Motivation to study Music in Australian Schools

Attr: John Liu

Motivation to study Music in Australian Schools

This study (McPherson, et al., 2015) extended a prior nine nation study (McPherson & O’Neill, 2010) about motivation to study music in schools. The current study focussed on students in Australian schools. An Expectancy-value framework was used to assess motivation of students to study music in schools across primary to secondary levels.

Attr: John Liu

Motivation to study Music in Schools

The results found difference in music learners versus non-music learners. Music learners were more competent and interested in music and also reported higher perceptions of importance and usefulness of music as a school subject than on-music learners. Music learners also reported music to be less difficult than non-music learners. Additionally, music learners held higher expectations for success in other subject areas, thought other subjects to be more important, useful, and less difficult than non-music students. It seems  music learners develop more resilience and have a more positive perspective on academic success than non-music students.

The study also included analysis of SES status. The results found there was a significant decline in the value of music for upper SES students from primary to lower secondary. There is a known decrease in motivation and motivational beliefs for school subjects when moving from primary to high school (Wigfield & Eccles, 2002), however, this result is interesting as it added the SES dimension to the findings. The authors argue that students from higher SES backgrounds are making decisions on their future careers earlier than lower SES background students and view music as a pathway with limited opportunity.

In contrast, lower SES students were found to indicate a desire to learn a musical instrument, however, they had the lowest participation rates of musical instrument learning. McPherson et al (2015) argue that there is an inequity in the music education system where only those that can afford it will have the opportunity to learn a music instrument, whereas those who seem to have the greatest desire and potential as music learners and its attendant benefits are denied such opportunities.

Overall, the findings suggest that music learners are distinctly more motivated in music and other subjects and have greater perceptions and expectations for success. Such results argue that music education has motivational benefits which extend beyond the subject of music into other academic realms.


McPherson, G. E., & O’Neill, S. A. (2010). Students’ motivation to study music as compared to other school subjects: A comparison of eight countries. Research Studies in Music Education, 32(2), 101-137.

McPherson, G. E., Osborne, M. S., Barrett, M. S., Davidson, J. W., & Faulkner, R. (2015). Motivation to study music in Australian schools: The impact of music learning, gender, and socio-economic status. Research Studies in Music Education.

Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J. (2002). The development of competence beliefs, expectancies for success, and achievement values from childhood through adolescence. In J. Eccles & A. Wigfield (Eds.), Devlopment of achievement motivation (pp. 91-120). Burlington: Academic Press.

Leave a Reply