why this might be – what factors discourage music teachers from undertaking action research. In consultation with Local Authorities in the South of England, a group of ten Secondary school music teachers was recruited. Over the course of one year, they undertook small-scale action research studies in their own schools and also met together to discuss and share their work. Participant observation of these meetings was used to understand how the teachers decided what to research, how they collected and analysed data, and how they came to understand patterns in their data. Semi-structured interviews were used to understand how they experienced the research process. Analysis of the data is continuing; preliminary analysis suggests that the teachers were heavily influenced by the need to conform to government-sponsored initiatives and to provide quantitative data that might demonstrate clear achievement by their pupils. As a result, they understood action research in largely technical terms. These findings build on previous studies of action research by teachers and student teachers including studies by Roulston et al. (2005), Strand (2006) and Cain et al. (2007). The study suggests that action research can act as a powerful means for music teachers to examine and develop their practice, but that its potential is not fully realised by music teachers. The study suggests some conditions which might better realise this potential.

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Published date: July 2008
Venue - Dates: International Society for Music Education World Conference., 2008-07-21 - 2008-07-25
Keywords: action research, practitioner research, teacher research, music education


Local EPrints ID: 63849
PURE UUID: a48e2ccf-77de-4e18-9387-63d180b6683b

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Date deposited: 10 Nov 2008
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 14:15

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Author: T. Cain

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