As a lecturer, teacher, learner and performing artist I have frequently been drawn to question the efficacy of Arts educational establishments. From my own early learning experiences at music school, through a career in musical theatre and opera I have wondered at the benefits of structured and formalised education. Does training on a university degree programme encourage artistry or merely dampen personal expression by limiting a learner’s choices? Structure and guidance are immeasurably beneficial in art, but are we institutionalising our learners and simply pattern cutting to make them employable? With this in mind I propose to conduct qualitative research, using inductive reasoning, flexible and interactive interview and an Anti-positivist approach to investigation focused on current students in two different cohorts enrolled on Musical Theatre programmes at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. I aim to track the perceptions of 4 Masters students as they engage in their own autonomous learning journey, and interview 4 current undergraduate students in their 2nd year (BA2) to gauge the beginnings of their autonomous trajectory. With this proposal I aim to discover some answers to the following questions;

 Is it reasonably practical to expect Autonomy for learning in undergraduate learners?

What are the benefits and challenges to staff and student learning within a conservatoire environment?

How do we currently instil these practices in learners through our curriculum delivery, and is it ethical?

What kind of autonomy is required, is it apparent/transparent and can/does it effectively influence and allow learners to become artistic leaders?

I will look at how autonomy can and perhaps should be neglected in favour of a learning model where staff expertise and excellence are relied on in one-to-one tutorials, how the coaching of singing artists can encourage autonomous learning and how it can foster better practice that encourages learning based on the individual taking personal responsibility? Of particular interest to me is charting or negating the beneficial effects that come from a lecturer’s knowledge-bases and skills

Where will you look to find answers to these questions?

Qualitative research focused on current student perceptions.

Anti positivist approach to investigation, inductive reasoning, flexible and interactive interview.​

Research papers in arts education, pedagogy, autonomy, motivation, metacognition, mentoring, situationist and behaviourist learning models, empiricism, theory and current research methodology.

Practice led research in the performing arts.

Relevant parallel research in other disciplines, current theatrical and rehearsal practice (Jo Davies, Gale Edwards, Phyllida Lloyd, Kim Brandstrup)

One to one pedagogy
Autonomy and motivation
Research and research education in music performance and pedagogy
Social/situationist learning

An actor manages: actor training and managerial ideology
Broderick D.V. Chow, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training,Volume 5, Issue 2, 2014, pages 131- 143,Published online: 08 Aug 2014

DOI: 10.1080/19443927.2014.908141

Reasons for installing autonomous practice in actors – Labour needs
McRobbie, A., 2002. Clubs to Companies: Notes on the Decline of Political Culture in Speeded Up Creative Worlds. Cultural Studies, 16 (4), 516–531.



Who are your stakeholders for this project – i.e. who will be impacted?

Learners enrolled on PgCert and MA Learning and Teaching Courses.
ROYAL CONSERVATOIRE OF SCOTLAND STUDENTS, both Undergraduate and Postgraduate, across all disciplines, schools and courses.

What benefits may arise from a successful project? (for you and/or for others)

I may be enabled to effectively require personally responsible progression from learners.
I will better my ability to create conversations among equals.
Learners might be encouraged to take control of their journey and feel supported in, stimulated and inspired by their own engagement and less reliant on expert advice or leadership.
Learners might experience leadership for themselves, and become better equipped for a career heavily dependant on self mastery, motivation, ambition, and creative independence.
Learners will respond more independently and creatively to future challenges from Choreographers, Directors and Conductors.
Budgets for Part Time Hourly Paid staff might be re-evaluated and protected.
The culture of justifying spending cuts might be balanced by making the limited one-to-one contact time more cost-efficient.
Faculty and management might adjust their perceptions of what can be expected, achieved or justified with regards to tutorial teaching.



What do you hope to learn from undertaking this project?

I imagine that my own understanding of how I view and display autonomy will be refined and that the expectations and assumptions I currently have and hold will change, be defined, supported or challenged.

My hope is that I will be better equipped to understand and create supportive and useful learning environments for all learners, irrespective of their individual ability to engage, learn, take control of or respond to an essentially behaviourist learning model.

I hope that my ability to help deepen learner progress will increase. My aim is to make sure I am ethically, morally and justifiably challenging learners within a framework that they understand, can respond to and control.

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