Dr. Rebecca Berkley (Associate Professor in Music Education, University of Reading) gave a workshop at the British Educational Research Association (BERA) conference on Tuesday 14th September 2021.

The workshop, titled ‘Learning how to run a choir by running a choir: Establishing a community of practise among trainee primary music teachers’, showcased how Universal Voices operates as a community of practice for trainee primary music teachers. Universal Voices is a free community choir for children aged 7-12 years old which Dr. Berkley runs at the University’s Institute of Education, supported by a team of student volunteers. The choir was founded in 2017 to give our students a practical experience of leading singing with children, and to provide excellent choral education to our local community. The workshop participants engaged in experiential learning of choral pedagogy by taking part in conducting training focusing on how to teach a song using gesture and non-verbal communication to express musical emotion and meaning. They tried out musicianship pedagogy using learning through play and games to promote aural memory and co-ordination in children.

Interview evidence from student participants was used to illustrate the musical and creative interactions between students and mentor, and between students in the community of practice. Participants reflected on the methodological implications of giving life to the conversations among the community of practice of trainee music teachers and ways of reporting on how choral pedagogical praxis emerges from the practical, hands-on situated learning of working with children in real time.

The workshop drew on a chapter, titled ‘Training young female teachers in choral leadership: Building a community of practice’ that Dr. Berkley authored for a book, titled ‘The Routledge Companion to Women and Musical Leadership’. The book, to be published by Routledge, is set to be released later this year.

You can learn more about Dr. Berkley’s research interests here, and about her Universal Voices project here.



Berkley, R. (2021 forthcoming). Training young female teachers in choral leadership: Building a community of practice. In H.J Minors & L. Hamer (Eds), The Routledge Companion to Women and Musical Leadership. Routledge (in print).