Teaching Philosophy


  1. Teaching Approach

I maintain high standards and demonstrate high expectations for myself and all students, regardless of ethnicity, cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Students learn more when they are challenged by teachers who have high expectations for them, encourage them to identify problems, involve them in collaborative activities, and accelerate their learning (Burris & Welner, 2005). “…involve young people in novel problem-solving activities. They ask open-ended questions requiring students to use their judgment and form opinions. They choose activities where students must use analytic skills, evaluate, and make connections. They expect students to conduct research, complete their homework, and manage their time effectively”.

  • I have always aimed for the highest standards for my own work and of the students I teach. This has always been reflected in a ‘never say die’ attitude in my work. This was reflected in the training of the Year 9 Classroom Music student’s preparation and performance for the ‘R U OK’ day in September. With very limited time to rehearse with this group, the students worked collaboratively to present a most effective performance to the rest of the school community.
  • I believe that music educators fall broadly into two approaches: Inclusive and Elitist. The first approach uses inclusion as a point of connection with the broader curriculum, in turn inspiring the learner to become an autonomous learner in their musical studies. Through this process they encourage and equip others, in effect, they are culture changers. Through this process more learners are engaged and the curriculum becomes truly inclusive, a powerfully transformative educational engine. Excellence is achieved as a by-product of the student becoming a dynamic life-long learner, and impacting those around them. This is the position to which I adhere as an educator. The ‘student successes’ page of my website, I believe, provides some very notable examples of this https://grantfurneaux.com/student-successes/. The second uses a standard as a reference point, where the curriculum becomes, in effect, a ‘weeding out’ process of those who are deemed not ready or capable of reaching a pre-determined standard. This approach is characterised by a program that has many learners commence their musical journey, but only a few top level students complete it. I find this approach inconsistent with effective inclusional educational strategies, and counterproductive in producing a dynamic musical culture within a school.
  • I have always set myself the highest standards for my own work, and strive to achieve these within the day-to-day context of a busy work environment. This includes dressing professionally and addressing those around me, including students, with courtesy and respect.
  • I believe that the setting of benchmarks is a key factor in determining success. Therefore, for the student learner, exemplars and assessment criteria and rubrics are an important asset to every student, which, carefully constructed with a connective classroom environment and a few key skills in mind, add to the average student’s ability to create outstanding creative work of their own. In the ‘Year 7 Music Technology (Garageband) composition’ common assessment task, (October 2015), I utilised these vehicles to create a framework where some outstanding original work was delivered by students.

Show students you care by getting to know their individual needs and strengths and sharing their concerns, hopes, and dreams.

Students tend to want to participate and do their best when a teacher is nurturing and caring. Nel Noddings (1995) advocates that when society around us concentrates on materialistic messages, “we should care more genuinely for our children and teach them to care” (p. 24). Of course we want academic achievement for our students, she notes, but “we will not achieve even that unless our children believe they themselves are cared for and learn to care for others” (p. 24).

• When invited to attend a restorative practise session for a GWSC year 7 class that I have been teaching, I gladly responded and attended, knowing that communicating to the students that I cared about their wellbeing, both individually and collectively. By attending this session I believe this sent a powerful message to the students: that I was more interested in

them than having a ‘free’ period. As a result of this I have noticed less time being spent on behavioural issues in the class than before, with the added flow-on benefit of a greater quality of work being produced by the students.

Understand students’ home cultures to better comprehend their behaviour in and out of the classroom.

Educators must understand and respect the many different ways of being a parent and expressing concern about the education of one’s children. Parental involvement is well established as being correlated with student academic achievement (Epstein, 2005).

Encourage active participation of parents or guardians.

Parents and guardians are a child’s first teachers, but they are not always aware of the ways in which they mould children’s language development and communication skills. Children learn their language at home; the more interaction and communication they have at home, the more children learn. Teachers can support this crucial role by sharing information about the link between home communication and children’s learning. Teachers can assist parents in understanding the expectations of the school and their classroom as they elicit from parents their own expectations of teachers and students. Teachers also can suggest ways in which parents might converse more often with their children to prepare them for communication in the classroom. Parents may not be aware of how they support their children’s academic efforts when they discuss the importance of education and take them to informal educational resources in the community.

• Wherever I have had the opportunity at my time at GWSC, I have taken the opportunity to communicate with parents about a range of issues in relation to their children’s work. I have found the parental body to be most appreciate of the time, effort and support that their children have received.

• Outside of GWSC, I maintain strong connections with parents of students that I have taught, or teach currently. Parents love the opportunity to connect with their child’s learning. Within the appropriate contexts, the educational opportunities are enhanced. This includes the following:

  1. Parents of AYC (Australian Youth Choir) members, ranging in age from 8-12 years, rehearsing in St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Frankston, on Monday nights, where I am the venue manager, as well as assistant conductor and accompanist.
  2. VCE Music Students, whose supportive parents drive them to concerts, lessons, workshops and events, and love to have their efforts in supporting their children valued and recognised.

c. Parents of Music Students that have been involved in musicals and tours that I have produced in the past. Communicating to these parents the life changing experiences that these opportunities provide

d. Parents of boys and girls that I have coached in soccer. The most united group of parents I built also worked in harmony with the players, producing an FFV premiership for the team in 2008. The value and impact of an effectively networked team of students/parents/teachers cannot be underestimated.

Tap into students’ backgrounds to enhance learning

Students’ self-esteem and motivation are enhanced when teachers elicit their experiences in classroom discussions and validate what they have to say. Young people become more engaged in lessons when they are brought into the initial dialogue by being asked what they know about the topic and what they want to know. If their questions are written down and used to form a guide for inquiry into the topic, students are far more likely to be interested in doing further research than if the questions simply come out of a text. The teacher also obtains a better understanding of students’ previous knowledge about a subject—a pre-assessment, as it were—that can guide the planning of the subsequent lesson. I have done this effectively already at GWSC with the year 9 Music Elective unit on ‘temperament and effective Practise’. Some students from the class have said that this has been the most insightful music classes of their entire Secondary Schooling.

Use cooperative learning strategies.

Teachers need to give students time to get to know each other and to find that they share common ground, common problems, and common feelings. One way to break down artificial barriers between students is to encourage them to participate in a small group over an extended period of time, collaborating on a shared activity with a shared goal that can only be achieved by working together. Children who have an opportunity to work in cooperative learning groups with fellow students of other races and ethnicities get to know those students as real people rather than as stereotypes. As students learn together and get to know one another, mutual respect and friendships can develop. I have found this to be a key feature of the group work undertaken by students at GWSC.

Create culturally compatible learning environments.

Research has shown that students learn more when their classrooms are compatible with their own cultural and linguistic experience (Au, 1980; Jordan, 1984, 1985, 1995; National Coalition of Advocates for Students, 1988; Saville-Troike, 1978; Trueba & Delgado- Gaitan, 1985). When the norms of interaction and communication in a classroom are very different from those to which students have been accustomed, they may experience confusion and anxiety, be unable to attend to learning, and not know how to appropriately seek the teacher’s attention or participate in discussions. By acknowledging students’ cultural norms and expectations concerning communication and social interaction, teachers can appropriately guide student participation in instructional activities.

Zeichner (1992) has summarized the extensive literature that describes successful teaching approaches for diverse populations. From his review, he distilled 12 key elements for effective teaching for ethnic- and language-minority students.


+ Teachers have a clear sense of their own ethnic and cultural identities.
+ Teachers communicate high expectations for the success of all students and a belief that all students can succeed.
+ Teachers are personally committed to achieving equity for all students and believe that they are capable of making a difference in their students’ learning.
+Teachers have developed a bond with their students and cease seeing their students as “the other.”
+ Schools provide an academically challenging curriculum that includes attention to the development of higher-level cognitive skills.
+ Instruction focuses on students’ creation of meaning about content in an interactive and collaborative learning environment.
+ Teachers help students see learning tasks as meaningful.
Curricula include the contributions and perspectives of the different ethnocultural groups that compose the society.

+ Teachers provide a “scaffolding” that links the academically challenging curriculum to the cultural resources that students bring to school.
+ Teachers explicitly teach students the culture of the school and seek to maintain students’ sense of ethnocultural pride and identity.

Use cooperative learning strategies.

Teachers need to give students time to get to know each other and to find that they share common ground, common problems, and common feelings. One way to break down artificial barriers between students is to encourage them to participate in a small group over an extended period of time, collaborating on a shared activity with a shared goal that can only be achieved by working together. Children who have an opportunity to work in cooperative learning groups with fellow students of other races and ethnicities get to know those students as real people rather than as stereotypes. As students learn together and get to know one another, mutual respect and friendships can develop. I have found this to be a key feature of the group work undertaken by students at GWSC.

Incorporate multiple forms of assessment.

I have utilised the following modes of assessment over the course of the last 15 years, appreciating the place each has had in a successful curriculum:

  • Formal testing and exams (Theoretical and Aural)
  • Formal Instrumental/Vocal/Ensemble exams and critique performances (ie: Eisteddfods)
  • Formal and informal concerts and performances,
  • Formative assessments of many types
  • Online self graded testing
  • Student Self assessment
  • Peer assessment
  • Practise tests and worksheets
  • Student set assessment tasks

2. Curriculum

  • In 2013 I developed an inclusive integrated curriculum, synergising Classroom, Instrumental and Ensemble programs at my pervious school which was lauded as best practise curricula by those who perused it. I would be happy to share a copy of this curriculum upon request. This curriculum was completed two years before the timeframe imposed by ACARA.
  • I am recognised as an educator who is at the forefront of creating innovative and strategic music programs that meet the needs of the 21st century learner, whilst satisfying the requirements of the new ACARA national curriculum.
  • I was the one of the first music educators in Victoria to introduce Contemporary ANZCA Modern Instrument fully graded examinations into the school culture, thereby giving students studying contemporary modern guitar, vocals, piano, bass, drumkit and jazz/pop syllabi in all woodwind and string students an equal footing with those students who followed a traditional examination pathway. I believe the AMEB CPM syllabus is not sufficient for the needs of these students. Many of the students who sat these exams have now graduated in successful careers in popular music.
  • In the interests of maintain vibrancy and relevancy in my teaching, I have at times initiated bold strategic change, including mentoring of other younger staff colleagues without a proven track recorded of success. The result is the outstanding results that my teaching/mentoring has delivered over my years as an educator.
  • I design assessment strategies that provide students, staff and parents with targeted constructive feedback engaging in both formative and summative modes of assessment. I believe any assessment should be constructive and inspirational to the student and parent(s).
  • I voluntarily review my curriculum and teaching practises annually in order to ensure my teaching is of best practise standard. I often invite my peers to honestly critique my teaching as part of this process.3. Professional developmentI have the capacity to reflect upon professional practice to continually improve the quality of teaching and learning.
  • I completed my Masters of Music Studies in 16 months at the University of Melbourne in 2012-13 while maintaining a full time teaching load. Every subject I undertook has had a valuable flow on effect in my teaching style and approach, allowing me to apply an excellent skillset to all aspects of my work. My subjects included:
    1. Arranging for Band,
    2. Choral Conducting
    3. Band Conducting
    4. Orchestral Conducting
    5. Advanced Aural Studies
    6. Teaching World Music
    7. Electronic Music
    8. Musical Futures
  • I have recently completed my Certificate II in Security Operations, enabling me to conduct security operations in a wide range of fields. I have found this excellent professional development as I have become acutely aware of the Occupation health and safety requirements of an Educational Institution such as GWSC, and the need to adhere to the policies designed to ensure the safe working environment for both staff and students.
  • I am currently completing my Business Management and Finance Diplomas to enhance my leadership and financial management skills.
  • I intend to commence my Doctoral studies at some stage in the future, designing a fully inclusive Music Education program for the 21st century Australian School. I will not compromise my teaching load in order to accomplish this.
  • I have just commenced a tenure as associate conductor and accompanist with Excelsis Choir, fast becoming one of Victorias most outstanding musical ensembles. I am looking forward to the opportunities that my association with this ensemble will bring.
  • I believe I am a life-long learner, always ready to learn something new. By this I can be the best example to those students around me. I believe I have become the following in the process:
    1. Adaptive, flexible, autonomous learner
    2. Someone that pursues excellence at every opportunity
    3. Someone that is reflective and continually seeking to improve
    4. Someone that explores diverse ways of knowing, thinking and learning

4. Constructive relationships  – with students, parents and Colleagues which engender positive attitudes to learning.

This is accomplished through:

  • developing positive, caring relationships in a safe environment
  • working collaboratively and co-operatively
  • each person being valued and respected
  • valuing our diversity, including our diverse cultural heritages and diverse ways of knowing and being
  • embracing our responsibilities as local, national and global citizens
  • I have always approached to learning environment of the classroom that I teach in as my responsibility. This includes the atmosphere that is generated through the learning experience, to the control, order and discipline of the learning environment. This is a key reason why, I believe, I have relatively few discipline problems within my classroom. Primary in this is that each students I teach should be treated with respect and dignity.

• I have always adhered to the following principles undergirding my teaching practise:


Behaviour – always courteous and respectful


Takes responsibility for actions


Volunteering Acts of service

Desire for self-improvement

Continued learning Self-instruction


Fair treatment of all people regardless of demographic characteristics


Increased receptiveness to new ideas


Dresses appropriately Punctual Maintains confidentiality Responsibility to learn Comes to class prepared Actively engages the class in activities, such as discussions

Team player Engages in constructive peer assessment

Accepts and applies constructive critique

Values new experiences

Desires to seek out and take on new challenges


• In addition, I have recently embraced a conceptual framework called ‘the habits of the mind’, which I desire to integrate into all areas of my teaching and ongoing development.

5. Communication and interpersonal skills when relating to students, parents and other teachers together with a commitment and capacity to actively contribute to the school’s co-curricular program as an enthusiastic member of the school team.

These are the key skills that I have developed over many years of teaching, and, more recently, at GWSC: Generally:

  • Maintained active and positive communication with parents and other staff through diverse means of communication, including Websites, Learning management systems (Moodle), newsletters, emails, phone calls, and face to face meetings.
  • Undertook Musical direction of a Musical Production every year
  • Undertook Musical production of a fully co-ordinated multi ensemble touring program and stage show every year,
  • Many after hours rehearsals, workshops and concerts,
  • Driving the 24 seat bus on school excursions and camps
  • Sports (Soccer) coach at school.
  • Heavily involved in the School’s extra curricular activities.At Glen Waverley Secondary College:
  • Prepared and conducted two ensembles for memorable performances at RU OK day and Spring Gala,
  • Prepared and delivered insightful and engaging teaching strategies to enhance student learning
  • Tutored struggling students at lunchtimes,
  • Developed multi-sensory learning outcomes for students who were not proficient at cognitive visual recognition,
  • Developed paperless assessment strategies and comprehensive feedback models
  • Composed original arrangements for ensembles (junior Guitar ensemble)


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