Ecological Validity and Impact: Key Challenges for Music Education Research

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In order to simultaneously refine and broaden the research and theoretical bases for music education, as well as ensuring their practical relevance, I believe that we have to address two key challenges: ecological validity and impact. These are in a symbiotic relationship. If our research is to have professional impact, it has to be ecologically valid; if it has such validity, it is in a better position to have impact. Research endeavors are likely to be better placed to effect change if we locate them in real-world situations (which is not as easy as it might seem) or ensure that they have an appropriate applicability to such situations. However, the real world is messy, untidy, not always (if ever) predictable, and is often context and person sensitive. Such sensitivity is evidenced in the challenge to the certainties that underlay positivistic empiricism by the diversity of procedures and outcomes evident in much qualitative research (for example, Denzin and Lincoln 2005). We recognize that “truth,” in terms of musical behaviors, is a contested concept precisely because “music” and its associated manifestations are the products of individual minds operating in particular sociocultural contexts.