Effects of Group Piano Teaching on Children’s Academic Performance
Effects of Group Piano Teaching on Children’s Academic Performance
Introduction and Background
The subject of group piano pedagogy has attracted ever-growing interest in contemporary educational research. As group piano lessons more and more included in piano pedagogy curricula, many scholars have been motivated to delve into the feasibility of group piano teaching from different perspectives. For instance, Jackson (1980) examined if class size influences individual achievements within small and large piano classes for beginners and found no statistically significant differences. In another study, Pike (2013) adopted a case study approach to establish what constitutes best practices in group piano instructions for beginners. Chen (2017) conducted a teacher action research focusing on issues associated with teaching group piano classes to offer recommendations for overcoming the issues and improving group piano pedagogy.
While many of these researchers appreciate that group piano teaching offers a one-stop collection of information regarding all group piano teaching aspects, only a few have examined the impact of group piano teaching on students’ academic achievements. For this reason, this paper proposes research aimed at exploring the effects of group piano teaching on the academic performance of children. This topic is chosen because of the limited research on how music education based on instruments such as piano influences the academic performance of young learners. Studying this topic is important because it will add to the existing knowledge of incorporating group piano lessons into music-enhanced curricula for children in lower grades. The outcomes of the study will be relevant to practice in that they will highlight the distinctive value of employing group piano pedagogy in enriching children’s academic success.
Research Questions and Hypotheses
The purpose of the proposed research is to determine the effects of group piano pedagogy on children’s overall academic performance. Towards attaining this purpose, the proposed study will seek to address the following four research questions towards testing the related alternative and null hypotheses:
RQ1: Does participating in group piano programs enhance children’s intellectual and reasoning capacities, hence their academic performance?
HA1: Participation in a group piano lesson has a positive impact on children’s spatial-temporal reasoning and intelligence, which affects their learning processes positively.
HO1: Participation in a group piano lesson has no impact on children’s spatial-temporal reasoning and intelligence, hence no effect on their learning processes.
RQ2: Do young children in group piano classes perform better in academic achievements, student conduct, and class attendance rates than those who do not attend group piano lessons?
HA2: Children who participate in group piano lessons perform better than those who do not attend such lessons in academic achievement, student conduct, and class attendance rates.
HO2: There are no differences in academic achievement, student conduct, and class attendance rates for children receiving group piano teaching and those who do not.
RQ3: Does participation in group piano lessons augment children’s performance in their cognitive domains?
HA3: Young group piano learners increase their performance in cognitive domains, hence improve their academic performance compared to those without group piano teaching.
HO3: There are no differences in cognitive abilities for both young group piano learners and non-learners
RQ4: Does the academic performance of children receiving private piano instruction differ from the academic performance of those receiving group piano instruction?
HA4: The academic achievements of young piano learners receiving group piano instruction are better than those receiving private piano instruction.
HO4: No significant difference will be observed for piano beginners receiving private and group instruction.
The existing literature on this pedagogical area has linked group piano lessons to improvement in the academic performance of students in lower grade levels. Numerous researchers have found positive correlations between piano-based musical performance and brain stimulation, which translates to better academic performance. For instance, Bugaj and Brenner (2011) explored how music instruction influenced reading skills and cognitive development and established that music instruction enhances brain processes relating to language, hence augmenting cognitive development and reading abilities. Črnčec, Wilson, and Prior (2006) discovered that music instruction resonates with the brain’s intrinsic neuronal firing patterns, hence priming the brain for improved performance on spatial-temporal reasoning and other cognitive tasks. Other scholars (Miendlarzewska & Trost, 2014; Schellenberg, 2004; Seinfeld et al., 2013) established that in auditory cognitive neuroscience, musical training enhances the structural and functional brain plasticity, improving brain development. This brain development attained from piano lessons stimulates the brain regions used in learning mathematics, verbal skills in second languages, and sciences, hence enabling little pianists to pick up these subjects easily and fast, Schellenberg (2006) and Yang et al. (2014) confirmed. In an earlier study, Lennon (1996) studied the pedagogical and musical transactions in piano teaching and found out that musical instruction allows people to pick other people’s brains musically, hence building the technical proficiency and confidence needed in learning how to deal with others. Research has also indicated that piano-based musical instructions improve the cognitive processing or cognitive ability of young learners, hence their academic performance. Hadlock (2018) submits that since superior cognitive abilities have a direct association with augmented academic performance, measuring the cognitive abilities of children undergoing piano lessons versus those without music learning can assist in analysing the relationship between music-centred instruction and academic success. Further research by Chiu (2016) confirms that the positive interactions that children experience when taking group piano lessons help in impacting their cognitive development positively, especially their spatial reasoning, abilities in logic, and social perspective, although this cognitive development differs based on gender. Empirical findings by Holmes and Hallam (2017) show that music groups of children record higher and statistically significant progression in cognitive and spatial-temporal skills than non-music groups. Also, organised music lessons, including group piano sessions, benefit children’s intelligence quotient and academic performance (Schellenberg, 2006; Schellenberg, 2004). These authors suggest that the longer the music-based instruction is delivered, the larger the effect on their cognition, especially during early childhood years when their brain development is not only highly plastic but also sensitive to environmental stimuli. Seinfeld et al. (2013) extended work on the impact of music lessons on children’s cognitive abilities by affirming that piano practice and music learning can promote, improve, or maintain one’s cognitive function and cognitive reserve. From another perspective, learning under the influence of piano music can influence learners’ behaviours, together with their cognitive, emotional, and physiological processes as a study by Szentgyorgyi (2015) established. Past research by Waller (2007) also acknowledges the role of piano or music instruction in enhancing the cognitive abilities, social and auditory skills, and academic learning that collectively improve the academic achievement of children with disabilities.
Apart from enhancing cognitive abilities and brain functioning that culminate in improved academic achievements, group piano teaching has been found to improve students’ academic performance in other ways. For instance, Yang et al. (2014) argued that music learning induces some non-musical cognitive benefits such as offering a unique perspective to comprehending the functional specificity necessary for higher-level cognitive undertakings for young learners. In other research efforts, Costa-Giomi (2000) and Costa-Giomi (2004) admit that group music and piano instruction have a therapeutic value that can assist groups of normal children struggling with low self-esteem. Both higher-level cognitive undertakings and self-esteem have a direct bearing on children’s academic performance. Besides the therapeutic importance of music learning, group piano teaching confers social benefits in the learning environment, which helps in augmenting the quality of school life (Eerola & Eerola, 2014). Improved quality of school life means enhanced relationships between and among learners and their educators and satisfaction towards instruction, which translates to improved academic performance of learners studying within such a setting. Furthermore, literature indicates that group piano teaching assists in improving children’s academic performance by augmenting their attention spans, inducing suitable behavioural patterns, and ameliorating their listening skills, memory recall, and psychomotor development (Bugaj & Brenner, 2011; Chiu, 2016; Hadlock, 2018; Pike 2013). Group piano lessons also improve children’s academic performance by positively influencing their auditory memory, visual perception, semantic processing, and motor function, imagery with verbal memory. They also influence their emotional processing, visual-motor abilities, and working-memory load, along with offering a forum for motivation and inspiration and enabling a multi-sensory learning experience (Hodges & O’connell, 2005; Miendlarzewska & Trost, 2014; Schellenberg, 2004; Seinfeld et al., 2013; Szentgyorgyi, 2015; Yang et al., 2014).
Finally, a few researchers have attempted to examine how group piano classes and private piano lessons differ in terms of their effectiveness in augmenting students’ learning experiences and academic performance. Most agree that group lessons are more effective than private lessons. For instance, Chiu (2016) acknowledges that group piano instruction supplements private piano lessons, with group instructions being preferred because they accommodate growing numbers of learners. Chen (2017) suggests that group piano teaching is more effective than private piano pedagogy because it improves performance ability, offers a fulfilling social environment, and provides time- and cost-effectiveness benefits. These benefits corroborate the argument by Frey-Clark (2015) that “private piano lessons are an added expense” (p. 46). Even so, Hadlock (2018) presents a different argument that private lessons might be more effective than group instruction due to their implicit individual and specialised nature.
While a majority of the scholars who have informed this literature review has provided helpful insights into how music lessons enhance students’ academic achievements, a gap exists as regards the specific role of group piano pedagogy in enhancing the academic performance of young children. The proposed research will address this gap by seeking to answer the four research questions and hypotheses presented earlier using a mixed-methods research approach.
The overall research methodology to be adopted for the proposed study will involve a mixed research methods design that will seek to answer the research questions, test the associated hypotheses and attain the study purpose. According to Shorten and Smith (2017), employing a mixed research methods design will entail purposefully combining methods in collecting, synthesising, analysing, and interpreting data to ensure higher data integration in the proposed research process. Such focussed and purposeful data integration will enable the researcher in the proposed study to attain a more panoramic perspective of the specific research landscape befitting this study, along with allowing for the exploration of phenomena from multiple viewpoints and via different inquiry lenses.
Naturally, mixed research methods involve incorporating qualitative and quantitative research approaches into a single research framework (Shorten & Smith, 2017). Consistent with this, the proposed study will adopt a mixed research methodology where the collection and analyses of quantitative and qualitative data occur concurrently (Schoonenboom & Johnson, 2017). Here, I will integrate both qualitative and quantitative approaches in examining the role of group piano lessons on children’s academic performance. For the proposed study, the qualitative side of the research methodology will entail one-on-one in-depth interviews with teachers from a local school offering piano teaching.
The quantitative side of the methodology will encompass surveying using the questionnaire method, along with using primary data on this topic collected using the observation method. By combining quantitative and qualitative approaches the researcher of the proposed study will expect to obtain a holistic analysis of the relationship between group piano pedagogy and children’s academic success. Incorporating data collected using questionnaires will allow for deeper analyses of information that build upon existing knowledge already published concerning this topic. A mix of this data and primary data will minimise ethical risks associated with utilising primary data, which would ultimately induce limitations in the findings of the study as Shorten and Smith (2017) subscribe.
The qualitative part will be essential as it will enable the researcher to respond to questions that the quantitative part cannot address alone and vice versa. This way, the utilisation of a mixed-methods design will augment complementarity whereby the quantitative approach serves to offset the quantitative approach’s shortcomings. So, the mixed research methodology will ensure a superior understanding of inconsistencies and connections between quantitative and qualitative data. This will enrich evidence through diverse exploration avenues, leading to the research questions being addressed adequately (Shorten and Smith 2017). Consequently, this design will ensure greater academic interactions and the enhancement of exploration experiences when multiple perspectives inform the topic under investigation.
Research MethodsThe proposed study will involve applying a mix of three specific research methods the first of which will be the use of questionnaires. This quantitative method is selected to control the limitations of other methods such as secondary data analysis. The questionnaire method will be used to ensure high response rates and allow for easier analysis of data collected. The questionnaire approach is preferred for the proposed study because questionnaires will be simple to administer, their formats are familiar to many respondents, and can minimize the costs of the carrying out the study.
The second method is interviewing (one-on-one), where first-hand and precise data relating to the topic will be collected from teachers and other relevant stakeholders. The limitations of this method are potential personal bias, leniency, and halo effects. However, the method will be important for the study because it will allow for the collection of more accurate data compared to other techniques.
The last method is qualitative observations. This is where I will spend time observing children take piano classes in groups then take a language or math test alongside those who do not take piano classes. This will allow me to observe differences in the test outcomes towards gathering intensive and subjective information about the influence of group piano classes on these children’s academic performance. The limitations of using the observation method are that it will be time-consuming, raise some ethical difficulties, and be affected by a low degree of representativeness. Also, some facts cannot be observed right on the spot when observing participants.
In the proposed study, data analysis will help test the hypotheses. So, after collecting data from interviews, questionnaires, and observations, it will be recorded and compiled in preparation for analysis. The variables to be considered relevant to addressing the research question will include the theme of academic performance (which will form the independent variable). Other themes include cognitive development, cognitive processing, intelligence, spatial-temporal reasoning, student behaviour, attendance rates, differences between group and private piano instructions (which will form the dependent variables). Descriptive statistics relating to these themes as obtained from the interviews and qualitative observations will be incorporated into the study and analysed using tools such as percentage computations, measures of variability, and range, and presented in tables, graphs, or pie charts as deemed appropriate. In case the codification of qualitative data collected for the study will be important, manual codifying will be used. This will entail deciding whether to apply inductive or deductive coding, assign codes appropriately, reviewing the data to understanding the coding complexity, categorising coded thematically, and identifying theme frequencies. Finally, both textual and statistical techniques of data analysis will be used to analyse data and emerging themes and make characterisations that address the research questions and hypotheses. While textual analysis will help in data mining, statistical analysis will be essential in interpreting, presenting, and modelling data obtained using the methods discussed earlier.
To conduct the interviews for this study, permission from the selected school and relevant school stakeholders will be required. The power relationships between them will also be considered to ensure adherence to the school’s rules governing the chain of command. The parties who will participate in the proposed study will be informed that their participation will be free and voluntary. Also, informed consent to their participation will be sought to ensure the credibility of the study. In case minors will be involved, informed consent will be sought from their guardians, parents, and teachers. The researcher will be obliged to ensure the confidentiality of participants by using sensitive information only for the purposes for which it is collected without disclosing such information to other parties without owners’ permission. A statement of the purpose of the study will be given to every participant to ensure that they understand what they will be consenting to. Lastly, the anonymity of participants will be ensured through the use of pseudonyms rather than their real names.
Research Limitations and Bias Considerations
When conducting the proposed research, four possible limitations will influence its outcomes. The first limitation is that the time allocated for the completion of the proposed study is limited as the deadline for its completion is during this semester. What this implies is that the limited time will not permit the researcher to collect and consolidate essential primary data. The second limitation is limited primary data, which will be as a consequence of the first limitation. While primary data is deemed crucial to an in-depth investigation of the topic, the amount of primary data collected will not be sufficient given the time limit. Another limitation is potential bias. The apparent outcome of relying on data from interviews and observation is the potential introduction of research bias already due to the researcher’s own subjective feelings. The fourth limitation is the minimal number of previous studies on this topic. While this study will incorporate information from previous studies, extra attention will be needed to ensure that the studies selected are relevant enough to the proposed study to make the study findings reliable. The last limitation is the sample size. As already mentioned, the sample will be recruited from a local school, meaning that any attempt to generalise outcomes obtained from such a small sample size might affect the reproducibility of the findings. As regards bias considerations, the research will ensure data validity, reliability, and trustworthiness by using statistical methods and methodological strategies to establish these data aspects.
The examination of the role of group pianos teaching in influencing the academic performance of children will be significant because it will generate new knowledge in this study area. The major gap in this proposal includes the study limitations, particularly time, which will be addressed by commencing the research early enough to ensure that the research process is completed within the projected time scale shown in the appendices. The chosen research design will offset the limitation of potential bias, another research gap, by allowing for the incorporation of insights and information gained from a blend of research methods namely, interviews, observation, and questionnaires.
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Appendix A: Time scale
Research activity Time in weeks
Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8
Development and approval of research proposal Literature review Interview question development Data collection Data analysis First draft write-up Final draft write-up Thesis submission Appendix B: List of dissertation chapters
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Literature Review
Chapter 3: Research Methodology
Chapter 4: Theoretical Framework
Chapter 5: Results
Chapter 6: Discussion and Conclusion