29 SES 12, Pedagogies of Music Education
The impact of background music on the performance of different tasks, which is the focus of this study, is directly related to the effects of music on emotions and behaviour. The human response to music can be of a great variety: physiological, intellectual, aesthetic and emotional, although in education the focus has been mainly on aesthetic and intellectual responses (Hallam, 2010). Emotions elicited by music has been a topic largely studied throughout history, from different perspectives, being functions of music (Gaston, 1968; Ostwald, 1966) and physiological and psychological effects (North & Hargreaves, 1997) the closer with the former mentioned topic.
In our actual globalized world, music from any style, era or cultural origin is totally accessible through recordings, music streaming services, radio or TV. In most cases music listening is an activity that people perform without paying conscious attention, particularly in situations where background music is played in public places, or as a soundtrack for an audio-visual or multimedia product. People listen an average of 25 songs a day (Bencivelli, 2011), without being conscious of this. These facts justify the need to explore the effects of background music on our cognitive processing and behaviour.
In the education environment, this impact can be of especial interest, as it is known that much homework and studying undertaken at home is accompanied by different types of background music (Patton, Stinard & Routh, 1983; Kotsopoulou, 1997; Kotsopoulou & Hallam, 2010). What still remains unknown is the effect of this music both on cognitive tasks, concentration or even the quality of the work resulted from these tasks.
Although the conclusions from different studies carried out in this domain are not confluent, some can be highlighted to define a theoretical framework. Savan (1998) concluded a greater concentration and improved behaviour in children with learning and emotional difficulties when using background music during science lessons. Two studies undertook by Hallam & Price (1998) and Hallam, Price & Katsarou (2002) showed that background calming music resulted in an improved behaviour and performance in mathematics both for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties as well as with normal children in a mainstream Primary School. On the other hand, Fogelson (1973) found that performance in reading test of 8th graders was negatively affected by different music pieces (instrumental versions of Hello Dolly, Fiddler on the Roof and Dear Heart). In this sense, familiarity plays a role in our liking and appreciation of music. The more familiar we are with a piece of music, the more we like and value it, although over familiarity may lead to boredom or even dislike (North & Hargreaves, 1997).
Regarding the purpose of this paper, the present study is, in a broader sense, a replica of a previous one, conducted by Susan Hallam & Carey Godwin: 54 children aged 10-11 were asked to write an story while listening to either calming, exciting-arousing or no background music (Hallam & Godwin, 2015). The study attempted to explore a tightly designated set of effects of music on behaviour in relation to a cognitive task. Our study pursues this same initial objective, expanding the size of the sample (269 participants versus 54 from the original study) and creating a new evaluation instrument, with the addition of new analysis dimensions, to evaluate the stories created by the students. Additionally, the original study was conducted in UK, with English students, while our study has been conducted in Spain, with Spanish students. Despite the cultural differences, carrying out this study in another European context could help broaden the scope of this line of research.
This study, of a quantitative nature, using a pre-experimental and cross-sectional design, since it involves the collection of data on three groups of different students in a single time: Group A) Students who produce their written production listening to calming music; Group B) Students who do so by listening to exciting-arousing music; and Group C) Control group, that is, students who write the stories without music. The independent variable is the type of music and the dependent the characteristics of the stories created by the students. The sample of our study consisted on 269 Primary Education students from two schools located in the city of Seville (Andalusia, Spain): Salesianos from Alcalá and Santa Ana. To ensure parity, 46.5% of participating students were men and 53.5% women. The average age of the students was 9.85 years (SD = 1.024), ranging in a range between 8 and 13 years. Finally, due to the comparative character of our study, it was tried that the three groups kept the same proportion of subjects. Thus, the whole sample was divided into the following sample groups: 34.6% belong to Group A, 33.7% to Group B and 31.7% to Group C. For data collection, an evaluation rubric was used, including the following Dimensions (D): - D1. The story has a beginning, a development and an end. - D2: The story is descriptive: it describes the characters and places in space and time. - D3: It is detailed: uses adjectives, adverbs and other resources that provide detail to the narrative. - D4: The story reaches a climactic moment. - D5: The story holds the attention. - D6: The story is exciting, contains element of surprise, unexpected twists, suspense, etc. - D7: The story is confusing because of grammatical errors. - D8: The story is well written: do not abuse the repetitions of words, uses particles of time, separates ideas into paragraphs. - D9: The story is creative. The rubric was evaluated using a four-point scale, from 1 to 4, being 1 the minimum score and 4 the maximum. Two external evaluators were in charge of the assessment of the written productions created by the students in each of the three groups observed. For data analysis, descriptive statistical tests of central tendency (Average) and dispersion (standard deviation, maximum and minimum) were performed. SPSS v.24. was used to carry out these analyses.
An analysis of the average score from each of the study dimensions evaluated in the written productions of the students reveals that, in three analysis situations, the same trend is observed, with an average rate between 2.5 and 3 (D2, D3, D4, D5 y D8). Within this general trend, the following findings stand out: - Dimension D1 is the best valued in all observed groups, clearly standing out from the others, with an average of around 3.5. However, it does not seem to be observed that music influences the rate of this dimension. - On the other hand, dimensions D6 and D9 obtain the lowest average scores, below 2.5. - Furthermore, there are dimensions that show greater inter-group dispersion (differences between the three groups). D7 (grammatical errors) stands out in this case, being group C (control) the one who commits more grammatical errors, making the story more confusing (x̄ = 3.18). Groups A and B obtain an average rate close to 3, being Group B (exciting music) the one that makes the least mistakes (x̄ = 2.8). As a main conclusion, it seems that the variable music has no effect on the performance of students writing stories. It would be necessary to analyse the influence that could have the little importance that the Spanish Educational System gives to the artistic education, in general, and to the music, in particular. Furthermore, another factor to be taken into account could be the very nature of the tasks proposed in the schools, which enhance a more traditional or convergent thinking, to the detriment of a more divergent or creative one, which could explain that similarity in the stories obtained.
Bencivelli, S. (2011). Why we like music: Ear, emotion, evolution. New York: Music Word Media Group. Fogelson, S. (1973). Music as a distractor on reading-test performance of eighth grade students. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 36(3), 1265-1266. Gaston, E. T. (1968). Music in therapy. New York: Macmillan College. Hallam, S. (2010). The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people. International Journal of Music Education, 28(3), 269-289. Hallam, S. & Godwin, C. (2015) Actual and perceived effects of background music on creative writing in the primary classroom. Psychology of Education Review, 39(2), 15-21. Hallam, S., & Price, J. (1998). Research section: can the use of background music improve the behaviour and academic performance of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties? British journal of special education, 25(2), 88-91. Hallam, S., Price, J., & Katsarou, G. (2002). The effects of background music on primary school pupils' task performance. Educational studies, 28(2), 111-122. Kotsopoulou, A. & Hallam, S. (2010). The perceived impact of playing music while studying: age and cultural differences. Educational Studies, 36(4), 431-440. Kotsopoulou, A. (1997). Music in students’ lives. Unpublished MA Dissertation. Institute of Education, University of London. North, A. C., & Hargreaves, D. J. (1997). Liking, arousal potential, and the emotions expressed by music. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 38(1), 45-53. Ostwald, P. F. (1966). Music and Human Emotions—Discussion. Journal of Music Therapy, 3(3), 93-94. Patton, J. E., Stinard, T. A., & Routh, D. K. (1983). Where do children study? Journal of Educational Research, 76, 280–286. Savan, A. (1998). A study of the effect of background music on the behaviour and physiological responses of children with special educational needs. Psychology of Education Review, 22, 32-35.
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