Patterns and consequences of gender interactions in instrumental music lessons

  • Victoria Rowe

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This mixed methods study investigates an aspect of learning which is often overlooked: that of gender interaction in one-to-one instrumental music lessons. The gender of teacher and pupil may contribute to differences in behaviour and expectations, which could impact upon teaching and learning processes and outcomes. The study asks the following questions: ‘Do instrumental teachers and pupils hold gendered beliefs about each other and about their lessons, and if so, how do these beliefs affect their interactions, and what might be the consequences for learning?’

Three linked studies - a teachers’ and pupils’ questionnaire study, a lesson observation study, and an interview study - were conducted to offer different perspectives on these research questions. The questionnaire studies found that participants held several stereotypical expectations. Teachers believed that girls were more conscientious than boys; pupils believed that male teachers were more ‘likely to set challenges’ than female teachers, who were more likely to be characterised as ‘patient’. The observation study found many similarities in the ways men and women interacted with boys and girls. Some important variations were identified, however, including the findings that during lessons male teachers were likely to play their instruments more frequently than female teachers, and that boy pupils were less likely than girls to look at their teacher's face. In the interview study, teachers and pupils offered background information and opinions which helped to contextualise the earlier findings. A ‘good’ relationship was seen by all participants as a key factor for successful teaching and learning, but this was defined in different ways. Men and boys were most concerned with the technicalities of playing the instrument well. Women and girls, while valuing skill, also maintained the importance of more affective issues, such as mood, personal likes and dislikes.

As well as contributing to educational psychology by exploring an under-researched area, the findings will be of practical use to instrumental teachers and to conservatoires, universities and teacher educators in general education. Awareness of gender issues, and particularly of the need to avoid stereotypical expectations, will help teachers to provide equity for pupils, in order that all can achieve their potential.
Date of Award2008
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDavid Hargreaves (Supervisor)

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