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A framework of music literacy based on the experiences of KS2 children, and their teachers, when music making in various outdoor, rural locations

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posted on 2022-10-13, 16:06 authored by Dylan Adams

This thesis investigates the experiences of Key Stage 2 children, aged 7-11 years old, when making

music in outdoor rural locations. A framework of music literacy is constructed using analysis of the

data obtained from interviews with the children and their teachers, together with and observations

from the researcher. The social-constructivist view of literacy (Lankshear and Lawler, 1987,

Lankshear and Knobel, 2011, Lambirth, 2011, Gee, 2014), that sees literacy as a social practice, is

the theoretical underpinning of this model. Within this perspective, literacy is “expressive fluency

through symbolic form” (Barton, 2014, p.289) and therefore there is no one singular definition of

literacy. Furthermore, literacy is viewed as being transformational (Freire, 1996), creative and

something that is enacted. Moreover, the object for the purposes of our exploration into music

literacies is not a pure noun, ‘music’, but rather conforms to Small’s (1996) concept of

‘musicking’, which is a gerund. Music here is viewed as a verb, ‘to music’, as music, like literacy, is

something that people do.

Interpretivism was the paradigm within which this research study operated. The analysis aimed to

interpret the experiences of those that participated in the investigation. The study adopted a

grounded approach (Charmaz, 2017) whereby the theorising was led by the data collection and

analysis. The investigation began by exploring children’s experiences of making music at a

prehistoric site, because previous research seemed to show that these sites had provided the children

with rich music-making opportunities. Subsequent research and data analysis indicated that it was

the outdoor rural nature of the location, rather than its prehistoric connection, that was having a

significant impact on the children’s experiences (Adams and Beauchamp, 2018). Therefore, further

data collection focussed on children’s experiences in outdoor rural locations rather than at

prehistoric sites.

Analysis of the data revealed that the children experienced a heightened connectivity to nature

while making music in the outdoor rural environment. Their music-making in these environments

had also created a sense of freedom; a heightened sensual experience; and had enabled an

augmented ‘life of feeling’, an affective and imaginative experience. These three categories

(freedom, senses, life of feeling) are not discrete as the data show that they overlapped. Most

significantly, the data consistently show that these categories had allowed the children to experience

an unusual state of mind, an experience of ‘flow’ (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990) that included a liminal

(Turner, 1969) state or change in consciousness. This change in consciousness in turn had led to a

feeling of transcendence, or what could be called a peak experience (Maslow, 1970), ecstasy (Laski,

1961) or communitas (Turner, 1974). During these transcendent or optimal experiences, the

children reported feeling an increased sense of wellbeing feeling more complete, calm and

focussed. These experiences are also related to conceptions of spirituality, (Best and Kahn, 1996;

Hay and Nye, 2006; Schein, 2018) and Buber’s (1970) philosophy of dialogue.

It is hoped that the framework of music literacy provides useful insight into children’s experiences

of music-making. In addition, the findings provide evidence for the benefits of making music

outdoors in rural environments. Combining music-making with being surrounded by nature seems

to have resulted in the children feeling an enhanced sense of interrelatedness with nature and having

optimal experiences. The analysis suggests that these optimal experiences are akin to what might be

described as spiritual moments (Schein, 2018). These findings could be of significance for

increased understanding of children’s spiritual development and the impact music-making can have

on children’s holistic development and wellbeing.



  • School of Education and Social Policy

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD

Publication year


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