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Article ED00006: Music in Education DOES make a difference

Summary:

Music in Education makes a very real difference for students' learning ... up to 20% in fact!

Application:

All who are interested music in education and student learning.

Details:

In 1972, in the Metropolitan West Region of the NSW Department of Education, a pilot research programme was under way that would span more than 10 years .. . .and have a major effect on the teachers and the students who were fortunate enough to be involved. Initiated and supervised by Deanna Hoermann, the aim of the research was to observe and measure the benefits, if any, of a developmental music program in the education system, beginning at kindergarten level. Classes were selected at random in a number of schools within the region. Each class was to be given carefully planned music instruction on a regular basis. Where possible, classes would be kept together throughout their primary education and eventually compared with other classes in the region that did not participate in the music program.

Music students begin to excel in all subjects

Early observations were very interesting:

  • 6 year-olds, in their second year of music seemed perceptually superior to other students
  • amongst 7 year-olds in their third year of music there was a far lower incidence of poor reading compared to other students.

Signs were there that music was having a very positive effect on the children's development, improving their ability to learn, their reading and communicative skills, their ability to use numbers, arithmetic and more. As they progressed in music they excelled in practically every other area of their education. This apparent fine edge in learning would be later confirmed in a series of quantitative tests given to classes in year 6, their final year of primary school.

Test ResultsYear 6 tests confirm the benefits of music In 1978, after some seven years of the developmental music program, the original kindergarten classes of 1972 were tested and compared to similar classes in the region. There was a total of eleven tests including:

  • TOLA 4 (Test Of Learning Ability)
  • TOLA 6, a more advanced version of TOLA 4 with three sub-tests,
    • Vocabulary
    • Problem solving
    • Analogies
  • READING
  • COUNTING and NUMBERS
  • ARITHMETIC
  • MATH PROBLEMS
  • GEOMETRY, SHAPES
  • PARAGRAPH UNDERSTANDING
  • SPELLING

In total 237 children were in the Music Group and 251 children were in the Other Group.

In EVERY test the Music Group outperformed the Other Group.

In 9 of the 11 tests the margin was significant (up to 20% higher for the Music Group). In the case of the Vocabulary and Problem Solving tests the margin was not sufficient to be conclusive (mean scores of the Music Group were 3.8% higher and 7.2% higher respectively in these tests).

Monitoring of the program continued into the early 1980's and further reinforced the early observations and the tests of 1978. The conclusion that the teaching of developmental music is of major benefit to young children is now well accepted amongst teachers. It is therefore unfortunate that the resources, in terms of both skilled teachers and funding, necessary to support an effective program similar to that used in the Metropolitan West research project are simply not available to primary
schools at this point in time.

Footnote:
The NSW research was formally documented in 1979 and presented by highly respected music educator Dr Doreen Bridges in her paper Outcomes of a Developmental Music Programme (presented at the IV International Kodaly Symposium, Sydney, 1979). Dr Bridges is now retired and lives in SA, but maintains an active interest in music education.

See also:

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