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Research Shorts: Anita Holford’s commitment to music education research

21st February 2024

Anita is stood looking at the camera and smiling. She has long brown hair, she is wearing a dark pink top and cardigan.

Anita Holford

In this week’s Research Shorts, I’m celebrating the work of Anita Holford, who has been running and sharing a library of music education research for the last ten years at Music Education Works. This is a huge achievement, and the repository of articles and information is a great resource for the sector.

Anita explained to me more about her work with the site: ‘the website collects, summarises and shares evidence of the impact of music education – along with news and reports from the UK and around the world.’

I asked her why she started her project, what was the impetus for the website? ‘I had become fascinated by research about the impact of music education: particularly as developments in neuroscience were allowing us to learn about it in greater depth and with greater precision.’ She was aware though that this research was not always reaching who it needed to: ‘I realised that there was a communication gap. Academics carrying out research weren’t reaching professionals in the sector; and the professionals I worked with didn’t know where to find relevant research.’

So Anita’s website began bridging this gap – with a focus on making research searchable and usable, and making the limitations and focus of each study clear: ‘I included a table on each post listing the target group, age, type of music, type of study, numbers involved, period of study, date, place, and benefits.’

I asked Anita how the website had developed: ‘My husband and business partner now helps with the site and as it’s a labour of love, we don’t have the capacity to explore each item in a journalistic way. We’d like to question researchers further, to make the research easier to understand. Often there’s a lot that’s left unanswered. And sometimes the language that researchers use can be academic and difficult to understand.’

Anita cautions the use of pieces of music research without unpicking the contexts of each study: ‘As a sector, we’ve often claimed things for music education that actually only relate to specific conditions (type of learning, time invested etc). And neuromyths abound, propagated by poor journalism.’ She notes that the Music Education Works website recommends signing up for Anita Collins’s website, Bigger Better Brains to learn more, ‘it contains professional learning articles that unpick the latest research in greater depth, and resources to help people to advocate intelligently.’

Anita Holford  a freelance communications/marketing practitioner, copywriter and fundraiser. She specialises ‘in working with music organisations with a social or educational purpose, helping them to communicate the value and impact of what they do, break down barriers to what they do and sell their services.’

Thank you Anita for sharing your work with us, and here’s to the next decade of exploring music education research.

Interview by Dr Sarah K. Whitfield – Research Lead for Music Mark

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