Inclusive music education: The potential of the Dalcroze approach for students with special educational needs — Katja Sutela, Marja-Leena Juntunen & Juha Ojala

Ειδικό Τεύχος 8 (2) 2016 “Η Ρυθμική Dalcroze στη μουσικοθεραπεία και την ειδική μουσική παιδαγωγική” – Article (published on 11 December 2016)

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Inclusive music education: The potential of the Dalcroze approach for students with special educational needs

Katja Sutela, Marja-Leena Juntunen & Juha Ojala   


In this article, we discuss the potential of Dalcroze-inspired music education for students with special educational needs (SEN), based on preliminary findings of an on-going PhD study (ethnographic practitioner research) and the experiences of the first author when teaching music in a special education school for ten years. In that practice, the holistic approach based on Jaques-Dalcroze’s educational ideas was found to offer valuable and meaningful learning experiences and a tool for a deeper understanding of music, oneself and others. The research design consisted of a music and movement intervention for a group of Finnish grade 8 and 9 SEN students over a period of one school year. This paper draws on the first author’s reflections on the intervention (field notes and research diary) as well as on the teacher interview data.

The preliminary results of the study indicate that the Dalcroze approach fosters equal opportunities for SEN students to experience music and to develop and demonstrate their skills, musical knowledge and agency. In the music–movement activities, the joy of collaboration with student peers and the teacher on the one hand, and enjoyment of each student’s bodily experiences on the other, are intertwined in the processes of embodied musical interaction. This interaction, primarily aimed at learning in and through music, evokes emotions as well as offers students opportunities to confront their emotions and make sense of learning situations and life in general.


special music education, Dalcroze approach, special educational needs, music and movement, embodiment, embodied cognition


Katja Sutela is a doctoral candidate and part-time lecturer at the University of Oulu, teaching music and movement, and special music education. She has taught music to children with special educational needs for ten years in a special school. Katja did her master’s thesis on the relationship between music education methods and pedagogical thinking and is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Oulu on the development of agency in embodied musical interactions for children with special educational needs.

Marja-Leena Juntunen (PhD, MMus) is Acting Professor of Music Education at the Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki, Finland where she teaches pedagogical and research studies as well as supervises master’s and doctoral students. She holds a Dalcroze Licence from the Carnegie Mellon University and has given Dalcroze-inspired workshops and lectures both in Finland and abroad. Her research interest areas cover narrative inquiry, music teacher education, higher music education, Dalcroze pedagogy and embodiment. She has published teaching materials and textbooks as well as several monographs, book chapters and articles in international and Finnish research journals. She serves as a review reader in the International Journal of Music Education: Practice and the Finnish Journal of Music Education.

Juha Ojala is Professor in Music Education at the University of Oulu, Finland. He has published articles on experience and meaning in music, music education and music technology. He has edited books on music education technology and composition pedagogy, and is the editor of the journal Musiikki of the Finnish Musicological Society. Alumnus of the Sibelius Academy (MM, piano), Peabody Institute (MM, piano, composition, electronic and computer music) and the University of Helsinki (PhD, musicology), Juha is also active as a thesis supervisor and as a musician, and leads the Community of Research in Education, Music and the Arts (CREMA) at the University of Oulu.