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Research in Music Education

The research in Music Education at Malmö Academy of Music covers all forms of musical learning, as well as the frameworks, prerequisites, traditions, and conditions that govern situations where music constitutes the content of the various learning processes.

Two students in fron of a whiteboard. Photo.

Research in Music Education has an interdisciplinary character that focuses on socially relevant areas. This includes research on inclusion and influence in schools, knowledge regimes in schools and teacher education regarding artistic expression and the digitalisation of education with a focus on subject conception. The research is practice-oriented and often ethnographically inspired where field notes, observations, interviews and focus group discussions are common methods for obtaining interesting results.

At Malmö Academy of Music, the research within the frame of Music Education is tasked with conducting research in a broad sense while contributing to the development of the educational science, subject, and general didactic research of the Music Teacher Training programme. In terms of content, it is important to emphasise the global, societal, institutional, social, historical, and discursive conditions within which education, training, teaching, learning and the professional development of teachers are created. The link between the Music Teacher Training programme, schools and research means that Music Education research should also contribute to the knowledge development of the music teaching profession.

Our research areas and projects

Teaching using digital tools is an area which is emphasised in the steering documents for Swedish primary and secondary schools. Teachers on the Aesthetics programme have identified that there are great opportunities and challenges in teaching and working with students who have the computer as an instrument, i.e. EDI (electronic digital instrument). 

This project is an extension of the project "The digital student - challenges and opportunities with the computer as an instrument in music education". The previous project has raised several exciting questions regarding peer learning, co-assessment, grading, and quality criteria. Each school has expressed a desire and a need to involve more teachers to create consensus and participation in the digitalisation of upper secondary school with a focus on EDI. The extended project has a dual purpose:

  1. to generate knowledge about what teaching about and in EDI means for teachers and students in the Aesthetics programme as well as teachers and students in the Music Teacher Training programme with a particular focus on peer learning, co-assessment, grading, and quality criteria, and
  2. to develop and gather experience in an expanded form of a model for practice-based research where teachers' issues are raised via the principals' support structure for scientificity in schools to a full-scale research project where university researchers collaborate with teachers in upper secondary schools as well as teachers and students in the Music Teacher Training programme to develop scientific knowledge.

The project is relevant both from a professional and a research perspective as there are relatively few studies and little knowledge about EDI as part of teaching. The design of the study was initially based on Educational Design Research, which meant that the teaching and its outcomes were examined and analysed through a number of iterative cycles. Classroom interventions were combined with regular meetings where researchers and teachers from the schools and the Music Teacher Training programme met to analyse teaching, to have methodological discussions and to process relevant research literature. 

In this project, the study design will be based on focus group interviews, observations, and vlogs. The project has already generated an emerging scientific understanding of what EDI means in the current context and has contributed to the development of concrete teaching models based on research and proven experience with relevance to the school system, Music Teacher Training programme and the research community. The project has also attracted considerable national and international interest.

  • Project duration: 2023-08-01 - 2024-12-31
  • Contact person: Anna Houmann

The study of improvisational acts and the types of cognition at work in such acts can make valuable contributions to our general understanding of the human mind and human action.

An improvisational stance can be said to be central to all human action, not least to oral conversation. This project is based on the idea that the complexity of musical improvisation can make this specific activity a suitable lens through which questions of great general importance to cognitive science can be explored and interpreted.

Contact person: Sven Bjerstedt

Adriana Di Lorenzo Tillborg is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at Malmö Academy of Music, Lund University. 

Her ongoing postdoctoral research project is a practice-based research project in collaboration with Osby Music School in Sweden. The research aims to contribute to knowledge about pupil participation from the perspectives of teachers, leaders, and pupils in Sweden’s Art and Music Schools. A further aim is to contribute to the development of methods for practice-based research. 

During the last years Osby Music School has implemented KulturCrew to improve pupil participation in the music school. KulturCrew is a Nordic model for event organising by young people in collaboration with adults. The goal is to increase young people’s participation and influence in decision-making in cultural life by learning and practicing hosting, marketing, stage technology, planning, team building, and participation. KulturCrew also wants to contribute to the fulfilment of the basic principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child with a focus on culture and youth participation.

KulturCrew was researched in 2022 and 2023 through collaboration between Adriana Di Lorenzo Tillborg and the two course leaders at Osby Music School; Åsa Klinthagen Andersson and Afsanéh Larsson. During the period, Åsa was also the director of the school. Inspired by action research, together they developed a methodology with methods that stimulated participation, co-operation, critical thinking and reflection in democratic processes. They tested various methods, such as Photo Voice, a method inspired by Freire's critical theory and feminist theories, which represents a shift in power because the students' voices can be heard through photos. Another method they tested was weekly meetings with course leaders, which contributed to cycles of action and reflection.

Markus Tullberg's ongoing postdoctoral project falls within the current area of practice-based research and examines artistic expression in music education in upper secondary school aesthetic programmes. The purpose of the project is to investigate, from the perspective of music teachers, the role of artistic expression in the teaching of upper secondary school aesthetic programmes with a focus on music. The background to the project can be found in the Swedish National Agency for Education's documents. In the knowledge requirements for the courses Instrument or song 1-3, Ensemble with choral singing and Ensemble 1-2, the concept of artistic expression is found among central content and knowledge requirements.

The project's empirical data consists of a series of qualitative interviews with music teachers working in upper secondary schools. The material is analysed with inspiration from grounded theory with the intention of capturing the complexity of the phenomenon of artistic expression in the current context, as well as identifying needs among music teachers and, by extension, also in music teacher education. The fact that upper secondary school teaching should rest on a scientific basis and proven experience calls for further questions about how such experience can be tested and made available and what type of scientific basis is relevant for continued work in the area covered by the project.

The government's ULF - Utbildning, Lärande, Forskning (Education, Learning, Research in English) programme is a national pilot project between 2017-2021, which was extended until 2024 and will then become a permanent activity.

The pilot programme will develop and test sustainable collaboration models between academia and schools in terms of research, school activities and teacher training. The aim is to develop an infrastructure with long-term sustainable collaboration models between academia and school authorities as well as to strengthen the scientific basis and the scientific approach in schools. When theory and practice are woven more closely together, the teacher training programme is also strengthened - partly through a more relevant knowledge base and partly through increased opportunities for students to be part of the school's research and development environments.

Read more about ULF 

The project Power Relations in Higher Music Education (PrihME) was a three-year AEC project that started in autumn 2020 with funding from the EU programme Erasmus+. Ten European institutions for higher music education partook and worked together using the Citizen's Assembly method around the following main issues:

  • Abuse of power in higher music education
  • Relevance of power issues in pedagogy and teaching
  • The role of power relations in and impact on higher music education
  • Promoting communication between all operators in higher music education

  • Project duration: 2021-08-01—2023-06-30
  • Contact persons: Eva Saether and Sara Wilén

With a grant of €1.5 million the European Union is funding the project TEAM -Teacher Education Academy for Music. Future-Making, Mobility and Networking in Europe in the programme Erasmus+ Teacher Academies

TEAM is a pan-European collaborative research and development network working closely with the European Association for Music in School (EAS). It aims to reshape initial and continuous music teacher education (MTE) and school music education (ME) in Europe according to the current needs of music teacher professionalisation, digitisation, intercultural learning, future viability, sustainability and social coherence. TEAM plans to achieve this by developing evident-based future-making music education OERs (sustainability, democratisation, digitalisation) for initial and continuous MTE, by strengthening mobility for initial music teacher education with a special focus on high-quality school internships abroad with intercultural mentoring. 

Mappings of ME and MTE will offer evidence and ease further collaboration in the future. The TEAM Learning Outcomes will sum up the knowledge from all TEAM findings and develop this into a useful curricular policy paper to advocate for high quality in ME/MTE in European countries. TEAM takes a broad approach at various points in order to tackle the current problems of the subject of music in Europe and to create a dynamic of change. It will therefore foster a music education network in Europe in the long term. A close relationship with European music associations from the very beginning guaranties that TEAM can continue to have an effect even after the project has ended. 15 partner institutions (training schools, initial and continuous MTE institutions) from 12 European countries with a high level of expertise in the necessary areas will work together flanked by a large number of Associated Partners from the 12 consortium countries as well as from 12 further European countries and music-related European NGOs. The project is coordinated by the University of Potsdam. 

  • Project duration: 2025-06-01—2026-05-31
  • Contact person: Anna Houmann

Doctoral projects

This thesis project aims to investigate challenges and tensions in group teaching of classical orchestral instruments. There is a lack of research in the field that examines the relationship between musical skill development and inclusion when teachers teach several students simultaneously. The first article in the synthesis thesis explores how Swedish instrumental teachers from the classical orchestral instrument tradition discuss group teaching, a type of teaching that is becoming increasingly common and is proposed to be the new norm for instrumental teaching in the publicly funded 'kulturskola' (cultural school). For this reason, it is important that voices from the organisations involved are heard through a practice-oriented research approach.

Collaboration between academia and practice, in this case the Swedish ‘kulturskola’, means that the research output will hopefully be more relevant to the teachers. Future studies within the project are intended to be conducted using the stimulated recall method, i.e. researchers and teachers jointly watch and discuss video recordings of a completed lesson. The teacher's reflections, thoughts, and decisions in different situations (which the teacher himself or herself finds important to discuss) will be followed up with discussions about planning the next lesson, which also involves joint reflection on the subsequently completed lesson.

Contact person: Ida Knutsson

Johanna Antonsson is a PhD student in Music Education with a particular focus on assessment and grading in primary school music education.  

Her research interests include quality aspects in music education, music teachers' ideal practice and music curricula. Johanna was educated at Malmö Academy of Music and graduated as a music teacher in 2011. During the following years she worked as a music teacher in primary school where her interest in assessment, grading and curricula was awakened.  

Johanna's research project examines how music teachers navigate and negotiate between their own ideals for assessment and grading in their subject in relation to policy documents and other external demands on the profession.

Johanna teaches on the Music Teacher Training programme in the course Assessment and grading, supervises students who write their first independent work and is a visiting teacher during music teacher students' clinical training in primary and secondary schools.

Swedish schools are characterised by a culturally diverse student body. Migration forms both a challenge and an opportunity for the music teachers who are encountering these students in their classrooms. Meeting each individual student in their uniqueness and creating opportunities for them to participate in society lies at the core of the schools’ mission. My PhD thesis investigates possible connections between the students’ learning in the music lessons and their societal engagement. In doing so, the research aims to bridge gaps between theory and practice in the field of music education. The PhD is part of Lund university’s Agenda 2030 Graduate School and seeks to contribute to the development of social sustainability in Sweden.

This project will lead to a dissertation specialising in polyphonic singing. The overall purpose of the thesis is to investigate and describe the function and development of polyphonic singing over time in music education in primary school grades 5-9 in Sweden.

The project includes three sub-studies that will result in three articles with different themes. The first sub-study is based on interviews with music teachers, the second sub-study is a historical study of views on polyphonic singing and the third focuses on the development of the singing voice in young people. The dissertation is expected to take place in winter 2028-2029.

Anna Houmann
Head of subject | Music Education
anna [dot] houmann [at] mhm [dot] lu [dot] se (anna[dot]houmann[at]mhm[dot]lu[dot]se)