Skip to content

Research Shorts: Musical agency and young pianists

7th November 2023

Gill Short, a woman is looking at the camera in a black and white photoThis week we’re chatting to a recent Masters in Education graduate, Gill Shaw, who has 20 years of experience in music education. Her recent thesis explored the experience of piano students in lessons, and how individual students understand their own musical agency. She has been working on a framework that encourages learners to be supported, in this case by using a Termly Review.

I talked to Gill about who the main focus of her work was, and she had explained she had worked with her own piano students, with additional data collected from online questionnaires, and semi-structured interviews. The review asks three questions: 1. When you look back at your piano playing this term, what made you happy and proud… and why? 2. What have you found challenging recently in your piano lessons or piano practice? How did you overcome this (or how might you do so in the future)? 3. What would you like to experience in your piano playing this term? What about this time next year? Or beyond?

In her thesis itself, Gill explains that responses are discussed with her as a teacher, and goals chosen for the term during a mentoring discussion between herself and the student, with another box for parents to contribute. She says ‘This three-way dialogue underpins planning for the term, supported by weekly lesson notes’, with information about what happened in lesson as well as a guideline for practice goals.

Gill’s key findings were around ‘the positive impact of student involvement in repertoire choice’ and noted that ‘participants prioritise exam entry, but participant perceptions of what counts as achievement were broad and varied.’ She told me that ‘there is a need for shareable teaching ideas to bring theory into practice.’ Gill calls her Termly Review structure ‘one possibly strategy’, which could ‘support the framework for others’.

You can read Gill’s work over at ResearchGate, her project was completed at the RCM. It’s great to hear more about another recent graduate, and if you’ve finished your own work please do get in touch with us. In the run up to Christmas and the holiday season it’d be great to hear more about singing – so if you have something in mind, do drop us a line.

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

autumn leaves fall behind the music mark logo, text says "research shorts"