Music Education Research

Instrumental music practice requires an ongoing cycle of planning and self-reflection. Self-regulated learning (Zimmerman, 1989) proposes a model which highlights important factors influencing learning. There are three phases in the SRL model which are viewed an ongoing cycle in the learning process:

  1. forethought phase;
  2. performance phase; and
  3. self-reflection phase.
Haphazard or strategic instrumental practice

Haphazard or strategic instrumental practice

Hatfield et al (2016) suggest that goal setting, strategic planning, and self-efficacy, are key self-regulatory components required for optimal instrumental practice of students. Hatfield et al (2016) argue these components are considered akin to Psychological Skills Training (PST) derived from sports psychology, and are adapted to assess self-regulated learning in instrumental music practice in their study.

SRL and Learning

An emphasis of SRL principles in the learning environment has been shown to influence music learners’ perceptions of self-efficacy and is an important factor in the learning process for the formation and continuance of self-motivational beliefs (Valera et al, 2016). Planning and goal setting are integral to SRL. Instrumental music students who exhibit these forms of proactive learning tend to use a greater variety of practice strategies (Miksza, 2012) and experience higher musical achievement (Bonneville-Roussy & Bouffard, 2015). Additionally, music students who assume increased use of metacognitive strategies exhibit greater achievement and persistence (Miksza, 2011).

Interestingly, Bonneville-Roussy and Bouffard (2015) found a negative relationship between amount of practice time and musical achievement. This finding would suggest that those music students who make proactive use of their practice time, employ metacognitive and task-related strategies. These students typically hone in on quality rather than quantity of practice, therefore are more likely to have higher musical achievement than those who practice haphazardly and for extended amounts of time.

The current study

With this in mind, the current study of Hatfield et al (2016) proposed that self-regulated learners in music integrate adaptive and cyclical learning patterns in their practice sessions. The researchers found the forethought phases of SRL—goal setting—, in addition to self-efficacy, positively predicted use of psychological skills. In turn, the use of psychological skills predicted the self-reflection phase of SRL with findings of improved coping mechanisms and increased perceptions of progress. Furthermore, goal setting was significantly, though indirectly linked to coping and perception of progress, through self-observation and self-control. Finally, the self-reflection phase significantly predicted forethought phase constructs (goal setting and self-efficacy).

In summary, the study found a strong correlation between self-efficacy and goal setting. These variables were also found to have a strong predictive association for the use of psychological skills. In terms of SRL, the study revealed strong links between the forethought and performance phase of self-regulated learning. Moreover, specific goal setting in the forethought phase has the capacity to alter psychological skills and self-efficacy in instrumental practice. Furthermore, self-efficacy was found to contribute to the deliberate task-related practice strategies and influenced the students’ perception of progress.

A cyclical effect

The effect is cyclical. When instrumental practice contributes to mastery experiences, students develop increase sense of self-efficacy, thereby becoming increasingly motivated to plan and execute similar practice behaviours. An additional effect is increased effort and persistence, particularly when confronted with difficulties and the possibility of failure. Importantly, psychological skills predicted 54% of the variance in coping, implying goal setting and self-regulation of instrumental practice has positive outcomes for adaptive coping mechanisms of instrumental music students.



Bonneville-Roussy, A., & Bouffard, T. (2015). When quality is not enough: Disentangling the roles of practice time, self-regulation and deliberate practice in music achievement. Psychology of Music, 45(5), 686-704.

Hatfield, J. L., Halvari, H., & Lemyre, P. N. (2016). Instrumental practice in the contemporary music academy: A three-phase cycle of Self-Regulated Learning in music students. Musicae Scientiae.

Miksza, P. (2011). Relationships among achievement goal motivation, impulsivity, and the music practice of collegiate brass and woodwind players. Psychology of Music, 39(1), 50-67.

Miksza, P. (2012). The Development of a Measure of Self-Regulated Practice Behavior for Beginning and Intermediate Instrumental Music Students. Journal of Research in Music Education, 59(4), 321-338.

Zimmerman, B. J. (1989). A social cognitive view of self-regulated academic learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81(3), 329-339.


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