The Music Project
How LSBU research is developing ways to improve the teaching of music
An LSBU-led project is helping to pioneer a new approach to helping teachers to deliver musical education in primary school settings. Led by Sam Clements, The Music Project is aimed at both 'musical leaders' with a career interest in musical education and 'generalist primary teachers' with little or no experience of music education.
Many teachers are unable to deliver an outstanding musical education because they lack either the confidence or the skills to deliver engaging sessions, and the LSBU team set out to develop a programme that would change that. Through empowering the teachers with the right musical and planning skills, it was felt that confidence levels amongst teachers could be raised, resulting in better sessions for primary school children.
With help from a £10,000 grant from the Teaching Agency, The Music Project was aimed at developing a two-week module for Initial Teacher Education (ITE) students immediately following the completion of their primary PGCE course. Its objective was to meet the training needs of participants by addressing key priorities in music education as set in the national music plan.
Based on a project called Music Jigsaw that Sam had developed with the Herts Music Service, the programme consisted of a mix of theoretical and practical sessions, some of which were held at LSBU and others at our partners.
All of the trainees spent time in schools watching musical sessions organised by specialist teachers. The experience they gained through observing these sessions then led to them planning and teaching sessions of their own at the same schools.
The flexibility of the training approach meant that it was able to cater for the two different types of students very effectively. "The training allowed our generalist primary school teachers to develop skills and confidence in teaching music," explains Sam, "while our music leader trainees gained an increased understanding of the role of a music leader in school."
This was achieved through an innovative approach that saw all trainees take part in sessions with aims such as understanding OFSTED and music, the Music Jigsaw programme, the Kodaly method and more. Music Leaders undertook extra sessions covering Sibelius 7 (Music ICT) and the role of the music subject leader, to help build on their skills and develop their knowledge further.
After completing the programme, the participants felt that they had gained new skills and confidence when it comes to teaching music. They were able to teach pupils of differing musical abilities, could teach musical notation from the basics (thanks to studying the Kodaly method), approach music making with very young children and involve their parents, plan for progression when teaching music, develop group songs and use practical activities to teach trickier musical elements.
The newly qualified teachers reported an overall increase in their confidence to teach music to pupils, even among those who had little or no experience and seriously lacked confidence at the outset. The repeated practical sessions were cited as particularly helpful, and having exercises, songs and routines committed to memory was also seen as helpful by many participants.Perhaps the final word on the project's success should go to Andrej Ebringer, one of the generalist primary teachers who undertook the training. He believes it has had a big impact on his confidence. "I teach Year 6 and the children were practising the same Christmas songs for an assembly choir every music lesson," he explains. "I once covered for him – we literally just sang the same songs but I would not have had the confidence to sing out loud with the children before taking part in The Music Project."