A study of inspiring Australian music teachers

Music Education Research

A study of inspiring music teachers

music teachers

What qualities do inspiring music teachers share?

Inspiring Australian Music Teachers

Jennifer Robinson has recently completed a Master of Music thesis in which she explores the qualities of inspiring Australian music teachers. The research is very timely considering the shift in education in Australia towards effective teaching and student learning, with an emphasis on the qualities of teachers and teaching which inspire learning.

In today’s schools, 21st century knowledge, understandings, skills and values must be at the heart of great teaching and inspired learning. Young people must also develop a core of academic content knowledge, see the relevance of their learning and develop a love of learning in their classrooms to be inspired to remain lifelong learners (NSW DEC, 2013, p.5).

There is limited research on inspiring music teachers or how music teachers become inspiring to their students. Many music teachers often nominate a teacher of their own who were a significant influence in their formative or high school years which led them to follow a path into music teaching. These influential and inspirational teachers are often described as having a range of attributes such as passion, dedication, enthusiasm, good classroom management, and motivating (Miksza, Roeder, & Biggs, 2010; Teachout, 1997).

Based on ethnographic data collection, Robinson (2015) selected and interviewed music teachers who are recognized as leading music educators in Australia. Furthermore, the participants were also observed teaching Stage Five and Stage 6 NSW music classes and participated in a semi-structured follow-up interview. Students in the observed lessons were also interviewed.

Common Themes

The results of the study showed inspiring teachers had a passion for music and teaching and were able to inject a thirst for knowledge into students. Inspiring teachers made connections between the teacher, students and content. Inspiring teachers stressed inclusivity of all students, allowed for reflection, had the ability to relate to students, and developed a sense of trust in the classroom allowing students to feel empowered in their learning. Many of these findings relate to specific areas of psychological research and their application to educational psychology such as mastery experiences (Bandura, 1986), flow or optimal experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990), social motivational theories such as self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) and its specific application to music classrooms (Evans & Boucher, 2015) through the provision of autonomy and choice.

“As a teacher, I lead by example but show I can make mistakes”

Although these findings concern music teachers specifically, many of these findings can be applied to teachers as a whole. For many teachers, these teaching behaviours and practices are occurring in their classrooms every day. It is only now the qualities of inspirational teachers are beginning to be explored with more rigour. Research of this type will assist with current and experienced teachers in their professional development  and also aid pre-service teachers and teacher educators consider future directions in teacher education courses.


© iteachpiano, 2017


Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. NJ:Prentice Hall: Englewood Cliffs.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience (Vol. null).

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.

Evans, M., & Boucher, A. R. (2015). Optimizing the power of choice: Supporting student automomy to forster motivation and engagement in learning. Mind, Brain, and Education, 9(2), 87-91.

Miksza, P., Roeder, M., & Biggs, D. (2010). Surveying Colorado band directors’ opinions of skills and characteristics important to successful music teaching. Journal of Research in Music Education, 57(4), 364-381.

Robinson, J. A. (2015). A Study of Inspiring Australian Music Teachers. Master of Music (Music Education), University of Sydney, Sydney.

Teachout, D. J. (1997). Preservice and experienced teachers’ opinions of skills and behaviours important to successful music teaching. Journal of Research in Music Education, 45(1), 41-50.



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