The Quality of Teaching in Years 4 and 8: Music (October 2004)

Design and implementation of the curriculum and learning programmes

A well-designed and well-implemented curriculum and learning programme is likely to enhance student engagement and achievement. Music programmes contribute to students’ development of music literacy, [17] one of the aims of The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum. Music literacy involves the ability to communicate and interpret meaning within the music discipline and involves the development of knowledge and skills relating to styles, genres, technologies and musical structures. The other aims of The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum focus on assisting students to participate in and develop a lifelong interest in the arts; and to broaden understanding of and involvement in the arts in New Zealand. [18]

School organisation for teaching music

There is considerable variation in the way in which schools schedule the teaching of music. For most students, the music programme is scheduled at regular times throughout the year, usually weekly or fortnightly. Several schools said they schedule intensive music sessions at certain times of the year. The amount of time spent teaching music varied considerably from over an hour each week to virtually nothing.

Classroom teachers and specialist teachers of music provide learning programmes in the music discipline. The specialist teachers may be teachers with specific qualifications and training in music or teachers identified as having particular skills in music. In 72 percent of the schools, at the Year 4 or Year 8 level, the classroom teacher was responsible for the music programme. Over a third of the schools reported that they employed at least one specialist to teach or assist with the teaching of music. Specialist teachers were more likely to be employed in intermediate, composite or secondary (Year 7 to 15) schools.

Over two thirds of the schools stated that there were other staff or volunteers regularly involved in teaching music. In some schools volunteers, parents, whānau or community members taught instruments or singing or led kapa haka groups. Some parents were also involved in aspects of music events such as school productions. A few schools paid itinerant teachers of music or instrumental tutors.

Overall effectiveness of the design and implementation of learning programmes

ERO reviewed aspects of curriculum design and implementation that contribute to high quality teaching, based on ERO’s Evaluation Indicators for Education Reviews in Schools. The key areas reported on in this section are school-wide support for learning programmes, classroom planning and planning to meet the needs of individual students. An overall judgement was made on the effectiveness of learning programmes in music based on a consideration of these aspects of curriculum design and implementation and any other aspects of curriculum design and implementation that could impact on the quality of teaching for music.

Figure 1 shows how effective schools have been in developing learning programmes that enhance student achievement. Nearly two thirds (65 percent) of all schools in the sample were “effective” or “highly effective” in implementing the curriculum and learning programmes in music programmes. Another 20 percent of schools were “sometimes effective” and 15 percent of schools were “not effective” in their implementation of the curriculum and design of learning programmes.

Figure 1. Effectiveness of the design and implementation of music programmes

Fig 1 - QT Music

Sequence and progression of learning programmes

ERO evaluated school-wide programmes to determine how effectively these supported teachers in providing programmes with appropriate sequences and progression over the years of learning. Students’ learning is likely to be more relevant, in-depth and meaningful when a school’s programme has greater coherence. [19] Twenty-one percent of the schools had developed comprehensive guidelines for the teaching of music. All of these schools were able to demonstrate clear links between The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum and their planning process. In some cases, the guidelines had been developed after consultation with the wider school community.

Effective guidelines made provision for ongoing development and increasingly complex learning as students progressed through the school. In many cases teachers had incorporated the revision and extension of previously addressed skills into the curriculum plans. In most schools the guidelines had been developed by the teachers, sometimes directed by teachers with music expertise or with input from regional advisors as part of the professional development assistance provided in six regions by the Ministry of Education since 2001. [20] Some schools had purchased commercially produced programmes and modified them to incorporate the needs and aspirations of students and the wider school community.

In 56 percent of schools the school guidelines for music were less useful. Some of these schools were in the process of reviewing the music guidelines, some working with regional music advisors. In some cases teachers had developed individual units of work, often based on available resources, but there were no clear links between units or evidence of sequential progression. ERO also found variation within schools where some syndicates, working in isolation, had developed guidelines for music but the school-wide planning was not coherent or progressive. In some cases, sequential guidelines had been developed for aspects of the music programme, for example, singing or learning to play the recorder. These programmes did not closely reflect the strands and progressions of The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum.

The remaining 23 percent of the schools did not have guidelines in place that supported teachers in providing learning programmes with appropriate sequences and coherent progressions over the years. In many of these schools, individual class teachers were providing students with learning experiences in music but the lessons were not linked to previous learning or built on in subsequent years. Some schools said they planned to revise the guidelines in the near future.

In a few cases, students’ music instruction was limited to whole-school singing. These programmes did not give students opportunities for success in the achievement objectives of the four strands of The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum. One school had guidelines that were being used by all but the Year 8 teacher who was not following the school plan and had not taught any music during the year.

Classroom planning using The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum

In the most effective music learning programmes teachers’ plans were based on
The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum and provided students with learning opportunities in each of the four strands. When teachers’ planning at the classroom level was examined, 28 percent had clear links to the music discipline in The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum. Through incorporating the four strands of the curriculum teachers were able to plan a range of rich learning opportunities for students.

For over half the teachers (54 percent), classroom planning covered only some aspects of the national curriculum statement. In many of these cases, while the planning indicated interesting activities, they were not clearly linked to the strands and levels of The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum. Some programmes were strongly
skills-based, giving students opportunities to develop practical knowledge in music but few opportunities to meet the achievement objectives of the other three strands. In other cases although the achievement objectives from the curriculum statement were written into the teachers’ plans, the developed specific learning outcomes were not closely tied to the achievement objectives.

For 17 percent of the teachers, classroom planning was not linked to the national curriculum statement. In these cases, planning tended to be focused on content to be covered or based on the use of available resources. Students had limited opportunities to revisit and build on existing skills, knowledge and understanding or to reinforce important skills and concepts.

In a few cases the teachers had not prepared written plans for their music teaching. There was no evidence in these cases of how teachers were helping students to make progress in learning music.

Integrating music with other subject areas

Many teachers integrate some teaching of music with other essential learning areas. When good practice was observed, students’ learning opportunities were significantly enhanced through learning experiences that made appropriate and meaningful links between the learning areas. Units of work were carefully planned to ensure that students had opportunities to meet the achievement objectives of music as well as those of other essential learning areas. [21] At other times, it appeared that the achievement objectives for music were ‘lost’ in the integration process.

Planning to meet the identified needs of students

Only 13 percent of teachers were planning music programmes that addressed the identified learning needs of students. In these classes the teachers provided multilevel programmes for their classes. They assessed individual students’ progress and determined their next learning steps. Some teachers adapted the planned programme after pre-testing the students in their class.

Forty-one percent of teachers occasionally adjusted their lesson planning or aspects of their planning to meet the identified learning needs of their students. Some teachers used diagnostic assessment tools for aspects of the programme, for example singing or playing instruments, and organised different activities according to the students’ demonstrated ability. In other cases the teacher planned activities at one level for the whole class and, by observing students during the lessons, tried to address any problems as they arose. Decisions to adjust the music lessons were based on the teacher’s perceptions rather than evidence of student achievement or understanding. One teacher said that they planned learning activities at Level 2 of The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum for their Year 4 class but chose students with special talents in music or who received private tuition out of school to be leaders of group activities. Other teachers used special events such as choosing music to accompany a wearable arts show as opportunities to extend students with special talents in music.

For 27 percent of teachers there was little match between planned learning outcomes and the needs of their students. In some cases, teachers had planned activities that were graded in difficulty for groups of students but had not assigned students to the groups according to identified abilities and needs. One teacher reported that they planned at Level 2 of The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum but if they thought students were struggling with the activity they would change the activity for the whole class.

Some schools provided special opportunities for students identified as being gifted or talented in music. These students were usually given the opportunity for some extension work in music separate from the rest of their class. In this way, teachers were able to plan to meet the needs of a small number of students. However, in some cases there was no evidence that the specific learning needs of students in the class who did not participate in the extra activities were being identified and addressed.

For the remaining 20 percent of the sample there was no evidence of a match between learning outcomes and the identified needs of students. In many of these cases, the teachers were not gathering any information on their students’ learning needs, abilities or interests. The planned programmes were based on activities that the teachers thought students would enjoy. In other cases the teaching of music was limited to a few activities such as class singing or singing at the school assembly.


See The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum , p.10


See The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum , p.12


See The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum , p.90


Curriculum Update Issue 49, February 2002


See The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum , p.94

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