The place of music in developing communities of practice among children's centre professionals

Pitt, J. (2009) The place of music in developing communities of practice among children's centre professionals. In: Conference of the European Network of Music Educators and Researchers of Young Children 2009, 22-25 July 2009, Bologna, Italy.


By 2010 there will be 3,500 Children’s Centres in England: one for every community. The “one-stop” shop approach to services offered by these Centres to families with children under five has led to many professionals working and learning together in inter-professional teams. Musical activities successfully bring families into these Centres and early childhood music is often seen as useful for the wellbeing and equipping of parents and children in ways of interacting that are fun and shared. Early secure attachment can be fostered and encouraged through these activities. The co-working of health, social work and community practitioners brings together a wealth of knowledge, skills and diverse worldviews. This can challenge notions of “lay” and “expert” knowledge [Brechin and Siddell 2000 in Rixon 2008: 222]. This paper will explore a number of learning models: Wenger’s concept of “communities of practice” [1998] where mutual engagement, joint enterprise and a shared repertoire are key dimensions to multi-agency group working and Engeström’s “Activity” Theory [2001] focusing on conflict and collisions of new and old ideas to generate new learning, and the social pedagogical approach where the arts are seen as integral media for relating with children. The transfer of musical skills such as listening, turn-taking, non-verbal responses, expressions of emotion and mood, eye contact and co-operation may be useful means not only for encouraging interactions amongst families but also in creating new ideas for team cohesion and expression. Professionals working in early childhood are taking part in inter-professional training courses and music in early childhood is often included in such professional development. Musicians are finding innovative and accessible means to transfer useful skills to a range of professionals, however there may be questions about accreditation of learning and the “quality control” of such training. How is excellence measured and against whose criteria? Conflicting worldviews at the heart of Children’s Centres can influence the focus of training offered, e.g., health models seem to prefer the scientific approach and social work models the social-constructionist paradigm.

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