Waikato Journal of Education

How to Cite

McQueen, R. (2022). Enhancing student agency in the primary music classroom through culturally responsive practice. Teachers and Curriculum, 22(2), 89–98. https://doi.org/10.15663/tandc.v22i2.403


In Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia work is ongoing to upskill teachers in culturally responsive practice as a way of addressing inequalities for Māori and Aboriginal students (Macfarlane, 2004; Morrison et al., 2019). Through supplementary materials to the New Zealand Curriculum, such as Tātaiako and The Hikairo Schema (New Zealand Ministry of Education & New Zealand Teachers Council, 2011; Rātima et al., 2020), cultural competencies and culturally responsive teaching and learning practices have been schematised. Internationally, student agency has been theorised in the context of addressing inequities in learning outcomes (Toshalis & Nakkula, 2012). Many of the teaching practices embedded in active music-making approaches, such as Orff and Kodály, are characteristically agentic. However, for a number of reasons, specialist teachers in primary schools may be isolated from current educational philosophical trends and imperatives. Drawing on the literatures of culturally responsive practice and student agency, this article identifies themes that resonate with and potentially enhance active music-making in the classroom. Based on years of practice as a classroom teacher and my current role as an Orff-trained primary music specialist, I offer examples of ways music teachers can enhance student agency informed by cultural competencies. These include approaches to group and individual tasks, cross-curricular creative projects, sourcing and curating content and integrating digital learning.


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