Interpersonal relationships in childrens’ instrumental music lessons

Interpersonal relationships in childrens’ instrumental music lessons

A research study conducted by Creech and Hallam (2011) investigated the effect that interpersonal relationships between student, teacher, and parent has on learning processes and outcomes. This was assessed as control or responsiveness of the student in the interpersonal situations surrounding instrumental lessons.

Human interactions have a powerful effect on teaching, learning and our overall educational experience (Davidson & Borthwick, 2002). In particular, the music teaching studio is one area where close personal relationships are often developed between teacher, student, and parent (Creech, 2006).

Student attitudes as a response to these interactions can play a role in the learning experience and overall variability in the students’ learning outcomes. Theses attitudes and responses were conceptualised as control or responsiveness for this study.

The results of the study demonstrated the student receptiveness to parental support was found to have a positive relationship to musical outcomes. Interestingly, O’Neill (2002) found that students who gave up learning a musical instrument were less likely to view their parents as supportive.

Student-teacher accord was found to be positively relate to student enjoyment, satisfaction, motivation, and self-esteem. Mutual respect, common purpose and a student-centred goal focus were common reasons for a positive relationship in student-teacher accord. Negative outcomes were found for student-teacher reticence, suggesting that remoteness within student-teacher relationships may be detrimental to learning.

The results indicate that instrumental lessons are successful for students when the right balance of interpersonal dynamics of student-parent-teacher are achieved. In a way these lessons are a “learning partnership” (p.199) where students are supported in the desire for autonomy, development of self-regulation, and active engagement in learning.


Creech, A., & Hallam, S. (2003). Parent–teacher–pupil interactions in instrumental music tuition: a literature review. British Journal of Music Education, 20(1), 29-44.

Davidson, J. W., & Borthwick, S. J. (2002). Family Dynamics and Family Scripts: A Case Study of Musical Development. Psychology of Music, 30(1), 121-136.

Hallam, S., & Creech, A. (2006). Every picture tells a story Pupil representations of learning the violin. Educate, 6(1), 21.

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