Name: Kirsty Devaney
Role at BCU: Graduate Teaching and Research Assistant in Education. I teach on the Early Years and Primary PGCE courses helping teachers include music into their classrooms. I also lecture and run projects at Birmingham Conservatoire and teach composition and theory at Birmingham Conservatoire Junior Department.
- Music Education – composing in classrooms
- Creativities in education and school
- The creative & composing processes
- Assessment of creativity
- Technology in music education
Research you are currently working on: I am mainly working on my PhD investigating composing in upper secondary schools at examination level. I am looking at how the assessment of composing impacts the teaching and learning of composing in the classroom.
Other research includes a composing project with BCU, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG) and Sound and Music. My role was assisting with the action research that secondary music teachers were doing with their students. I have also been involved in London scheme ‘Teach Through Music’ conducting interviews for the research on behalf of my supervisor.
I run a number of education projects at Birmingham Conservatoire and always include an element of action research. I am now planning a collaborative cross-disciplinary research project looking at composing and creative writing working working with Amanda French and Becky Snape.
Research methodologies you are using: For my PhD I am using a mixed methods approach collecting qualitative and quantitative data through:
- Two online surveys (KS4 & 5)
- Follow-up telephone interviews
- Five case studies
- Semi-structured interviews with music teacher
- Focus Group interviews with students (KS4 & 5)
- Classroom Observations
- Semi-structure interviews with ‘composer-educators’
I have taken a grounded theory approach to my research and each stage of the data collection informs the next.
Current issues, thoughts and reflections on education & research: With the introduction of the Ebacc music in education in under threat. Many teachers I work with regularly have said they have already seen an impact on what subjects students are deciding to take, with the more ‘academic’ students being pressured even more into taking not just the Ebacc subjects, but doubling up (e.g. 2 languages). This is leaving very little space for students to take other subjects such as music, art or drama. I worry that numbers will start to fall dramatically and that schools will pull GCSE, BTEC and A-Level music along with other subject. My little sister (currently in year 8) is starting to plan her GCSE options and she wants to do art, music, drama and textiles – why is this set of subjects seen as ‘inferior’ and why should her enjoyment of school, and potential future be decided by someone else who think they know what is best for her?
I also worry that exams are becoming more about ‘assessing what is easily assessable’ rather than assessing what is important. Teachers and students become very aware how to ‘play the game’, and ‘tick the boxes’ for the exams but this wastes time for students to be musicians, composers and having a meaningful musical experience. Teachers are under intense pressure to ‘achieve’ and get high grades with these exams – if they don’t the future of their students, their careers and music in the school is at risk.
Most influential research you have read/seen: Legg, R. (2012) Bach, Beethoven, Bourdieu: ‘Cultural capital’ and the scholastic canon in England’s A-level. The Curriculum Journal 23(2):157-172
Having been struggling with how Bourdieu’s concepts on ‘cultural capital’ & ‘social mobility’ relate to my own research, this article really helped me reflect on the data I have been collecting and how it links to wider social issues.
Advice for new researchers: I studied as a composer for 4 years and wrote more music than I did words; so coming to do a PhD terrified me! What I have come to realise that my background in composing has really helped my research and that is a strength not a weakness. Find your own strengths and don’t compare yourself to others around you. The more I talk to people the more I realise everyone gets ‘imposter syndrome’ at some point.
For me the PhD is about tracking how your own thinking has developed and grown over the years. It changes the way you view the world and how you make connections through everyday events.
Mini fact about you: I have a phobia of red jelly!