Descriptive Qualitative Research in Music Education


An assessment of the qualitative research in music education shall help to shed light on the perception and views of individuals as regards the issue of music education. In addition, the evaluation of a relationship between school music education and community education in a qualitative manner shall also enable us to assess the perceptions of individuals on the same issue.

Undoubtedly, an assessment between, on the one hand, school music education and community music education, on the other hand, could be viewed as “an encounter of two cultural worlds.” Perhaps one question that we ought to be asking ourselves is whether there exists a contradiction with respect to the perception of people regarding the two genres of music.

During the first few decades of research into the area of music education, and adherence to quantitative models, as opposed to the use of qualitative strategies, was adopted. The number of journal papers, reports, dissertations, and books that sought to explore quantitative research methods in music education is a testament to this. Nevertheless, a growing number of researchers into music education have embarked on the utilization of qualitative models with a view to examining related research topics via the use of observations, interviews, archival data, and documents.

In their work, “Handbook for Research on Teaching,” Jones and McFee have illustrated that dissertations seeking to address music education have in the past mainly assumed a quantitative scope, and their research techniques have largely hinged on psychology and general; education (1993). Jones and McFee further opine that music education curriculum studies, in actual fact, have been focused on enhancing the skills of performances. By comparing art and music education, these authors show that little agreement on objectives and goals of instructions by music and art educators. On a more positive note, however, the authors have given the nod to educators of music, who tend to concur that educators in art as far as methodologies are concerned are called upon to give answers to research questions (Jones & McFee, 1993).

According to Woodford (2005), school music education could be viewed as being both moral and social in nature. As such, music education plays a role in moral character development. Woodford further opines that school music education may be seen as more of a maturational process, in which students progressively discover how to negotiate, explore, as well as contribute to the ever-changing and complex musical and social worlds that surround them.

On the other hand, movements of community music could be viewed as out to “effect a symbiotic relationship between the school and community” (Woodford 2005. p. 10). On the one hand, the musical groups in the community receive direction from music schools and, on the other hand, also received the support of the public, thanks to their endeavors.

School music education may be seen as one that provides community music groups with music standards and methodologies (in other words, guidance to music), while the musical movements within the community “brought to school music its spirit of free expression, joy, of fellowship, of universality, and of service” (Woodford 2005).

From the outset, community and school music were viewed as having interdependent goals. Nevertheless, the music educators of the early twentieth century, while alive to the fact that music education ought to have both an agenda and purpose (these includes the ones that bear a correlation with the movement for community music as well), were not in a position to create the much-needed insights to indicate just how music education could aid in the transformation of both the society and school.

This was due in part to the fact that music educators “continued to subscribe to the older aesthetic and utilitarian rationales” (Woodford 2005 p. 11). The main drawback as regards the aesthetic rationales is that these seeks to treat music as well as music education as divorced from the affairs of the world and, for this reason, are depicted as being impractical.

Research questions

This research study shall attempt to answer a number of research questions:

  • What is the relationship between school music education and community music education?
  • Why are the qualitative research methods not quite popular in studies on music education?
  • How best can music education curricula, developers tailor the curriculum to incorporate both the conventional methods of study and the new research-based curricula?

Research hypothesis

In line with these research questions, there are several research hypotheses that this research study seeks to address:

  • H 1: There exists a positive correlation between school music education and community music education
  • H 2: Previous research methods into music educations have employed other research techniques, as opposed to qualitative methods

Research Methodology

Research methodology has been defined as “the application of science-based procedures with a view to acquiring solutions to a number of research questions (Lichtman, 2006). A research methodology supplies the necessary tools to aid in the carrying out of research, whose foal is to obtain the needed information.

A research methodology entails the whole conceptualization process, an observation of the problems that need to be studied, research questions formulation, the collection of data, data analysis, and the eventual generation of the research findings. Nevertheless, there are a number of authors who have come up with alternative methods of research (Creswell, 2007).

Research design

According to Creswell (2007, a research design is a framework for collecting and utilizing sets of data that aims to produce logical and appropriate findings with great accuracy and that aims to adequately and reasonably test a research hypothesis, especially in a case whereby a quantitative study is being undertaken. In this regard, this research study shall aim at exploring the descriptive research methods in music education, with a view to exploring the current relationship between school music education and community music education.

Data Collection and instrumentation

Both the qualitative and quantitative methods of research design may utilize a developed questionnaire as an instrument for facilitating the collection of the necessary data to facilitate the study at hand. Such a questionnaire then could be structured, or even semi-structured, depending of course, on the kind of data that need to be obtained, and also based on the research design that has been adopted by the study; either qualitative or quantitative.

The use of open-ended questions enables individuals to express their views freely without having any limitations based on their “cultural and social experiences” (Creswell 2007, p. 399). Creswell furthermore states that “closed and open-ended questions can catch the authenticity, richness, depth of response, honesty and candor which is […] the hallmarks of quantitative data”. Questionnaires could either be self-administered or conducted by a researcher.

According to Creswell (2007), personal administration has the obvious advantage of making the respondent understand the questions and concepts involved. Personal administration also gives a respondent the opportunity to ask for clarifications. Personal administration also yields the lowest refusal rate among respondents. It also allows for detailed, longer, and more complicated interviews to be undertaken Creswell (, 2007).

In the data collection exercise for this research study, both the primary and secondary data shall be utilized. A structured and self-administered questionnaire shall be administered to the research study respondents for purposes of data collection. A review of related studies shall form the basis of secondary data collection. The aim of the data collection is to facilitate the amassing of enough data that will help in the answering of the research questions, as well as the hypotheses.

Data analysis

According to Creswell (2007), data analysis is the technique of gathering, transforming, and modeling data with the purpose of suggesting conclusions, highlighting useful information, and supporting decision making. Data analysis has manifold approaches and facets, encompassing varied techniques under a variety of names in different social science, science, and business domains. By analyzing the data collected in this research study, this shall be with a view to its understanding, explanation, and interpretation in order to obtain symbolic and meaningful content. In line with this, the research questions and hypotheses shall also be addressed.

To facilitate the analysis of data obtained via this research study, the researchers wish to utilize an observer impression. This way, the researcher, as an expert in the area of music education, shall then examine the data on the relationship between, on the one hand, school music education and, on the other hand, community music education. Once this data has been examined, the researcher shall then form an impression of the ensuing research findings. Consequently, these findings shall then be of a structured form, in this case, tables. Ultimately, it is these research findings that will lead to a conclusion of this research analysis.

Study limitation

Thus far, a majority of the studies into music education have tended to explore more of the quantitative approach into the area, as opposed to the qualitative research. As such, the amount of information available on the qualitative research design of music education is quite limited, meaning that a gap still remains to be filled in this area. It is this gap, therefore, that the research study seeks to fill by way of providing research findings on the perceptions and views of the research respondents on the issue of a qualitative research study of music education.

Work plan

The research project has been proposed to be completed within a period of 6 months from the date of commencement, which is from March to September. Though such a period could be shorter in comparison to other projects in academia worth comparing with, nevertheless, it is lengthy, based on the experience of the researcher.

Month Activity
March Review of literature
April -Review of the literature (continued)
– Preparation and sending of research enquires for participation in the research study
May -Assessment of responses of research participants
– preparations and presentation of questionnaires
June – interviewing of research participants
– administering of questionnaires
– assessment of progress
July – data analysis
August – draft report preparation
– review of the draft report
September – final report writing


This research study shall be concerned with an assessment of the research methods in music education. In line with this, the current relationship between, on the one hand, school music education and community music education shall be explored. Available literature reviews into the are of research methods into music education reveals that the curricula developers into this area are faced with a problem of incorporating the newer research-oriented concept of music education to the conventional model that has little or no place for research methods.

As such, a number of research questions shall thus be formulated, and these shall form the basis for the designing of the questionnaire, meant to assist with the data collection exercise. At the same time, several hypotheses shall also be developed so that the eventual research findings may either concur with or disapprove of such hypotheses. With regard to the research methodology, this research study shall employ a qualitative research method. Data collection shall be via self-administered questionnaires given to the study respondents. In this case, both primary and secondary data shall be utilized, with the latter obtained from the literature reviews of authors in this field of study.


Colwell, R. J., & Richardson, C. (2002). The new handbook of research on music teaching and learning. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Creswell, J. W. (2007).Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design, 2nd edition, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

Flinders, D. J. & Richardson, C. P. (2002). Contemporary issues in qualitative research and music education. In R. Colwell, & C. P. Richardson Eds, The new handbook of research on music teaching and learning (pp. 1159-1173). New York: Oxford University Press.

Jones, V & McFee, O (1993). Handbook for Research on Teaching. New York: Macmillan.

Lichtman, M. (2006). Qualitative Research in Education, A User’s Guide, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. 2006.

Szego, C. K. (2002). Music transmission and learning: a conspectus of ethnographic research in ethnomusicology and music education. In R. Colwell & C. Richardson (Eds.), The new handbook of research on music teaching and learning: A project of the Music Educators National Conference (pp. 707-729). New York: Oxford University Press.

Woodford, P. (2002). Democracy and music education: liberalism ethics, and the politics of practice: Indiana: Indiana University Press.