University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Pedagogy, Language, Arts & Culture in Education (PLACE) Group Seminars > A bridge between music education and sustainable development: An investigation of music-based ESD practices at Key Stage 3 in England

A bridge between music education and sustainable development: An investigation of music-based ESD practices at Key Stage 3 in England

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‘Education’ is widely regarded as the primary agent of transformation towards ‘sustainable development (SD). In England, ‘Education for Sustainable Development’ (ESD) has been an established part of the National Curriculum, but in secondary schools, the subject of music, which seems to have great potential for helping in creating interest and awareness of SD to foster responsible behaviours, appears more often to be ignored. There is a growing enthusiasm for, and anecdotal recognition of, the benefits of using music in the teaching of SD issues to young people amongst educators and musicians. However, no in-depth ESD empirical research with regard to music education currently exists. To this end, the research, which examines the pedagogical potential of music in ESD and the role of music as a learning medium in the development of students’ capacities necessary for a more sustainable future, fills this research gap.

An ethnographical intervention, informed by constructionist and symbolic interactionist approaches, is employed in this research. Sets of music-SD lessons in the lower stages of four secondary schools in London boroughs were analysed as case studies of how SD might be taught in music classrooms. The findings demonstrated that the issues of SD could be effectively brought into music lessons in different ways without affecting the achievement of KS3 music curriculum objectives: listening and appraising, composing and performing. Moreover, for some students, compared with the traditional subjects for ESD , such as geography and science, the particular ways of learning SD within the musical context seemingly resulted in their higher level of enthusiastic, active, participative, affective and transformative learning, and thus positively affected the achievement of the outcomes of ESD , which was manifested in the development of their SD-related understandings, skills, attitudes and potential behaviours.

Yusi Cheng is a PhD student at Centre for Human Geography, Brunel University, and also a secondary school music teacher in China. Her research interests are mainly in the field of music education, which she has been engaged in for more than five years, and in the field of ESD (Education for Sustainable Development). She is very interested in investigating the relationship between music education and sustainable development, and has carried out some relevant evidence-based research in both China and England’s secondary schools since 2009.

This talk is part of the Pedagogy, Language, Arts & Culture in Education (PLACE) Group Seminars series.

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