Interaction Creates Learning: Engaging Learners with Special Educational Needs through Orff-Schulwerk – Markku Kaikkonen & Sanna Kivijärvi

Special Issue 5 (2) 2013 – Article

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Interaction Creates Learning: Engaging Learners with Special Educational Needs through Orff-Schulwerk

Markku Kaikkonen & Sanna Kivijärvi

(pp. 132-137)


We consider the individual and the collective as fundamentally interdependent. Interaction leads to learning and therefore theories of interaction are of importance. For a music teacher, the achieved awareness can lead to practical advances. Discovering the most productive interactional strategy and understanding the consequences of actions within the actual learning situation can be helpful in creating interaction and learning. However, as interaction is dynamic and complex, especially those practitioners working with students with Special Educational Needs (SEN) may not be satisfied with the respective conceptual frameworks on interaction processes.

In the present article, we reason that on close inspection it is possible to develop a conceptual approach that meets the diversified challenges of pedagogical interaction. We also suggest that pedagogical interaction with students with SEN can be grounded on the insights of Orff-Schulwerk.

First, we briefly describe some of the key principles of Orff-Schulwerk. After the theoretical background the article continues with real case examples with a view to illustrating the applications of the approach and some of the advances of the Orff-Schulwerk perspective in special music educational environments. We close with a summary, presenting some views on the potential of Orff-Schulwerk in pedagogical interaction with students with SEN.


Orff-Schulwerk; music education; special music education; Special Educational Needs (SEN); learning; pedagogical sensitivity; pedagogical interaction; music teacher training


Markku Kaikkonen works as a director at the Special Music Centre Resonaari. He received his MM (music educator and therapist) at the Sibelius Academy (Helsinki) and accomplished advanced studies in dance and music pedagogy at the Mozarteum University’s Orff Institute (Austria). He is a co-author and editor of dozens of music education books and articles. Over fifty of his songs for instrument tuition and early childhood music education have been published. Kaikkonen is a guest lecturer on continuing education programs in Finland and abroad, and is the chair-elect of the Commission on Music in Special Education, Music Therapy, and Music Medicine of the International Society for Music Education.



Sanna Kivijärvi is a PhD candidate at the University of Helsinki. She received her MSc. in special education (with teacher qualification) at the University of Helsinki. Kivijärvi is an active member of the multidisciplinary ‘Music for All’ (MfA) research group which concentrates on the foundations, practice and applications of special music education. MfA research group is situated within Resonaari, at the Universities of Helsinki and Jyväskylä, Aalto University, Åbo Akademi (Finland) and the University of Bern (Switzerland). Kivijärvi’s research interests are in special music education, especially in inclusion at all levels of society and SEN caused by developmental disabilities.