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

The New Zealand Knowledge Curriculum Research Project (a KERU research project)


Teaching | Current

  • EDCURSEC 687 & 647 (Music Education)
  • EDPROF 702 The Twentieth Century Classroom/Centre 
  • MUS 223, 323 (An Introduction to Instrumental Pedagogy)

Postgraduate supervision

Current supervisions:

Temi Adelekan (Doctoral) - Knowledge in New Zealand University.

Sheraz Akhtar (Doctoral) - Pakistani Christian Refugees’ Educational Experiences in Thailand.

Vicki 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.

Robin 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

Cris Lynch (Doctoral) - Justifying the Enlightenment’s tradition in the 21st century: A critique of New Zealand education.

Edward Pinel (Doctoral) – Primary Teacher’s Experience with Future Focused Learning

Xiaoming Tian (Doctoral) - China's 'socialist market economy' and its curriculum policies and practices

Sokuntharath Sou (Masters) - Investigating Curriculum Design in the Bachelor of Education in Teaching English at Three Cambodian Universities.

Completed supervisions:


Alexis Siteine (co-supervisor) - Identity, Knowledge and Curriculum: A Sociological Study of Ethnicity in New Zealand Education.


Julie Skelling - Tracking the Transformation of Symbolic Discourse: Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and non-Māori teachers’ selection of Māori cultural content.

Villiami Telefoni  - Musical instrument instruction for NCEA music via YouTube

Shannon Coulomb - Conceptual progression in the teaching of composition

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

Stephanie Lees - Creativity in the secondary music classroom.

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

Neil Morrow - Subject-specific mathematical vocabulary in mathematics lessons

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



  • 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

The University of Auckland Human Participants Ethics Committee (UAHPEC)

KERU (CRSTIE Research Unit)

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

Cambridge Symposium of Knowledge in Education


Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • McPhail, G. (2018). The future just happened: Lessons for twenty-first century learning from the secondary school music classroom. In G. McPhail, V. Thorpe, S. Wise (Eds.) Educational change and the secondary school music curriculum in Aotearoa New Zealand (pp. 27-41). London & New York: Routledge. 10.4324/9781315109602-3
  • McPhail, G. (2018). Music teachers talking: Views on secondary school curriculum content. In G. McPhail, V. Thorpe, S. Wise (Eds.) Educational change and the secondary school music curriculum in Aotearoa New Zealand (pp. 131-131). New York & London: Routledge. 10.4324/9781315109602-9
  • McPhail, G. (2018). Curriculum integration in the senior secondary school: A case study in a national assessment context. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 50 (1), 56-76. 10.1080/00220272.2017.1386234
  • McPhail, G., & Rata, E. (2018). A theoretical model of curriculum design: 'Powerful knowledge' and '21st century learning'. In B. Barrett, U. Hoadley, J. Morgan (Eds.) Knowledge, curriculum and equity: Social realist perspectives (pp. 63-79). Abingdon, Oxon, UK: Routledge.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/40846
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Elizabeth Rata
  • 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. J. (2017). Rethinking what it means to be a progressive teacher: Key ideas from social realism. Pacific-Asian Education, 29 (1), 75-89. Related URL.
  • McPhail, G. (2017). Rethinking what it means to be a teacher through a mixed modality approach. In J. Tetnabe, C. Mutch (Eds.) Understanding enduring ideas in education: A response to those who 'just want to be a teacher' (pp. 82-94). Wellington, New Zealand: NZCER.
  • 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


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 1, Room 117
New Zealand

Web links