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Stories from the music room: A narrative inquiry of secondary music teachers through the lens of social justice

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Scholars in the field of music education argue that music has the potential to prepare students to engage in a society that cultivates personal freedom and democratic participation (Bowman, 2007; Elliott, 2012; Jorgensen, 2007). Gould (2009) reminds us that music educators, and music education, are not untouched by societal concerns. She states that "music educators at all levels cannot ignore the world in which we all live and work and its concerns if, for no other reason, the world has come to us" (p. xi). At the same time, music education remains committed to maintaining the dominance of Western art music. This paradigm limits the engagement of students whose experiences differ from the dominant culture and whose knowledge, understanding and interpretation of art may differ (Gadsen, 2008). However, post-secondary institutions have been slow to include elements of social justice education within music education training (Hess, 2014; Tuinstra, 2019). Teaching through this lens requires a reconsideration of how pre-service teachers, with decades of training within the classical conservatory model of music, are prepared to teach music in a social context that is inclusive and accessible to students who come from increasingly diverse cultural backgrounds. The purpose of this narrative inquiry was to explore the experiences of secondary music educators who teach through the lens of social justice. Of specific focus was how secondary music educators perceive their approach to social justice education in relation to their lived experience. The study was framed by a theoretical framework based in critical social justice and narrative inquiry. Six full-time music educators from secondary schools in Greater Vancouver and the surrounding area participated in the study. All the participants self-identified as a music educator who intentionally embeds social justice education within their teaching practice. Data was collected from interview transcripts, images, artifacts, and field notes. Stories from my own experiences as a music educator were also woven throughout the study. The NVivo qualitative computer program assisted the narrative and thematic analysis process. Three themes were constructed from patterns in the data: a) Music Education as Storytelling describes how the participants built interpersonal connections through story; b) Liminal Spaces explore the positionality of the participants in relation to Western art music, expectations, and peers; and c) Three-Dimensional Knowledge that is inclusive of the mind, the body, and the spirit. Taken together, the three themes suggest participants place the values of care and connection at the center of their teaching practice. The results of this study lead to several implications for post-secondary music education including the need to provide pre-service music educators with a broad foundation that includes elements of critical pedagogy, culturally relevant education, and Indigenous worldviews.
156 pages.
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Copyright is held by the author(s).
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
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Thesis advisor: O'Neill, Susan
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