Mrs Ruth Atkinson

Mrs Ruth Atkinson

Lecturer in Education (Music)

Plymouth Institute of Education (Faculty of Arts and Humanities)


I joined the University in January 2013 and work part-time within the Plymouth Institute of Education. My work involves teaching on the initial teacher education programmes for primary and early-years teachers. I am the subject leader for Music on these programmes and have other management roles. I also act as professional tutor and make school visits when students are on placement.


BAHons (Oxon) in Psychology and Physiology

I worked in primary education for many years. Roles have included: teacher, subject co-ordinator (of Science, Maths, English, Music, Design & Technology, Personal, Social & Health Education & Citizenship), Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator, deputy head, headteacher, leading teacher (supporting the work of colleagues in other schools), tutor, English SAT marker, marker of Cambridge International Exams, peripatetic class music teacher, mentor, induction tutor.... oh and I taught A-level Biology for a while.

MPhil(Ed) (Birmingham University): a research Master's degree

NPQH (National College of School Leaders - now the National College for Teaching and Leadership)
I was the head of a mixed-catchment primary school in the Midlands.

CELTA (Cambridge)
I taught English as a foreign language in Donostia - San Sebastian.

PGCAP (Plymouth) including a research module on how ITE can help students to learn to teach music musically.

Teaching interests

A continuing priority is to help student teachers develop a deep sense of what constitutes high-quality learning and teaching. Times change - and so do curricula, statutory requirements, technologies, budgets, etc - but the fundamental nature of children, their wellbeing and their learning, remain constant and need always to be at the centre of what we do.

Primary and early-years music education is the focus of most of my work. This includes:
  • developing students' skills, knowledge and confidence in working musically with children
  • developing their pedagogic understanding and professional expertise
  • exploring how to plan effective lessons and how to assess progress
  • considering, from a whole-school/setting perspective, how to organise and plan things so that children's musical experiences can be progressive, with continuity as well as variety
  • investigating what is known and surmised about children's musical development
  • carrying out small pieces of new research in schools
My forthcoming book 'Mastering Primary Music', published by Bloomsbury Academic and due out in early Spring 2018, covers the first three of these areas in detail for teachers who do not have much experience of teaching primary music.

I also act as professional tutor to a number of student teachers, monitoring their progress in University and on school experience placements, offering guidance, support and advice.

Research interests

I am interested in aspects of HE pedagogy that impact on the efficacy of my work with student teachers of primary music. 

I have recently completed a small study to investigate the way in which experienced teacher-educators talk about the kinds of teaching needed for effective music lessons. Although we should be teaching our ITE students largely through demonstration, coaching, etc we also need a meta-vocabulary with which to articulate what we are doing and why. It is the paradox of needing to use words to talk about teacher behaviours that don't use words: to move from practice to praxis. As I suspected, my research found little evidence of a strong, shared pedagogy amongst my sample of primary music teacher-educators. However one thing they all had in common was the conviction that teachers need also to 'feel like musicians', however modestly, if they are going to succeed in providing effective, musical, music lessons.

This work links with my ongoing interest in effective primary music pedagogy. My book 'Mastering Primary Music' is aimed at teachers with little experience of teaching primary music and will be published by Bloomsbury Academic early in 2018.


'Mastering Primary Music' (2018) published by Bloomsbury Academic:

Atkinson, R. (2017) 'The pedagogy of primary music teaching: talking about not talking',  Music Education Research Journal,  May [Online]. Available at:  (Accessed: 19 May 2017). 

Other academic activities

Music pedagogy workshop given as part of the 'Beyond Words' conference hosted by the Institute of Health and Community, Plymouth University, March 2017.

Music workshop as an 'immersive pedagogical experience' for new lecturers at Plymouth University, as part of a Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP) module called 'Developing Professional Practice', June 2016

Presentation given at PedRIO conference in Plymouth, April 2016: 
'Musical music teaching in UK primary education: putting into words the need to get away from words'

Workshop given at Research in Music Education international conference in Exeter, April 2015.

Additional information

I enjoy many kinds of music in a variety of contexts. I play 'cello, drums and recorders, some guitar and piano, and I enjoy singing. I have two children and one grandchild. I love living so near the sea.