Narratives of women music teachers in Northern Ireland: beyond identity
Burgess, Frances Anne
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This study examined the narratives of three women music teachers’ professional practice, drawing on the research question: Through examining processes of subjectification: (a) How do mid-career women music teachers construct narratives of their professional and musical practice? (b) What are the implications for women music teachers’ professional and musical sustenance? Participants Hayley, Becky and Lynne, all with 12 years teaching experience, told stories of diverse musical participation within and beyond their schools and within a range of social groups and institutional settings. Taking a post-structural feminist theoretical perspective, these narratives were viewed as 'technologies of the female self' (Foucault, 1988; Tamboukou, 2008, 2010). The research question was shaped and answered through the concept of subjectifcation and considered how these women constructed a portrait of ‘self-in-practice.’ This questioned how they fashioned their personal pedagogical approach, how they created and projected a music departmental identity within the school, and how they conceptualised their musical and teaching selves. Data collection took place over a seven-month engagement with three participants and involved: a narrative/biographical interview; the compilation of a ‘memory box’ in which participants gathered artefacts related to the theme, ‘My music, my teaching’; and a follow-up conversational interview. In the final interview participants presented their artefacts and told stories related to their gendered experiences in music and teaching. Narratives showed the ‘woman music teacher’ is a site of struggle, where material roles within different discursive fields such as the home, the community as well as the school, pulled at other subjectivities. Through an analysis of processes of gendered subjectification, these women music teachers presented a complex narrative of their professional lives, within discursive fields of competing and complementary institutional discourses. While individually teachers conceptualised their musical and teaching subjectivities in personal, biographically-shaped ways, collectively they used similar discursive strategies to create a music subject department identity. They all told stories of their practice sustained by moments of ‘musical space’ and enabling others. Extra-curricular music provided valued moments of musical and aesthetic gratification and professional autonomy, functioning as a way to project the standing of the music subject department in the school and the local community, but this also added to an already burdensome workload. The education system in Northern Ireland is undergoing a prolonged yet stilted process of reform, and with the increase in the collaborative sharing of curriculum with other schools, it is likely that in the future secondary music teachers will be teaching in very different circumstances. This may be particularly challenging for established music teachers who have worked to create musical worlds in their subject departments drawing on personal and affective biographical resources. It is suggested that identity work with teachers’ narrative understandings of their self-in-practice, as a form of professional development, may allow space for teachers to imagine and negotiate alternative personal/professional identities, values and beliefs within new managerial and collaborative structures.
EdD in Education