The positive relationship between music learning and academic achievement.
Recent research (Roden et al, 2014; Young et al, 2014; Johnson & Memmott, 2006) have found a positive relationship between music learning and academic achievement, although researchers are unsure as to the underlying mechanisms for this association. Despite a large amount of research in the area of music and academic achievement, researchers are unsure about which aspects of music training affect academic achievement. Other variables of intelligence, socio-economic status, prior academic achievement, are well-established and predictive of factors on academic achievement.
Santos-Luis, Monico, Alemdia, and Coimbra (2015) found that students who studied music from seventh to ninth grade performed better academically than students in other subject areas, even when controlling for intelligence, socio-economic factors, motivation, and prior academic achievement. This was not a snap-shot measurement at one time period. The study involved longitudinal analysis over a period of two years in which the results showed music students maintained better and more consistent academic performance when controlling for other variables known to affect academic achievement.
Santos-Luis, Monico, Alemdia, and Coimbra (2015) sought to establish reliable connections between continuing music training and academic performance of seventh to ninth grade high school students. The sample for their study consisted of 110 students, of which 48 were non-music students and 62 had studied music for more than 6 years. The results found that when controlling for intelligence, socio-economic status, and motivation , music students had a better and more consistent academic performance over a period of two years when compared to the non-music student group.
Furthermore, music training was positively associated with intelligence, explains 11% of the variance, socio-economic status explaining 11% of the variance, and motivation explaining 5% of the variance. Moreover, intelligence and socioeconomic status were positively associated, with an effect size of 16.0%, and motivation was not reliably related to intelligence or to socioeconomic status.
The association between music training and academic achievement explained a significant proportion of the variance (17% in the seventh grade and 23% in the ninth grade). Intelligence was the variable most associated with academic performance, explaining 27% of the variance in seventh grade and 30% in ninth grade.
The research demonstrates that the relationship between music training and academic performance is multifaceted. It is possible that music learning mediates other factors affecting academic achievement (intelligence, motivation etc) and is not a direct predictor of academic achievement. It could be that music learning promotes the cognitive and academic performance required for greater academic achievement.
The authors caution that much research has overstated the effects of music learning and academic achievement. Research underestimates the role of individual pre-existing differences between students who do and do not take music lessons and this should be counted for in future research.
Exploring the long-term associations between adolescents’ music training and academic achievement. Carlos dos Santos-Luiz, Lisete S. M. Mónico, Leandro S. Almeida, Daniela Coimbra. Musicae Sciential , Vol 20, Issue 4, pp. 512 – 527.
Johnson C. M., Memmott J. E. (2006). Examination of relationships between participation in school music programs of differing quality and standardised test results. Journal of Research in Music Education, 54(4), 293–307.
Roden I., Könen T., Bongard S., Frankenberg E., Friedrich E. K., Kreutz G. (2014). Effects of music training on attention, processing speed and cognitive music abilities—Findings from a longitudinal study. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 28(4), 545–557.
Young L. N., Cordes S., Winner E. (2014). Arts involvement predicts academic achievement only when the child has a musical instrument. Educational Psychology: An International Journal of Experimental Educational Psychology, 34(7), 849–861.
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