Exploring Approaches to Teaching Music History at University

  • Nikoletta Polydorou

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Music history is a core requirement for most undergraduate music degrees. The purpose of this study is to investigate the status of music history teaching in music degrees in Higher Education (HE) in four different countries (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Greece and England). It also aims to evaluate a new music history teaching model that was developed for a university in Cyprus. The new model consists of approaches focused on a student-centred learning method that introduces the use of primary sources and cooperative learning.

Three studies were conducted: a qualitative study (Study 1), a mixed methods study (Study 2) and a qualitative evaluation study (Study 3). In Study 1, music history teachers (N=6) were recruited from universities in Cyprus. Study 1 employed Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) using the data from semi-structured interviews. In Study 2, music history teachers (N=11) were recruited from the Czech Republic, Greece and England to participate in a qualitative study, and their thinking was compared to a further sample of undergraduate music students (N=86) who were recruited from the Czech Republic, Greece and England. Study 3 designed and tested an intervention in Cyprus evaluating a new approach to teaching music history. The study was evaluated through a pre-test and a post-test questionnaire. Engeström’s cultural-historical activity theory was used to analyse the findings of all three studies.

Results revealed that the most frequent teaching approaches used in music history courses are lectures, the use of audio and audiovisual materials and discussion. While teachers from the Czech Republic, Greece and Cyprus use a teacher-centred learning approach, most teachers from England apply student-centred learning approaches to music history courses.

Students from the participating countries generally perceive music history as having relatively little value and they are not satisfied with the existing teaching approaches. A number of them further question traditional approaches to teaching music history. Upon completion of the qualitative evaluation study in Cyprus, students gained a more positive opinion of music history and approved of the new teaching approaches that were used.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorAdam Ockelford (Supervisor) & David Hargreaves (Supervisor)

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