Tune Into Listening - Nicola Burke


Tune into Listening was a Mac Makes Music yearlong action research project involving Hillfields Children’s Centre in Coventry and Allens Croft Children’s Centre in Birmingham. Early Childhood Music Specialist and former MA student at CREC, Nicola Burke worked in close partnership with Hillfields and Allens Croft to explore how to create rich music listening experiences for young children. The overarching question was: ‘How can we use recorded music effectively?’

"I have been leading a yearlong piece of research into auditory environments and the use of recorded music in early years settings. The research has culminated in an online resource which I have created. The resource shares the activities that we explored, the findings, and it offers ideas and questions to explore in early years settings. The findings of the research show that auditory environments in EY settings are incredibly important. The resource is free and can be found at:


I spoke about my research at BECERA 2016** and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole day! The research question was ‘How can we use recorded music effectively in EY settings?’ and explored current practice and how educators (non-music specialists) could create rich music listening experiences for children whist attending early years settings. The research did not measure or test children’s skills/development, but the findings show that children have the ability to be highly competent listeners. The findings also show that music listening can support many other areas of development such as PSED, expressive art and movement.

As an EY music consultant I have become increasingly concerned about the auditory environment of many of the settings that I have visited, hence the research. Auditory environment and ‘appropriate music’ to play in settings is an area that has been neglected -- I realised this when I began researching this as part of my MA which I completed at CREC in 2013. Prior to my MA I had not written any kind of research paper or led any kind of research before -- so thank you, without my MA experience I would not have led this research and been able to create the resource which I hope will influence pedagogy and practice! 

I launched the resource on 26th February at mac Birmingham which was very well attended -- 70 EY educators came along! The event consisted of an introduction to the research and resource, 3 practical workshops for participants to try out some of the activities we explored throughout the research, and a debate regarding what is appropriate music to play. The debate was very interesting indeed and ideally we would have had more time to continue discussing. The event was an overwhelming success -- the feedback from participants has been just incredible, though many have fed back that they need further training. Many said they had never considered the auditory environment before, how children can listen, or how listening to music can be so important and useful for children for their listening development, amongst other things.

As I am sure you can gather I am very passionate about this subject area and I am very concerned about the auditory environments that are being created in settings.  Music can be very emotive and can move us both physically and emotionally, but how much is this considered in early years education?"

- Nicola Burke

We encourage all our members and friends of CREC to please share and spread the word about this valuable resource. We need to raise awareness regarding auditory environments in Early Years settings and we need to explore how we can use recorded music effectively to create rich musical listening experiences for young children! 

A Facebook group has also been created to offer a forum for discussion around the question: ‘What is appropriate/inappropriate music to play to young children in Early Years settings?’. Join the discussion at - https://www.facebook.com/groups/1063362680365422/

**Nicola's abstract from the 2016 BECERA conference is available to download on the BECERA online database. Simply log in to your account and search by author or keyword search term 'auditory environment'

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