Creating a music curriculum

In my recent blog The year 9 class and their changing musical behaviour (see I cited the thought of Carolyn Cooke, one of the editors of Learning to teach music in the secondary school (3rd edition). In the recent symposium reflecting on that book at the Research in Music Education Conference at Bath Spa University Carolyn also spoke about Chapter 5 in the book, What is a music curriculum? written with Gary Spruce. Carolyn explains how her two chapters are linked:

‘It is this overriding principle of young people’s agency which tie together the Behaviour for Musical Learning chapter and the What is a Music Curriculum?’


‘This chapter was conceptualised as a provocation – asking music student teachers to consider their own views, images, and experiences of the term ‘curriculum’ and then providing the resources and ideas with which to critique, and conceptualise curriculum in different ways. This ‘opening up’ comes in two forms in the chapter. In the first half, the term curriculum is itself scrutinised introducing the concepts of ‘curriculum as content’ and ‘curriculum as product’, arguing that both are reified forms of curriculum in which the document, content, objects within it become seen as concrete, fixed, unmoving and one in which young people have little to no agency. This is then contrasted with the concept of ”curriculum as a lived experience”, where young people become the curriculum makers. Cornbleth defines curriculum in this view as ‘an ongoing social process comprised of the interactions of students, teachers, knowledge and milieu’ (Cornbleth 1990). It is within this interactional, or ‘dialogic space’ that the curriculum isn’t just enacted, but is created.

The second half of the chapter explores this notion of curriculum creation by starting out with a metaphor used by Doll of the ‘Dancing curriculum’ – where nothing is fixed, or static (Doll in Fenwick et al. 2011). Where everything (resources, materials, environment, knowing, meanings, experiencing) are moving and dynamic and therefore where the curriculum is always evolving or emerging in response. It is here that complexity theory helps us to conceptualise what this means for re-conceptualising what a music curriculum is.’

The chapter sets out eight tasks for the reader and by the end they should have quite a lot to say about ‘what is a music curriculum?’ I think many of us would be a little tongue tied in answering this question or perhaps have only a summary phrase or two,

It seems to me that at the present time we need Carolyn’s chapter to sort out quite a bit of muddled thinking about our music education. I hope you will read the chapter.





2 thoughts on “Creating a music curriculum

  1. pepperdog

    Are you suggesting we should not have a curriculum created by adults and delivered to students but have a curriculum created by adults/students and delivered to students?

  2. I am not suggesting that. I have reported on a presentation at the RIME conference and perhaps encouraging readers to read the relevant chapter in the book Learning to teach music in the secondary school (3rd edition).
    I am happy to suggest that the curriculum be thought of in dynamic terms and as a ‘conversation’ between teacher, pupil and the knowledge that the teacher brings to the classroom. In last week’s blog you might consider the three models presented. Where would you be in this? I am closer to 2 than 1. Th example of Eleanor Man’s vocal work with year 7 cited in the blog is a good example of ‘creating a music curriculum’. The quality of singing was superb.
    I am sure your practice has elements of dialogic practice.

    Thanks as always for responding.

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