Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Education


The present research study begins addressing the lack of empirical and systematic research on how students develop singing skills in an environment that is not the traditional one-to-one learning model. This study provides a conceptual explanation of how students learn singing in a socio-cultural environment by connecting theoretical and methodological considerations to the design of the teaching environment. Socio-cultural theories were incorporated into the design of a singing class environment that encouraged self-regulated learners who learn from social interaction with each other. The study also documents what kinds of strategies students develop as they try and understand the complex act of singing. It provides evidence supporting the theory that students benefit from the type of environment a socio-cultural approach provides. This includes peer interaction, reflection, introduction of scientific concepts concerning the voice and a philosophy of co-construction of learning with the teacher. The research used a qualitative approach, which endeavors to make sense of, understand and interpret the data. To capture the developmental nature of this pedagogical project, and the context in which it was carried out a design-based development research methodology was employed. Central to this approach was the flexibility of the design and capturing social interaction. Teaching strategies underpinned by Vygotsky’s theories of learning, were introduced into the course over a number of years. These strategies were evaluated and a variety of data types were analysed in order to address issues of trustworthiness of data, credibility of interpretation and believability of account. These data types included student and teacher reflective journals, surveys, focus groups and subject and teacher evaluations. The introduction of design-based research methodology into the field of singing offers a means with which other singing researchers can develop models of singing that are grounded in educational theories of learning. Finally educational principles emerged from the study that are transferrable to a similar context and can be used by teachers as part of curriculum renewal and review.