“Music Produces a Kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” ~ Confucious
As a teacher for over 15 years, I’ve seen and heard of a lot of miracle fixes for struggling students. Sure, everything from drinking coffee every two hours to increasing physical activity. True, all these things may be good in and of themselves but aren’t always the fix for every student. However, over the past several decades the use of music in education has seen a definite rise. In fact, there are documented studies that track how music can calm, assist, and enable students to learn better. Now, that is definitely amazing.
Many of my fellow teachers as well as myself used calming peaceful music in the classroom to help students relax and focus. Through all my years of teaching I really haven’t found an instance where soothing music didn’t help children do better with focusing on their school work. However, the key here is that the music must be calming. If the music is excitable in any way, students will be distracted from their tasks and it will be defeating the purpose. Foundationally, music is beneficial for enhancing a student’s attention span and promoting their ability to stay on task.
In preparation for learning, music instruction is one of the key proponents is maximizing potential. Students that are given music instruction in their pre-school years are definitely given a head start. Early music instruction prepares students to learn by enhancing fine motor skills, preparing their young brains for achievement, engaging their memory, and helping them acquire better thinking skills. Young children with music training increase their abstract reasoning abilities and with continued music instruction these abilities continue to improve.
In addition, many research studies have gone a step further to prove that the study of music simply makes better students. One Canadian research study included two groups of six students in which the first group took Suzuki piano lessons and the second group did nothing. The results were published in the journal Brain on September 20, 2006 and showed that the group that took the music lessons excelled far above the other group in literacy, mathematics, and even IQ.
The effects of music are shown through many other avenues as well. For instance, the National Association for Music Education states that SAT takers with a background involving music instruction typically score well above their non-musical peers. Many have been documented to score an average of 56 points higher on the verbal portion and 39 points higher on the math portion.
Music education doesn’t simply help students focus, prepare for school, or test better. It helps them in all areas of learning. Students that have had the opportunity to engage in music instruction often experience advanced math achievement, and more specifically those involved in instrumental music outperform peers in algebra. Yet, this benefit doesn’t just stop at mathematically related subjects. These students also experience excellent skills in the areas of reading, using information resources, and writing; and the gains continue in conjunction with continued music involvement.
It is almost overwhelming when viewing the breadth of research connected with the part music plays in increasing student’s abilities. However, even more simply music can help us with simple day to day tasks. Many people use music to enhance memory skills, and why not? Almost every human can remember something more easily and in much more detail if it is set to music.
Science has even recorded that music has a positive effect on our physical bodies. Listening to music can relieve stress, massage our internal organs, relive fatigue and even boost energy levels.
Finally, music not only affects our cognitive learning, our abilities, our memories, our physical bodies, but also can affect us socially. Good music has been known to bring people together. Often people will sing, play music, or even listen to music together thus creating memories and a bond that increases positive emotions.
Obviously, there is no way around it. Music is a central figure in how humans learn, relate, grow, and achieve. With this knowledge at our fingertips, how can we use music to affect the future in a positive way?
Jamie Gaddy, B.S., M.Ed., Ed.D. has been an education professor for over 17 years. She is also a pastor’s wife, freelance writer, and entrepreneur who now homeschools her six children (ages 5-16) in a sweet tea sippin’, wrap around porch sittin’, sweet southern Georgia town. Jamie is also a contributing author at T4L Community Blog and MomSCHOOL.