The informal learning branch of Musical Futures: what happens in the classroom?

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


This presentation will focus upon what happened in the case of four secondary schools in England when an informal learning (IL) approach was implemented – providing a ‘visible voice’ to these cases. The IL approach embraced was based upon the research of Professor Green (2002, 2008). Green (2002) proposed five principles of IL based upon how popular musicians learn in an informal realm. Green (2008) then explored the transfer of these principles across to 21 secondary schools in England. Findings included increased pupil motivation, authenticity and pupil autonomy. In 2003, Green’s IL model was funded, promoted and continues to be advocated by the Musical Futures (MF) organisation (

The impact of the IL branch of MF has been well-researched internationally (for example, Hallam et al. [2008], Jeanneret [2010], Hallam, Creech and McQueen [2011], Wright et al. [2012]). Despite research cohering with Green’s positive findings overall, recent music education policy in England has shifted back towards a more formal, traditional approach (for example, The Model Music Curriculum, Department for Education [2021], Research review series: Music, Ofsted [2021]). Thus, it is deemed important to further explore the IL approach in-depth and give voice to those schools that have still chosen to implement the pedagogy over fifteen years since Green’s initial research had been conducted.

Findings will be drawn from a wider three-year study. A qualitative, interpretative methodological stance was adopted, drawing upon a joint constructivist and social constructionist epistemological approach. The research was conducted in two phases: individual interviews with key figures who had played a key role in the development of the IL approach; and four case study secondary schools. Methods used within the case studies included: document sources, lesson observations, interviews and informal discussions with pupils. Data was analysed thematically (for example, Braun and Clarke [2006]).

Differences emerged between schools, and departure from Green’s theory had occurred – representing different voices and diversity between settings. Although it was found that implementation of an IL approach involved a perceived change in pedagogy in comparison to a traditional, formal model, this occurred in practice to differing extents. This presentation seeks to encourage thought and open dialogue about one’s opinion, position and perception of an IL approach. It is believed that this presentation will be of interest to both researchers and practitioners, and that many aspects will be relatable – particularly those that raise unresolved tension and issue between informal and traditional, formal values.

BRAUN, V. and CLARKE, V., 2006. Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology [online]. 3 (2), pp. 77-101. Available from: [Accessed 25 May 2018].

DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION, 2021. The Model Music Curriculum [online]. Available from: [Accessed 25 September 2021].

GREEN, L., 2002. How popular musicians learn: a way ahead for music education. Ashgate: Aldershot.

GREEN, L., 2008. Music, informal learning and the school: a new classroom pedagogy. Ashgate: Aldershot.

HALLAM, S., CREECH, A. and MCQUEEN, H., 2011. Musical Futures: a case study investigation. Final report from Institute of Education University of London for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation [online]. Available from: [Accessed 16 September 2015].

HALLAM, S., CREECH, A., SANDFORD, C., RINTA, T. and SHAVE, K., 2008. Survey of Musical Futures. A report from Institute of Education University of London for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation [online]. Available from: [Accessed 16 September 2015].

JEANNERET, N., 2010. Musical Futures in Victoria. Australian Journal of Music Education [online]. 2, pp. 148-164. Available from: [Accessed 11 October 2021].

OFSTED, 2021. Research review series: Music [online]. Available from: [Accessed 25 September 2021].

WRIGHT, R., YOUNKER, B.A., BEYNON, C., HUTCHINSON, J., LINTON, L., BEYNON, S., DAVIDSON, B. and DUARTE, N., 2012. Tuning into the Future: Sharing Initial Insights about the 2012 Musical Futures Pilot Project in Ontario. The Canadian Music Educator [online]. 53 (4), pp. 14–18. Available from: [Accessed 30 April 2019].
Period17 Jul 2022
Event titleInternational Society for Music Education World Conference 2022
Event typeConference
LocationSydney, Australia, New South WalesShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational