Orff teachers responding to biculturalism

Priya Gain. (2018). A study investigating how five experienced New Zealand Orff teachers responded to a six-day bi-culturally framed Orff course (Unpublished dissertation). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.


In 2017 Orff New Zealand Aotearoa (ONZA) offered a unique bi-culturally framed course for experienced Orff teachers, which provided the opportunity for this qualitative case study. The study was undertaken in two parts and involved interviewing and observing five course participants.

The first part of this study set out to benchmark the selected participants’ Orff teaching practices prior to the course. Through pre-course semi-structured interviews, participants described a number of key principles they felt characterized their practice. A number of shared beliefs, values, and practice patterns became apparent. As a group, the participant descriptions echoed the New Zealand-based Orff literature with its strong focus on creativity, student agency, and teacher artistry in composition and improvisation work.

The second part of this study set out to capture how the participants engaged with the inclusion of indigenous Māori knowledge and pedagogy in the course. Through post-course semi-structured interviews, participants shared their reflections on the bicultural aspects of the course and considered the potential impacts of their learning on their future Orff teaching practice. A number of participants felt challenged and uncomfortable with aspects of the bicultural experience and shared uncertainty around taking bicultural leadership back into their classrooms. The participants’ reflections captured the complexities surrounding issues of identity and teaching practice, as well as an appreciation of the multiple perspectives and discourses that exist in discussions around biculturalism. Participants also identified a number of potential benefits and challenges with connecting the Orff approach and indigenous Māori knowledge in their teaching practice.

The data was analysed and presented for both parts of the study using the gateway approach (Mears, 2009). This takes the form of excerpted narratives, that capture participant reflections in a way that provides deep insight into the experiences of these participants.

The findings in this study challenge the multicultural approach to education that dominates the Orff literature internationally. In the light of the findings presented here, and the literature reviewed, potential adaptations of the Orff approach in New Zealand’s unique bicultural context are discussed from a critical multicultural approach.

Biographical note: Priya Gain Priya teaches at Eastern Hutt School as music/movement specialist across the whole school and is currently completing a Masters of Education specialising in music and arts education at the University of Waikato. She has completed ONZA certificated training up to Level 4 in the Aotearoa/New Zealand context and has played a key role facilitating workshops in the Orff approach in the Wellington region. Priya is committed to the development of local teaching resources which express the bicultural identify of this country. The School of Education at Victoria University regularly draws on Priya to teach music modules in the primary learning programme.

Check out Kete Aronui OrffPriya’s example of An example of an Orff-inspired music curriculum developed for a New Zealand primary school.

To access the document click on: Orff teachers responding to biculturalism.