What strategies did I use, as a music therapy student, to promote child-led cooperative play in an inclusive education setting?
The fostering of inclusion in modern mainstream schools can be challenging. Student needs are becoming increasingly diverse, funding is scarce, and an attitudinal shift is necessary to value the contributions and identities of all learners. This study explores how music therapy can assist the process of inclusion by articulating the strategies I, a music therapy student, used when working to enhance musical play within a play-based learning environment. Findings have been generated using the methodology Secondary Analysis of Qualitative Data which involved thematic analysis of session notes and my reflexive diary. They describe the strategies I used to facilitate children’s developing social play skills, which varied from onlooker and solitary play, to parallel (alongside) and associative play (with some unorganised verbal and musical interactions), culminating in cooperative play (with children interacting directly to organise play and assign particular roles). I identified five themes reflecting levels of social participation in musical play; meeting individual needs, facilitating involvement, encouraging participation, encouraging interactions and supporting play stages. ‘Encouraging interactions’ was identified as the key theme relating to cooperative play, and the most significant in fostering pro-inclusive social skills. Musical and non-musical strategies are described and the significance of musical co-playing in facilitating pro-inclusive interactions is explored. The strategies identified are relevant for fostering inclusion in other play-based learning programmes and free play environments in both primary schools and pre-schools in New Zealand and globally.