British Journal of Music Education

Research Article

Storying music and the arts education: the generalist teacher voice

Susanne Garvisa1 c1 and Donna Pendergasta2

a1 University of Queensland, School of Music, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia

a2 Griffith University, School of Education and Professional Studies, Mt Gravatt, Queensland, Australia


For students in Years 1–10 in Queensland, Australia, The Arts (hereafter referred to as ‘arts’) is one of eight Key Learning Areas in the core curriculum. Yet, while arts – comprising five strands including music – is a mandatory component of the curriculum, implementation varies widely. This occurs for a range of reasons, one of which is the common practice that generalist teachers are allocated delivery of the arts programme in their teaching load. Furthermore, research reveals that music and the arts are frequently considered to be the ‘frills subject’ in a school's timetable, often the first to be removed from the timetable when time is short and the first to feel the impact of budget cuts, including the engagement of specialist arts educators (Russell-Bowie, 2004). This study highlights the gap between policy rhetoric for music and the arts and the pedagogical reality in generalist classrooms. Using a narrative informed case study methodology, a story constellation derived from a beginning generalist teacher and a school principal is revealed. The discussion which follows provides a focus, through the generation of key values statements derived from the data, on the tensions this beginning teacher has experienced in his practice as a teacher responsible for teaching music and the arts, juxtaposed with a similar narrative of the school principal.

(Online publication February 21 2012)


c1 Corresponding author: Susanne Garvis

Susanne Garvis recently completed her PhD in the School of Music at the University of Queensland. Her PhD explored generalist teachers’ self-efficacy for arts education. She has previously worked as a teacher in primary and secondary schools throughout Queensland.

Donna Pendergast is Head and Dean of the School of Education, Griffith University. Donna has conducted a number of national research projects of significance including ‘Beyond the Middle’, which investigated literacy and numeracy in middle schooling; and ‘Lifelong Learning and Middle Schooling’. She has completed an evaluation of the Education Queensland Virtual Schooling Service and is often employed as a consultant to review school reform initiatives.