A comparative study of school music between Central New Jersey U.S.A. and South East England
The aim of this study is to determine what similarities and differences exist between the provision, organisation and implementation of school music (years 7-9, grades 6-8) in Central New Jersey, U.S.A. and South East England. In addition two contingent questions address issues with respect to possible differences in the kind of musical activities experienced by students in general/class music lessons and the quality of those experiences. Comparative methods were reviewed and a research framework devised which enabled a systematic comparison of both national aspects of each country's music education curricula as well as the actuality of music classrooms. Prior to fieldwork, a review of documentary evidence relating to the development of music curricula in both America and England since 1900 took place. Comparative themes emerged as a result of this review and an appropriate context was set for subsequent fieldwork. A comprehensive survey form was designed for initial data collection. Analysis of survey data was followed by visits to selected schools from both samples. Observations of music lessons and interviews with teachers and students generated qualitative data enabling both new themes to emerge and an opportunity for triangulation of data. Swanwick's curriculum framework based on 'layers of musical understanding' was used to address issues of quality. Findings show that there are significant differences between the two systems in terms of provision, resources and organisation with resultant differences in the classroom musical experience of the students. Practical activity, especially composing, was more frequently observed in general/classroom music lessons in South East England. The quality of students' experiences was variable and there was a tendency for students and teachers in both countries to work at the `materials' layer of musical understanding. In contrast to South East England, evidence suggests there is considerable variation in the provision of general/class music for students in Central New Jersey.