Comparing composition teaching and learning in secondary school education in the UK and Germany

Comparing cultural differences and sharing best practice around the teaching of music composition in the UK and Germany.

Sheet music


Kirsty Devaney

Research background

Due to the commitments of composer-educators, such as John Paynter, in the 1960s and 1970s, composing has been a statutory and required part of classroom music lessons for over 30 years in England. Although composing in schools had a ‘rocky start’ (Mills, 2005: 37) as many music teachers felt ‘daunted’ (ibid.) at the idea of teaching it, composing has become more of an established and normalised teaching practice within secondary education (Devaney, 2018). Although composing is a recognised part of the classroom music teaching in England, it is not the case for other countries. Although composing-education projects such as ModusM, Kompäd, and KoMuF are taking place in Germany, composing is an area still being developed and integrated into the classroom.

Birmingham City University are working closely with Professor Annette Ziegenmeyer at the University of Music in Luebeck (Germany), and Professor Friedrich Platz at the University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart (Germany).

Research aims

This research allows for the exchange of knowledge between the UK and Germany about composing teaching and learning practices with staff trips taking place between the two countries. This research offers insight into how teacher attitudes and ideologies towards classroom composing can vary between two countries with differing historical, social and cultural links to composing in formal education.

The following research questions were developed with colleagues from Germany:

  1. How is composing being taught in secondary music education?
  2. What pedagogical beliefs do music teachers bring to their teaching of composing?
  3. Do teachers’ own experiences of composing influence how they teach?

Research methods

Data were collected using a mixed methodology approach involving an online survey of over 500 German and UK music teachers.This approach allowed for in-depth contextual data to be analysed alongside investigation into the extent of some of the issues raised. Thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006) was adopted for the qualitative data in addition to a multilevel latent class analysis for the identification of prototypical latent types of attitudes and knowledge representations based on participants’ statements by using quantitative text mining methods. We were able to compare the extent to which the latent classes of attitudes (and knowledge representations) differ between both subsamples from UK and Germany.

Research outcomes

Results from this study uncovered both similarities and differences in attitudes towards the teaching and learning of composing in school andraise further questions into how inclusive composing really is for all young people in schools. 

2021: “Composing is what young people can do: Comparing German and UK music teacher beliefs about composing in the classroom” – Conference paper at European Association for Music in Schools.