Dr Graham McPhail

EdD, MEd, MMus, MusB(Hons), DipT, AIRMT


Graham McPhail is Senior Lecturer in Music Education in the School of Curriculum and Pedagogy at the Faculty of Education. He taught secondary school music for 21 years and for three years was the national moderator for NCEA music working for NZQA. His research interests include the place of knowledge in curriculum development, 21st century education, and pedagogy in one-to-one music tuition.  Graham is a past President of the New Zealand Suzuki Institute (NZSI), a member of the baroque ensemble Extempore, and artistic co-director of New Zealand’s original instrument orchestra NZ Barok. He also teaches baroque violin in the School of Music  and is one of New Zealand’s leading figures in the critical approach to performance of 17th and 18th century European art music.

Research | Current

An international Delphi study - One Direction: Curriculum Futures for Secondary School Music Education

A 21st century secondary school's approach to curriculum development.

Engineering Course Design and Student Achievement -  Vice Chancellor's Strategic Development Fund


Teaching | Current

  • EDCURSEC 687 & 647 (Music Education)
  • EDUC 321: Politics, Philosophy and Education
  • EDPROST 754 (Critical Research Methodologies in Education)  
  • EDCURRIC 114 (Music in the early years)
  • MUS 223, 323 (An Introduction to Instrumental Pedagogy)

Postgraduate supervision

Current supervisions:

Temi Adelekan (Doctoral) - The Shift in the Purpose of Knowledge in New Zealand Universities.

Sheraz Akhtar (Doctoral) - Pakistani Christian Refugees’ Educational Experiences in ThailandVicki Earl (Doctoral) - The teaching of English in New Zealand secondary schools: What are we teaching and why are we teaching it.

Bobby Hung (Doctoral)  - Street art and visual culture in New Zealand communities and tertiary art institutions.

Roin Lane (Doctoral) - An ecology for teaching and learning: Integrating mind, brain and education science into teachers’ pedagogies  

Deborah Lomax (Doctoral) - Muslim Students in the New Zealand Education System

Juie Skelling (Masters) - Non-Maori teachers’ selection of Maori cultural content in the primary school.

Xiaoming Tian (Doctoral) - The  emergence of Interculturality in China’s EFL (English as Foreign Language) policy and curriculum.


Completed supervisions:

Neil Morrow - Subject-specific mathematical vocabulary in mathematics lessons.

Mary Kerrigan - Pasifika Transitions: A case study of a secondary school mentoring programme.

Adam Driver - Whānau leadership: The reciprocities of right relationship at Kia Aroha College.

Stephanie Lees - Creativity in the secondary music classroom.

Rowan King - Year 5 and 6 teachers' understandings of the music and drama curriculum.

Villiami Telefoni - Musical instrument instruction for NCEA music via YouTube

Shannon Coulomb - Conceptual progression in composition

Steve McDonald - Youth Smoking - why do they do it?

Advisor for Teresa de Vries - To be or not to be: Balancing Process and Product in the classical piano lesson through improvisation.



  • Faculty of Education nominee for the Vice Chancellor’s award for Best Doctoral Thesis 2012
  • 2012 NZARE Sutton-Smith Award
  • 2012 Dean’s List for excellence in doctoral thesis
  • 2010 Marion Rayward Memorial Scholarship for a New Zealand music education doctoral candidate


Secondary school Music Education

Areas of expertise

School Music Education

Music studio pedagogy

Sociology of knowledge

21st century education

Committees/Professional groups/Services

University of Auckland Human Ethics Committee

KERU (CRSTIE Research Unit)

ANZARME (Australian New Zealand Association for Research in Music Education)

Cambridge Symposium of Knowledge in Education

Faculty of Education Postgraduate (PGRAES) Committee

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • McPhail, G., & Lourie, M. (2017). Getting Real: Is Realism a Blind Spot in Research Methodology?. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 52 (2), 285-299. 10.1007/s40841-017-0087-y
  • McPhail, G. (2017). Constructivism: Clearing up the confusion between a theory of learning and “constructing” knowledge. Set: Research Information for Teachers Online First, 2017 (2), 29-33. 10.18296/set.0081
  • McPhail, G., & Rata, E. (2016). Comparing curriculum types: ‘Powerful knowledge’ and ‘21st century learning’. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 51 (1), 53-68. 10.1007/s40841-015-0025-9
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/36607
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Elizabeth Rata
  • McPhail, G. (2016). The fault lines of recontextualisation: the limits of constructivism in education. British Educational Research Journal, 42 (2), 294-313. 10.1002/berj.3199
  • McPhail, G. (2016). A ‘fourth moment’ for music education? A response to Chris Philpott's sociological critique of music curriculum change. British Journal of Music Education, 33 (01), 43-59. 10.1017/S0265051715000091
  • Bartlett, E., & McPhail, G. J. (2016). Teacher expertise and feedback in music composition. Pacific-Asian Education: The Journal of the Pacific Circle Consortium for Education, 28 (1), 63-74. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/36601
  • McPhail, G. (2016). The future just happened: Lessons for 21st-century learning from the secondary school music classroom. Curriculum Matters, 12, 8-28. 10.18296/cm.0011
  • McPhail, G. J. (2016). Music on the move: methodological applications of Bernstein’s concepts in a secondary school music context. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 37 (8), 1147-1166. 10.1080/01425692.2015.1044069
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/32134


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 1, Room 117
New Zealand

Web links