Understanding the development of professional identity in instrumental teachers

PhD Thesis

Boyle, K. 2018. Understanding the development of professional identity in instrumental teachers. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Faculty of Education
AuthorsBoyle, K.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameEdD

This study provides new insights concerning the development of professional identity in instrumental teachers working in a range of professional contexts in the UK. The analysis shows the extent to which musicians are embedded in the culture of instrumental music education, suggesting that aspects of the field, including high levels of autonomy, are more closely related to professional identity than notions of hierarchy and status. The understandings of instrumental teachers’ lives and identities revealed in this research could be used to inform and enhance existing approaches to careers in music and contribute to career preparation in undergraduate music students.

Using an explanatory sequential research design to combine data from a national survey of instrumental teachers with findings from individual case study interviews and one focus group, the research prioritises the lived experience of participants in generating understanding of professional lives and identities in this context. An analysis using Bourdieu’s notions of habitus, field and capital examines the ways in which individuals negotiate the field of instrumental music education, revealing a complex and nuanced approach to professional identity developed through practical experience in this context.

Instrumental teaching in the UK is characterised by a lack of regulation and curriculum, where individuals are able to teach with no training or qualification (Swanwick 1994, Woodford 2002). The literature suggests conflict in instrumental teacher identity where individuals prefer to identify as musicians or performers rather than teachers, attributing these choices to the lower professional status of instrumental teaching in the hierarchy of professional roles in music (Mills 2004b, Roberts 2007). This research however suggests that expressions of identity in this context relate to specific meanings associated with the role and identity of professional musician for individuals involved in portfolio careers involving teaching and highlights the need to revise existing notions of the professional musician to acknowledge contemporary careers in music.

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Publication process dates
Deposited11 Sep 2018
Output statusUnpublished
Accepted author manuscript
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