Empowering music teachers to teach composition skills through the use of music technology
: a study of post-primary music teachers in Northern Ireland

  • Paul McQueen

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis seeks to understand the current state of post-primary music education in Northern Ireland (N.I.), with a particular focus on pedagogical attitudes and practice towards the use of ICT for teaching composition. Following a baseline audit survey of post-primary music teachers across N.I., a curriculum intervention in the form of a Composing Toolkit was designed to address some of the issues raised and proffer alternative approaches to support teachers in their use of ICT for teaching music composition. The impetus for the thesis came from the need to identify and fuse the strengths of both traditional and progressive approaches to composing and empower practitioners towards methods and outcomes that are creative and support effective pupil learning. The Toolkit was framed within a pedagogical model for teaching composition, whilst change theory provided a scaffold to consider optimum conditions for implementation and sustainability. Trials of
the Toolkit were affected by two major school lockdowns in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but in-depth interviews with participating teachers and a pre-intervention pupil survey provided qualitative and quantitative data to inform the growth and development of the Toolkit, and to triangulate the findings of the initial baseline audit.

A key theme throughout the research was the effect of various stimulators and inhibitors to effective teaching, including ubiquitous issues like resourcing, timetabling, and class sizes. The absence of subject-specific inspections since the implementation of the N.I. Curriculum in 2007, no meaningful CPD for music teachers since 2008, ambiguity over curriculum content, and the influence of formal assessment procedures for composition coursework in high-stakes public examinations, are also shown to be major contributors to the existing state of affairs. Despite high levels of professionalism from teachers and commitment to pupils’ learning in all schools involved in this project, an unanticipated outcome emerged in school music departments, indicating a value system that not only devalues composing in the classroom, but challenges the statutory position of the Northern Ireland Curriculum. This is the first research to examine and report on post-primary classroom pedagogy in relation to composing and the use of ICT since the implementation of the present N.I Curriculum in 2007. The findings are expected to be of value to teachers, teacher educators, and stakeholders
responsible for the NI Music curriculum and assessment, in N.I. and further afield, as well as for researchers working in the area of the philosophy and praxis of music education in schools.
Date of AwardAug 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorFrank Lyons (Supervisor), Jessica Bates (Supervisor) & Alan Mc Cully (Supervisor)


  • Composing
  • Creative
  • Creativity
  • Progressive
  • Curriculum
  • High school
  • Key stage 3
  • Key stage 4
  • ICT
  • Information and communication technology
  • Pedagogy
  • Audit
  • Toolkit

Cite this