Towards an improved model for senior-secondary music education: a multi-faceted perspective

2017-01-05T03:28:19Z (GMT) by Miles, William Edward
This thesis is concerned with some of the major dilemmas in modern senior-secondary music education: attracting enrolments, devising relevant and engaging curriculum that is rigorous and capable of satisfying a range of future aspirations of music students, dealing with the disparity of students’ prior learning and experience levels, issues affecting pedagogy in an increasingly outcomes-driven environment, and so forth. The aims of this research are to improve the rigour and relevance of centralised, state-administered senior secondary music programmes via a multi-faceted approach that acknowledges the complexity and probable inter-relatedness of these dilemmas. The proposed approach provides a framework for understanding the interplay between curriculum design and content, assessment issues, pedagogy, and preparation for further musical pursuits, especially post-secondary studies. Once these relationships are understood, the underlying and most critical problems can be exposed and solutions proposed that are cognisant of this complex interplay. While such a systems thinking perspective has been applied widely in engineering, business and various social structures, the integration of such an approach to consider the issues surrounding education as a system is indeed very novel. A case study of the (1995-2000) Victorian (Australia) Certificate of Education (VCE) music and music performance study designs is used to demonstrate the application of such a multi-faceted approach towards improving senior-secondary music education models. Essential to the case study is an identification of the various strengths and weaknesses of the VCE music study designs, isolating problems and understanding their nature and scope. This is achieved via a research design involving extensive use of surveys of five demographic groups (VCE music students and teachers, tertiary students from VCE backgrounds, and tertiary lecturers and faculty/department heads), interviews, and literature-informed analysis. Detailed statistical analysis is presented, synthesised and cross-tabulated with demographic data to provide the necessary insights into differing perspectives and perceptions. The advantage of undertaking such a detailed case study is its capacity to illuminate a broad range of issues and allow the nexus between the various facets under consideration to be explored thoroughly. Thus, the primary aim of the case study is to enable an understanding of the complex interplay of factors at both macroscopic and microscopic levels. A secondary aim of the case study is to demonstrate that workable solutions to improve the rigour and relevance of the VCE music subjects can be, and indeed should be, devised from within such a multi-faceted perspective. Based on the insights obtained from the case study research, arguments for changes to the curriculum and assessment practices for each of the subjects are presented. Further, improved models of curricular content and assessment instruments are designed that consider their nexus with each other as well as with pedagogical issues and preparation for further musical pursuits. Implications for improvements to senior secondary music pedagogy, a consequence of modifications to curriculum and assessment, are discussed. Many of the recommendations of this research, as well as these proposed modifications, were adopted for the re-designed and reaccredited VCE music studies of 2000-2005 and beyond. This thesis thus makes significant contributions to policy-making, pedagogy, performance assessment methodology, and music education in general. It features an eclectic approach, drawing upon both quantitative and qualitative analysis, socio-historical research, and combined with a systems thinking framework. It is a novel attempt to understand the complex interplay affecting modern senior secondary music education in state-administered environments, and to demonstrate how this multi-faceted perspective is critical to achieving genuine and far-reaching improvements in music education.