Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Music plays a significant role in the lives of adolescents, supporting young people to regulate emotions, relate to others and develop a sense of identity. Music education is shown to have wide-reaching benefits on student motivation, engagement and well-being at school. Despite this, only a small number of students choose to study Music at school beyond the compulsory curriculum, with attrition associated to a lack of value, interest or perceived relevance of the subject to the individual. Existing research has adopted motivational theory to investigate student choice; what is not known is the full range of factors affecting the student choice of Music education in Australian secondary schools. The General Model of Academic Choice (GMAC) (Eccles, 1983) is a motivational framework proposing four main groups of variables which influence student choice, persistence and achievement in school subjects and tasks. Previous research has applied GMAC to understand why students choose subjects beyond the compulsory curriculum, such as STEM, however the framework has yet to be applied to Music.

This qualitative embedded case study applied GMAC to investigate factors influencing students’ choice of Music education in one NSW Australian secondary school. From this site, three Music classes, including Years 8, 9 and 11, taught by the same teacher were chosen to represent the different levels of choice available to students in the secondary curriculum. A total of 14 participants were purposefully selected from these classes. Data were collected across three phases during one school year. Data collection tools included interviews, observations, learning documents used in class activities, and student surveys. The data were analysed in three phases. The first phase involved preliminary analysis of all data sources to identify emerging themes which would inform the subsequent phases. The second phase of data analysis focused on individual participant cases followed by a cross-case analysis. The third and final deductive phase of analysis focused on the application of a GMAC lens to understand the student choice of subjects.

FoR codes (2008)




Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.