Music in primary schools and social inclusion of immigrant pupils in Norway

This PhD project is a critical investigation of participatory music making as an arena for inclusion and community building in primary schools with intensive language classes for newly arrived immigrant pupils, exploring dynamics of inclusion and exclusion.

Norway has recently experienced a relatively large influx of immigrants that has led to rapid changes in its formerly fairly homogeneous society and school system. The national curriculum states that music as a school subject plays a central role in adapted teaching in an inclusive school, and that in a multicultural society music education has the potential to contribute to pupils’ positive identity formation through encouraging a sense of belonging to their own cultures and cultural heritage, as well as tolerance and respect for other people’s cultures.

To collect data, an ethnographic case study of music lessons and music activities in an urban primary school with an intensive language class is carried out, including:

  • Non-participant observation
  • Interviews with pupils, teachers and head
  • Field notes and researcher reflexive log
  • Pilot project participatory music workshops

The theoretical starting points of the study are:

  • Intercultural education (Portera, 2010)
  • Socialisation into educational settings that allows ‘newcomers’ to be active subjects in their new surroundings (Biesta, 2015)
  • Potential communities of musical practice (Kenny, 2016) in schools with intensive language classes
  • Building community through musical participation (Turino, 2008)
  • Musical action as a performative, social phenomenon (Bowman, 2007)
  • Inclusion and exclusion processes for minority language students in Norwegian schools (Hilt, 2016; Jortveit, 2014)

PhD-project leader: Felicity Burbridge Rinde

Project period: 2017 – 2021

The Dynamics of Creative Music Making: A sociocultural perspective on learning in creative musicking practices

The compilation thesis entitled The Dynamics of Creative Music Making: A sociocultural perspective on learning in creative musicking practices investigates how learning in creative practices can take shape and be facilitated when children and adolescents create music. The dissertation comprises a summary and four blind peer review articles examining creative music making projects from a sociocultural perspective.

The main aim of the thesis is to increase the knowledge and understanding of the learning processes taking place in the shared activities of the community of practice in three different cases taking place in Norway, and how these creative music making practices were facilitated. The research was designed as a qualitative multiple case study, building a combination of interviews and observations of the creative practices as main data collection methods. The empirical data consists of interview transcriptions, musical material, observations and video-recordings.

Through a sociocultural perspective, these practices were analysed as dynamic relationships of musicking, including the use and transformation of mediating tools, and development of aesthetic, artistic and structural reflection-in-musicking. The findings in this study suggest ways of understanding forms of learning in creative musicking practices as social, cultural and situated. First, the facilitator role is discussed in terms of multiple modes of facilitation in an informal learning context. The modes are identified as scaffolding, co-participation and collaboration, and management and distribution of cultural tools. Second, an analysis of adolescents’ development of aesthetic, artistic and structural reflection-in-musicking brings forward an understanding of how learning in musical creative practices can take shape in the process of writing an opera. Third, mediating tools such as different forms of notations, music making actions and interactions, and meaning and transformed experiences are found as crucial in a project involving pupils in a formal learning context.

The results from the analysis point at the complexity of understanding learning in creative music making practices, which builds on dynamic sets of relationships, repertoire and shared participation. Implications for the music education research field includes a discussion of the distinction between learning and experiencing, as well as the roles of the teacher and the artist. The study points further at the importance of understanding learning as a crucial part of creative music making practices.