Numerous academics, reports and teachers have noted that music in secondary schools as a school subject is frequently not a popular and stimulating element of the curriculum: in fact, it seems to be of little interest or relevance to many students (for example, Ross, 1995; Plummeridge, 1997; Green, 2002; National Review of School Music Education, 2005; Hutchinson, 2007; St George, 2010). On the other hand, numerous teenagers have their own bands; invest in mp3 players and their current chart favourites; and they go to local gigs like The Big Day Out, as well as dances and parties where music features. There seems to be no problem with involvement in music outside of school but there has long been a disconnect between school music and what happens outside the formal school environment.
Musical Futures is a music learning program based in the research of Lucy Green (2005, 2006, 2008a, 2008b) and others that was established in the United Kingdom in 2003. It aims to make secondary classroom music more relevant to young people through engaging them in the practices of real world musicians, recognising that the way in which popular musicians learn is quite different from the pedagogy of the traditional music classroom. Research from the Institute of Education, University of London (Hallam, Creech & McQueen, 2010) has reported favourably on the impact of the program in UK schools. With the support from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation (which has funded the Musical Futures Project in the UK) and the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Foundation (USA), the Australian Music Association (AMA), in collaboration with the Soundhouse and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD), has piloted the program in 10 Victorian government schools in 2010. The teachers involved completed an intensive two day workshop with David Price from Musical Futures in the United Kingdom prior to implementing the program. This article reports on research that investigated the impact of Musical Futures approach on the music teachers and students in these ten schools.
The research aimed to investigate two questions:
* Has Musical Futures had an impact on teachers' confidence, pedagogy and professional satisfaction? and
* What impact has the Musical Futures approach had on students?
The research methodology replicated aspects of the Hallam, Creech and McQueen (2010) research with teacher questionnaires for each of the ten pilot schools. The questionnaires were adapted slightly for the Victorian context with items relating to the following areas:
* background information about the teachers;
* how Musical Futures has been implemented;
* the impact on teaching;
* the impact on students;
* the integration of Musical Futures with the VELS and the e5 instructional model;
* difficulties and constraints relating to the use of Musical Futures;
* the level of support from senior management teams;
* the impact on take-up of elective music; and
* the impact on take-up of extra-curricular instrumental and vocal activities.
Two schools were selected as case study schools in consultation with the Soundhouse. Two members of the research team visited these schools to undertake recorded interviews with the music teachers, a focus group interview with students, and two class observations. The case study schools were also measured against an adaptation of the National Review of School Music Education's success factors for school music programs used to examine best practice music education in Victorian primary schools in 2009 (Jeanneret, 2009).
Findings from the survey
Ten teachers from seven of the schools completed the questionnaires representing a selection of metropolitan and provincial schools. The majority of the schools had been implementing Musical Futures for two terms at the time of the data collection and over 1,000 students, mostly middle school, had been involved in the program. The investment in the equipment varied from nil to $15,000 depending on what already existed in the school. Table 1 provides a summary of information about the schools involved.
The questionnaire asked teachers how well Musical Futures worked within the state mandated curriculum and pedagogical direction. They were very positive about how well Musical Futures integrated with the Victorian Essential Learning Skills (VELS), mainly commenting that creating, making, exploring and responding were facilitated easily by the approach. Two teachers noted that personal learning and communication were also supported. Five teachers chose to make comments about connections between Musical Futures and the recently implemented e5 instructional model which contains a variety of levels of teacher classroom practice related to engaging, exploring, explaining, elaborating, and evaluating (DEECD, 2009). They noted that student involvement in engaging and exploring was particularly pertinent.
There were few difficulties encountered by the teachers in implementing the program and where problems arose, they were different in each school. While one teacher found reluctance in the instrumental staff to become involved, another teacher found the program ran smoothly thanks to the support from the instrumental staff. Another teacher noted that he would be looking for ways to offset the costs in the future. There were only minimal adjustments and adaptations to the program model that appear to be minor tailoring to the individual needs of classes and students.
Impact on teachers' confidence, pedagogy and professional satisfaction
The teachers reported that since implementing Musical Futures, they felt more confident about facilitating student learning in a range of musical genres, teaching instrumental skills and teaching music in general (Table 2). The least change in confidence was reported in relation to facilitating singing that mirrors the UK findings. Nine of the ten respondents felt they had become more effective teachers and were enjoying teaching more as a result of implementing Music Futures. It was agreed unanimously that they had been able to fit Musical Futures with their own approach to teaching and learning as well as being able to adapt Musical Futures to meet the individual needs of students.
There were a number of statements that generated unanimous agreement on the part of the teachers (Table 3). They all felt that Musical Futures was useful, had changed and improved their teaching, had changed music teaching in the school, integrated successfully with the VELS and helped students demonstrate their musical potential. They also agreed that Musical Futures helped integrate students' informal music learning with classroom activities and could be implemented successfully in other schools. There was very strong agreement that they had observed a positive response from students and an engagement of previously disinterested students.
All the teachers reported that Musical Futures would have a long-term impact on their music teaching (Table 4). They commented that the approach was more engaging for students and that working and learning alongside the students was an important aspect. Noting the positive impact of the approach on students, one teacher is looking for ways to implement the pedagogy throughout his teaching.
Impact on Students and Program Benefits
Given the Musical Futures program had only been running in all but one of the schools for two terms, the teacher perceptions of the student outcomes were overwhelmingly positive (Table 5). The teachers indicated that Musical Futures had a positive impact on students' attitudes towards music, self-esteem in relation to music, love of music, group work, on-task behaviour, and general behaviour in class. Students created better musical performances than previously, had developed a greater range of musical skills, were able to demonstrate higher levels of attainment than previously, had enhanced listening skills, instrumental skills and strategies for composition, as well as developing a better understanding of a range of musical genres. Overall, teachers indicated that the improvement in musical skills of their students had exceeded their expectations and that students had a better chance of fulfilling their musical potential. It should be noted that one teacher added the comment that she responded to a number of the items listed with either "Don't Know" or "Disagree" "because these criteria were already working quite well and it's difficult at this stage to assess further development".
The same teacher noted above was again cautious about commenting on the benefits of Musical Futures, feeling it was too early to assess but all the other teachers noted a variety of benefits that included greater engagement, improved motivation, independent learning skills, greater task focus, better behaviour and greater enthusiasm (Table 6). Most notable was one teacher's comment that "the behaviour issues are gone".
The teacher responses varied to the question Has Musical Futures been more successful with some groups of students than with others? (Table 7). On the one hand, a number of teachers felt there were no notable differences between students while others felt that a lack of musical knowledge was a hindrance for some students. One teacher noted gender differences and another felt that students with lower independent skills struggle a little with the emphasis on self-directed learning. Another commented that there were some difficulties with students who lacked social skills, in particular, those with Asperger's syndrome.
There were a variety of responses when the teachers were asked about whether there was an increase in students taking instrumental music and/or electing more classroom music (Tables 8 and 9). Some were cautious, saying it was too early to comment while others noticed a dramatic increase.
The teachers reported that there was nothing but positive support from the school leadership that manifested itself as time for Professional Learning, provision of funds and improved facilities. When asked what support in the future would be most useful, …