Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy






This study investigated informal learning practices in music education as a pedagogical approach within the primary classroom setting. It aims to explore and expand knowledge in the new field of informal music pedagogy through an investigation of its application with Grade One students (ages 5-7). Using the new sociology of childhood as an analytic tool, this study examines children as agentic beings within the structure of childhood, interpreting and reproducing childhood culture. It therefore places emphasis on the importance to primary music education of providing spaces within which children can experiment with and re/create peer musical cultures.

Qualitative case-study methodology was used with two classes of Grade One students (n=35) in a Roman Catholic elementary school in Southwestern Ontario. Audio/visual data were collected and analyzed along with researcher-participant observation, teacher observation, field notes and semi-structured interviews. The researcher was a participant-observer and designed three informal learning units delivered by the teacher as part of the study. Data were collected on social and musical behaviours of children, musical skills achieved or emergent (pitch-matching, specific rhythms, etc.), and child and teacher comments on their experiences.

Findings suggest that the integration of informal learning in the Grade One music classroom inspires creativity in students and motivates independent and collaborative learning. Expectations of students and teachers are challenged, shifted and adapted as they work collaboratively with flexibility towards new goals. Harwood & Marsh (2012) have drawn significant connections between children’s playground learning and informal music learning as researched by Green (2008). Drawing on this comparison assists in bringing primary students’ musical cultures into the classroom, as Green (2008) has successfully done with adolescent musical culture. Building on childhood culture that takes place through playground and out-of-school practices may result in an innovative pedagogical approach with the potential to revolutionize how music teaching and learning is interpreted in the primary music classroom. This could possibly include an expansion of philosophical perspectives relating to music education of younger pupils and allow broader possibilities for students and teachers to engage in new pedagogies, thereby helping to redefine primary music teacher discourse and practice through informal learning approaches.