Teaching as improvisational experience: Student music teachers’ reflections on learning during an intercultural project

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Research Studies in Music Education, Volume 37, Issue 1, p.55-75 (2015)


This qualitative instrumental case study explores Finnish student music teachers’ experiences of teaching and learning as participants in an intercultural project in Cambodia. The Multicultural Music University project aimed at increasing master’s level music education students’ intercultural competencies by providing experiences of teaching and being taught abroad in traditional music and dance programs run by two Cambodian NGOs. The article suggests that beside the importance of learning new music and dance traditions, the student music teachers regarded the learning experiences gained through peer-teaching in an unfamiliar context as significant, as these experiences provoked them to step out from their pedagogical comfort zones and to engage in a deep reflection on the nature of teaching and the purpose of music education. Rather than perceiving their teaching as individual achievements the student teachers’ reflections proceeded towards an increasing emphasis put on the quality of joint interaction and the benefits gained from having to spontaneously create the structure of lessons in fast-changing situations. Based on the analysis of individual and focus group interviews and other research data, we discuss the concept of teaching as improvisation and its implications for teacher education.