Online communities of practice in the secondary music classroom : a tool for increased collaboration and peer to peer learning?

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Shawcross, Timothy Lestyn Michael
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Applied Practice
Unitec Institute of Technology
Mane, Jo
Reinders, Hayo
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
New Zealand
rural schools
music education
online communities of practice
communities of practice
peer-to-peer learning
collaborative curriculum design
social media
music students
Shawcross, T.L.M. (2019). Online communities of practice in the secondary music classroom: A tool for increased collaboration and peer to peer learning? (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Applied Practice). Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from
RESEARCH QUESTIONS: 1. How might participating in an online community of practice encourage collaboration and peer to peer learning for secondary school music students in remotely located secondary schools? 2. What are students’ perceptions of the implications on their learning in using a community of practice model? 3. How might I build my students’ capacity to participate in online communities of practice as part of their music education experience? ABSTRACT: The possibilities open to 21st century learners in learning music are fast diversifying. The master–apprentice model that is often found in formal music education offers one such approach. An alternative that is being embraced by many musicians is that of peer learning in online communities of practice. This study examines how the community of practice model might be applied in formal music education within the context of a remotely located New Zealand secondary school. This study was undertaken using practitioner research along with drawing on aspects of Kaupapa Māori methodology. The data gathering methods employed were those of an electronic questionnaire, observation, and a focus group. These tools gathered insight into the students’ perception on the effects of participation in an online community of practice on their learning. It was found that participation in an online community of practice afforded greater opportunity for peer to peer learning and collaboration, however, the participants were not always comfortable with seeing themselves as ‘experts’ when engaging in these learning models. The community also remained largely teacher-driven rather than student-driven. Thus, the gains in student agency observed in this study were modest. It was found that social media was an appropriate forum for an online community of practice, but it was important to consider student perception of the social standing (amongst those students) of the social media platform chosen. The recommendations of this study are that in order to see more of a radical transformation in student agency, the online community must be grown further with a focus on strengthening students’ capacity to be active participants. Furthermore, a greater cognitive diversity in the community is needed, which would be best accomplished by engaging more schools in the community. For educators looking to apply this model in their own setting, this study recommends the careful scaffolding of students so they can participate successfully, along with a careful selection of platform, are key.
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