What are they learning? - exploring the tensions and complexities in a learner-centred approach to early childhood music education

Huhtinen-Hildén, L. and Pitt, J. (2017) What are they learning? - exploring the tensions and complexities in a learner-centred approach to early childhood music education. In: Conference of the European Network of Music Educators and Researchers of Young Children 2017, 20-24 June 2017, Cambridge, UK.


There is a need to understand and interpret early childhood education approaches for music learning situations. The shift towards a more learner-centred paradigm poses questions for reflection. This presentation seeks to explore terminology and concepts about learning and music education in early childhood. The aim is to give an overview of this broad topic and to offer a focus for further analysis. The presentation unpicks the pedagogue’s and the learner’s positioning along a continuum from a teacher-centred to a learner-centred approach (see van Langenhove, & Harre ́, 1999). Questions that have guided our dialogue with the literature: What are the tensions, complexities and dilemmas inherent in following the child’s lead in a group music situation? What are the ways in which children’s musical initiatives can be included and valued in a group learning process? Is there a place for pedagogue-led elements in learner-centred music learning? One-to-one following of a child’s musical initiatives may be easier to understand and incorporate into practice than adopting child-led ideas in a group-learning situation. If we conceive of the group learning process as collaborative the dialogue and the initiatives, the power and contributions are shared and negotiated within the community of practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998). The pedagogue facilitates the process by drawing together the threads and ideas to shape the artistic shared moment. Issues of the location of power, authority, control, knowledge and creativity in early childhood music education as well as questions about the characteristics of quality music teaching in this situation will be discussed in the presentation. Our findings include some key issues about how to develop and define quality music practice; assessment of learning and pedagogical attributes in early childhood music education. We hope that the discussions will raise more questions to further the contribution to knowledge that is needed in our sector.

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