About Dr James Renwick

James is fascinated by the challenge of “getting inside students’ heads” as they deal with the cognitive, motivational, and environmental challenges of learning music. Taking this fascination into the world of systematic academic research has been a life-changing experience that he enjoys sharing with the research students he supervises.

The focus of James Renwick’s research is the psychology of musical learning. In his recent doctoral study of 677 young people learning a musical instrument, he investigated the relations between effective practising behaviour and the nature of the learners’ motivation lying along the intrinsic–extrinsic continuum.

James Renwick is a lecturer in music education, teaching research methods, instrumental pedagogy, and supervising research students. James’ research interests focus on applying the insights of educational psychology to music teaching and learning. His doctoral research involved collaborating with Gary McPherson and John McCormick on a study funded by the Australian Research Council, investigating associations between students' motivational beliefs, their practising behaviour, and performance achievement.  In this mixed-methods research, he analysed large-scale questionnaire data with multivariate statistical techniques such as structural equation modelling, and combined this with case studies of adolescents combining computer coding of observational data, “think-aloud” verbal protocols, and semi-structured interviews. James has developed the application to music of self-regulated learning theory through detailed observational analyses of children's practising strategies. More broadly, James’ research interests include all aspects of the psychology of music that have educational and developmental relevance, and as a studio music teacher, he is interested in research on the one-to-one pedagogical relationship.  Recent action research has further widened his focus to research on the diversification of music performance training at tertiary level through incorporation of non-Classical genres and pedagogical approaches.  Areas of recent research supervision include:

  • An exploration of a student string quartet as a model of cooperative learning
  • The perceptions of adolescent boys regarding music participation and social behaviour
  • Exploring the self-concept and identity of Sydney Conservatorium students with and without absolute pitch
  • Performance-related musculoskeletal injuries in bassoonists.

Selected publications