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Phase 1 of Listen Imagine Compose comprised a series of symposia and six action research questions that look at six key questions relating to teaching and learning composition in secondary schools.

These were:

  1. What pedagogical strategies are there for creative learning in music?
  2. What processes for evaluating pupil work can be adopted to give constructive feedback and encourage peer review?
  3. What is the role of listening and reflection in the creative process?
  4. How do you introduce music to young people that they don’t already know about and make it relevant to their learning – exploring values and context of contemporary art?
  5. How can performers and composers best be used as a resource in the classroom?
  6. How can ICT in the classroom encourage the use of creative and experimental thinking?

Each project team consisted of an experienced teacher, a composer and a music education researcher.

The key findings were:

  • Teachers and composers have different skills and can learn from each other: When they collaborate with composers teachers change the way they present material, whilst composers also develop their skills as educators.  As a result of Listen Imagine Compose resources have been developed for both teachers and composers in order to enhance their approach when working alone.
  • Composing is a process that is also developmental: Pupils progress when composing on a regular basis.  To be successful teachers should consider organising more in-depth composing projects that take place over a longer time-period.  Whilst final performances may have a role they should not become the sole focus of a project as this can skew learning.
  • Composing entails higher order thinking skills: There is now clear evidence showing the ways in which learning to compose develops higher order thinking skills. These are essential for pupils’ cognitive development and are transferable across the curriculum, into the workforce and are a “skill for life” valued highly by the senior management of schools.
  • Exploring unfamiliar and challenging music is vital: The Listen Imagine Compose report concurs with Ofsted’s statement in its November 2013 report that “performance and enjoyment are not enough”.  The Listen Imagine Compose report urges teachers: “Do not shy away from challenging music: Pupils might know what they like, but they also like what they know.  If they do not know it, they cannot like it – yet!”

The Listen Imagine Compose research teams were:

Composers: Kerry Andrew, Duncan Chapman, David Horne, Tim Steiner, Fraser Trainer, Jackie Walduck.

Music education researchers: Pam Burnard and John Finney (Cambridge University), Pauline Adams (Institute of Education), Jonathan Savage (Manchester Metropolitan University), Martin Fautley (Birmingham City University).

Teachers: Lizzie Hastings (Sir John Lawes School, Harpenden), Nick Heppel (King Edward VI, Birmingham), Jenetta Hurst (Hamstead Hall, Birmingham), Paul Jones (St Marylebone School, London), Phil Kennedy (Fallibroome Academy, Macclesfield), Bex Lewis (Parkside Federation, Cambridge).

Critical Friends: Robert Bunting (ex-music adviser for Birmingham City Council), Bruce Cole (Chief Examiner, Edexel), Kevin Rogers (Hampshire County Music Service), Alison Cox (Purcell School of Music), David Ashworth (music education consultant).

This phase of the project was funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and was a partnership project between Sound and Music and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group with Birmingham City University as the lead academic partner.

Download the report

“New strategies and approaches to teaching composition in the classroom. Having time to reflect on the impact of what you do and the impact”

Teacher from the CPD pilot