Whole Class Ensemble Teaching Research Report

Whole class ensemble teaching (WCET) sees a music teacher from a hub or service spend time teaching music classes in schools. But how successful has this practice been? And what of the learning outcomes?


Research background

This research was funded by Arts Council England and commissioned by Music Mark.  It was designed to investigate attitudes and beliefs about Whole Class Ensemble Teaching (WCET) from leaders of Music Education Hubs (MEHs) and Music Services (MS).  The research includes data from 86 of the 121 music hubs which existed during 2015/16 when the data was collected.

Research aims

This project was governed by a series of principal and subsidiary research questions.  Principal research questions were: In the various modalities of WCET, what constitutes success?  Are there articulated success criteria for these? Are they agreed, and what form do they take?  Subsidiary research questions included investigations into WCET modalities, how progression is conceptualised and evaluated, the impact of WCET upon participants, and the learning outcomes of WCET for its stakeholders.  Further research questions explored value for money, quality, pedagogical models, facilitating conditions and impact on understandings of national curriculum formulations in schools.

How was the research carried out?

The research was conducted in three phases: a nationwide on-line survey open to all leaders of MEHs; a series of semi-structured interviews with key MEH and MS leads; a series of elite interviews with experts in the field of WCET.  Analysis made extensive use of a modified form of grounded theory analytical techniques which enabled codes for the data to arise from the data itself.


Findings on the conceptualisation of WCET

• Music starts with the instrument (MSWI)

• Music via the instrument (MVI)

Findings on the quality of WCET provision

This is dependent on which conceptualisation is uppermost and the report gives extensive details of these distinctions

Findings on the quality of teaching and learning

This was considered highly significant and realised in four main aspects:

  • Quality of musical curriculum
  • Quality of musical activities
  • Quality of musical teaching
  • Quality of musical learning

Findings on WCET impact

Done well, WCET makes a real difference to the lives of the children and young people involved. New horizons have opened for children and young people, schools, parents, and MEHs/MSs.

Findings on progress and progression

The report articulates the distinction as:

A) Progress - to make progress, to get better at something, to have greater depth of understanding or breadth of experience

B) Progression - to go from WCET to a school band (etc.), then to an area band, then a music centre band, and so on. In other words to make progress as in (A) above, and then avail oneself of progression routes available via the local hub

Findings on support from schools

Good support from host schools is the most significant feature. This is vital for WCET to take root and succeed.