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Music Appreciation and Academic Achievement

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Music appreciation is associated with several positive aspects which results into mental development of individuals. Several studies have shown that music helps develop the brain in many areas that are involved in language and reasoning as well as spatial intelligence. Mothers will play various types of music while they are pregnant because they believe that music will help their child’s brain development in a positive way. It is important to find out if there is really any relationship between music and intelligence. There are many beliefs that playing an instrument teaches discipline and to achieve excellence, one have to work hard. Therefore, it creates a sense of responsibility for students such as being able to comprehend beats, rhythms, reading notes, and music theory helps a student to do well in mathematics too. Music is supposed to broaden the mind and creativity of a person. There does not seem to be any negative aspects or thoughts towards music having a negative effect on the development of academic achievement for students in their academic career. The following is a summary of the findings of different articles on relationship between music appreciation and academic achievement for students.

In the article, ‘The Power of Music: Its Impact on the Intellectual, Social and Personal Development of Children and Young People,’ Hallam observed that music only has positive impact on personal and social development of an individual if listening and playing is an enjoyable and rewarding activity. In the study, Hallam explores various literatures which give evidence relating to the impact of musical skills on literacy, measures of intelligence, numeracy, language development, general attainment, creativity, self-confidence, social skills, team work, relaxation and self-discipline. Therefore, it can be said that the methodology used by Hallam in this article is just literature review on different research findings related to music and personal development.  Hallam refers to a studies conducted by Hirt-Mannheimer, Wolf and Humpal (separate studies) which argued that music provide effective experiences for children to develop listening skills in mainstream schools and for children with learning disabilities.

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This argument has been supported by other researches which provide evidence that learning is a process which occurs without our conscious awareness. When one listening to music or even a speech, the enormous information received is processed rapidly in the brain without one’s awareness of it. The ease with which an individual is able to do this depends on previous musical and linguistic experiences. When learning is done through exposure to a certain environment, then when ever one is exposed to such an environment, learning becomes automatic. Musical experiences are said to improve processing and can therefore impact on the perception of language which in turn, impacts on reading. Through this process, when children or young people are exposed to music, their processing skills are impacted and hence their reading skills.

Hallam reveals that these research findings are also supported by other researchers such as Douglas and Willatts, Gardiner, Fox, Knowles and Jeffrey who conducted different research studies on children of different ages. The researchers found out that where music was incorporated in children’s learning process, their reading scores increased unlike in the control groups where music was not used. Through a review of different research findings, Hallam concludes that it is evidence that active engagement in music in early childhood results into development of perceptual skills which affect language learning and hence impacts on reading. In summary, Hallam has appropriately made use of the numerous research findings to come to a conclusion about the subject, and hence making well use of the research methodology selected.  

In the article titled The Impact of Music on Childhood and Adolescent Achievement, Southgate and Roscigno conducted a review of previous work related to impact of music on achievement. The other methodology applied by Southgate and Roscigno included drawing of raw data from two nationally representative data sources on impact of music on children and then conducted some analysis on the data  in order to find out the possible effects of music involvement on mathematics and reading performance of students. From the review of previous work pertaining impact of music on academic achievement of children and adolescents, Southgate and Roscigno observed that all studies agree that when students are exposed to music, positive outcomes on cognitive and social development are observed. For example, Southgate and Roscigno cites a study conducted by Rauscher, Shaw and Ky on “Mozart effect.” In this study, it was observed that college students who listened to Mozart before taking their exams scored higher in their exams than their counterparts who did not listen to Mozart.

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In another different study by Hetland which involved a meta-analysis of experimental studies on the relation between spatial performance and music making, the results showed strong bivariate relations. Hetland discovered that the findings pertaining to the relationship between learning how to play an instruments and achievement in reading and mathematics were ambiguous. It was noted that there was some form of social class biasness in the methods used to measure the relationships because students form lower income earning families had limited resources that hindered them from participating in music from the outset. However, without looking at social class differences or the educational resources at children’s disposal, results concerning the relationship between listening to and/or participating in music and academic achievement of students showed positive results.

Raw data was obtained from the Department of Education: the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-K) and the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS:88) in order to provide more evidence about the findings of the research studies reviewed by Southgate and Roscigno.  ECLS-K was data which had been administered to 2,000 kindergarten students between 1998 and 1999 form 1,000 schools in US and follow-ups done in their first, third and fifth grades. For NELS-88, it was data collected from different group of students from eighth grade and beyond high schools with follow-ups done after every two years. Upon analyzing both sets of data, Southgate and Roscigno compared students’ scores on standardized tests in reading and mathematics. Even though standardized tests are not good measures of cognitions and cognitive complexity, they are relative indicators of success in schools. Mean score of students in both mathematics and reading form analysis of ECLS-K data was 51% while that of NELS:88 was 57% for reading and 44% for mathematics. For students who score high scores both in reading and in mathematics, they were found to be participating in music at school and outside school.

This showed that the level of involvement in music also determined the level of academic achievement. The more a student participated in musical activities, the higher were the scores. For students who showed lower scores, it was found that they only participated in music either at school or outside school. However, their scores were far much better than the scores of students who did not listen to music at all. Southgate and Roscigno concluded that participation in music outside and inside schools has positive impact on students’ scores in reading and mathematics. Students who participate in music outside their schools and also inside the schools but in a controlled manner had good reading skills and hence the scored highly. By a parent participation in music outside school, for example through attending concerts where their children are performing; it helps improve mathematics scores of the child. In summary, Southgate and Roscigno utilized both methodologies which they used in their study. They analyzed raw data sourced from secondary sources to provide supporting evidence for what other research studies had found out.

In the article, ‘Music Lessons Enhance IQ,’ Schellenberg conducted a research to find out the effect of participating in music on children IQ. In the methodology, Schellenberg recruited 6-years olds through advertisement in community newspapers offering free weekly art lessons. 144 children were selected and were randomly divided into four groups. Two of the groups received full music lessons while the other groups acted as control groups who received either drama lessons or no lessons. From the results, it was found out that the IQ of all children in the four groups had increased over the period of one year. This was because, at this level of development, children’s IQ increases because this is the age at which they develop towards taking education. However, for the two groups which took full music lessons, their IQ increases more than that of children who were in the control groups. For those who took drama lessons, the only positive observation made was that they had improved social behavior as compared to all other groups. Schellenberg was therefore able to provide evidence that learning music had positive effect on children’s IQ development. According to Schellenberg, when music is taught to young children either individually or in small groups, it provides additional boosts in IQ because music lessons are like school where teaching that boosts the brain takes place. Moreover, music lessons involve a multiplicity of experiences that could generate improvement in a wide range of abilities (Schellenberg).

The three articles provide evidence that there is positive relationship between listening to music and academic achievement for students. Listening to music helps a student to rapidly process enormous amount of information. Since learning is a process, as a student get used more and more exposure to musical environment, more and more learning takes place. More musical experiences increases student’s processing ability which in turn impacts on one’s language perception and hence improves reading. The more a student gets exposed to music, that is, both at school and outside school, the better the student’s scores in mathematics and reading. However, participation in music while at school should be controlled in order to enable the student concentrate on other learning activities. Participating in music lessons at a tender age contributes to increase in IQ in children.

This is because just like in school where learning is done through different lessons; music lessons present a learning opportunity for children to develop their intelligence. To prove their points, the authors use different methodologies which include reviewing prior research findings, analyzing data sourced from secondary sources and conducting primary survey. The population used in the studies by all the authors is well distributed since it ranges from children as young as 6 years to adolescent students aged 17 years. The samples used are also good representations of the population since the results indicated are reliable. Therefore, the information provided by the three articles is reliable.

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