Structure and agency in music education

Authored by: Chris Philpott , Gary Spruce

The Routledge Handbook to Sociology of Music Education

Print publication date:  March  2021
Online publication date:  March  2021

Print ISBN: 9781138586369
eBook ISBN: 9780429504631
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter asks the question: to what extent is it possible for music teachers to exercise agency? In answering this question, a framework for the analysis of agency is presented drawing on the concept of structuration (Giddens 1984) and the ecology surrounding the potentially agentic teacher (Emirbayer and Mische 1998). It is suggested that within any ecology of agency there are hidden and pervasive ‘structural binds’ implicit in the discourses of music and music education, that need to be interrogated if the music teacher is be agentic. The case of Western classical music is explored as one such ‘bind’ and in particular its manifestation and influence on the dominant discourses of music and music education. In conclusion the chapter argues that the agentic music teacher can be characterised as one who intentionally engages with both critical pedagogy and critical musicology when coming to understand the ecology of the discourses surrounding music and music education.

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