The year 9 music class and their changing behaviour

In last week’s blog (see below) I wrote about a beginning music teacher developing a new relationship with her year 9 class. The behaviour of the class changed in an interesting way. A fresh classroom dynamic had been created. And now the teacher tells more of the positive moves forward with the class.

‘Yesterday I had the class again – it was fascinating! They absolutely loved that clapping in a circle, asked if it could be a ‘knock out’ game so they were ‘out’ if they got it wrong and then those that were left managed to do it in 7! Even reluctant Trev and Tim joined in (reluctantly)!! One of the boys that you were working with last week even requested to play again, but unfortunately we didn’t have time. I decided to go on to working with Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. There are 4 different parts (melody, countermelody, chords and bass line) meaning it works at different levels but means that everyone can be part of a high quality ensemble. Once they can play the loops, my challenge to them is to experiment with texture and timbre as Oldfield does to create their own ‘Remix’ version of it. Once they’ve done this in group, I’m planning to try to create a whole class version too in order to capture and build on the team spirit that was created last week.’ [1]

Here is a cue for Carolyn Cooke’s presentation at the recent Research in Music Education Conference and her chapter in Learning to Teach Music in the Secondary School. [2]

Carolyn writes:

‘This chapter was conceptualised as a provocation to rhetoric around behaviour (often from policy or government sources) which is frequently discussed in two ways which can be unhelpful for music education:

Firstly, it is often talked or written about in generic educational terms rather than recognising the specific requirements of musical behaviours and secondly, such discussion often transmits messages about the type of learning that will occur in a classroom, which may or may not be relevant or appropriate in music. The example in the chapter is a set of rules that include such gems as ‘Listen when others are ‘talking’, and ‘keep hands, feet and objects to yourself’ – tricky in a subject dominated so strongly by physical movement and collaboration! By highlighting how potentially unhelpful these generic rules are, the chapter therefore aims to:

(a) promote an alternative perspective on ‘behaviour’ and ‘behaviour for learning’, where student teachers are asked to move from considering behaviour in terms of ‘management’ in a prescribed way or behaviour as relating to ‘negative behaviours’ to opening up an alternative, positive, proactive discourse about musical behaviours; and

(b) to challenge them to critique how musical behaviours may differ / challenge or even conflict directly with more generalist views of behaviour in schools.’

Beginning music teachers are deluged with generic wisdom about managing behaviour and their practice is easily fractured in the light of this, and as they navigate a way towards finding musical integrity in their classrooms. Carolyn’s chapter is an important one. Have you read it?


[1] Email correspondence.

[2] Cooke, C. (2016) ‘Behaviour for musical learning’ in (eds) Philpott, C., Spruce, G., Cooke, C. and Evans, K., Learning to teach music in the secondary school (3rd. Edition). Routledge.




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