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  • Writer's picturemartinthomasemo

PHD is published!

Updated: Mar 1

Five years of research is now published and available for anyone to read!

Last week I uploaded a PDF of my 70,000 word thesis to the library. Of course that is quite a lot of words, but if you're interested, have a read of chapters 1 and 2 for the background, and then 7 and 8 for the findings and conclusion.

I do have plans to slice and rewrite parts of this thesis for publications, and also perhaps some videos.

The abstract of my thesis is below. (An abstract is basically like a movie trailer, except you include all the spoilers, and everything that happens!)

If you read it, I'd like to hear what you found interesting, and perhaps how I could work with you in your context.


In the last 30 years, digital technology has changed music making. These changes have been studied in the context of music education. The majority of the research predates the major technological shifts that have occurred in the last five years (e.g. browser-based Digital Audio Workstations) and the impact of online teaching through the Covid-19 pandemic. Studies have focused on the relationships between teacher beliefs at the introductory or integration phase of digital technology. It has not been determined how secondary school classroom music teachers in New Zealand conceptualize music education in light of the country's unique curriculum and assessment framework. Neither is there any recent empirical research internationally that provides insights into the relationship and influence of teacher beliefs with their experience and practice of digital technologies in the classroom. Additionally, previous empirical studies with digital technology have been limited by being narrow in their sample size, only sampling advanced users of digital technology or with pre-service teachers.

This thesis explores the landscape of music education in the digital age, focusing on the examining of the experience, practices, and beliefs of secondary school music teachers in New Zealand with the goal of attaining the essence of their experience as a combined cohort. The methodological approach uses a transcendental phenomenology lens, drawing on Husserlian phenomenology. The two-part mixed methods study includes the administering of a new Music Education Digital Technology (MEDT) survey tool nationwide to an estimated 40% of the secondary school music teaching cohort followed by six case studies. The research outcomes reveal three key findings that contribute to the understanding of the experience of secondary school music teachers with digital technology into music education.

The first research outcome highlights that the participating teachers are praxicalists, the most recent iteration of the education theory of praxialism, as developed by Regelski. Contrary to expectations of curriculum incoherence, the findings illustrate a coherent approach through the interconnected pillars of praxicalism, namely techné, poiesis, phronēsis, and theoria. The study identifies the flexibility of the national curriculum (NZC) and assessment framework (NCEA) in New Zealand in providing autonomy for teachers in their curriculum decisions.

The second research outcome emphasizes how the classroom reflects current music praxis. In making their curriculum decisions, the music teachers strive to incorporate a pluralistic approach to what music genres are included, challenging the dichotomy between Western Art Music (WAM) and popular/contemporary or electronic music that is present in previous studies. Within the context of how genres are included, the study reveals that teachers are informed by how musicians create music, and seek to primarily draw from students' experiences, minimizing the boundary between in-school and out-of-school music. This approach addresses the longstanding problem of a mismatch between school music and external music praxis. Additionally, the study highlights the significance of recognizing students as already knowledgeable contributors to music praxes outside the classroom.

The third research outcome identifies teachers as teaching experts rather than knowledge or digital technology experts. The participating teachers, despite lacking expertise in specific musical genres or digital technology, confidently integrate diverse music praxes into their curricula. The interaction between techné and phronesis underpins their decision-making, enabling a student-centred curriculum design.

Overarching across these three outcomes, is how digital technology is infused in music, and this requires a different way of thinking about music education. The identification of infusion of digital technology in music making is a major finding not currently present in the empirical research internationally.

The study proposes six areas for future research, including future use of the MEDT survey tool in New Zealand and overseas, exploration of the impact of ongoing curriculum and assessment changes, investigation into teachers' perceptions of negative effects of digital technology, examination of the relationship between self-efficacy and mindset, consideration of students' perspectives, and a global perspective on the study findings.

While acknowledging limitations such as a small sample size and geographical context, this study has implications for both music teachers and policymakers. It advocates for a student-centred approach, emphasizing the importance of strong curriculum-making skills and maintaining trust and autonomy for teachers in the digital age. The study's implications extend beyond New Zealand, offering insights for policymakers in other nations undergoing curriculum and assessment revisions.

Read the full thesis on this link

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