Monday, March 26, 2012


I keep forgetting to update my blog, but I have been working on my project. I'm trying to get my IRB proposal in by the end of this week so I have been researching questions and procedures and talking to teachers for input. So far I've found my music adviser and written a rough draft of my topic for my proposal. I've included it below.

This project will explore the link between music and learning in a university setting. The purpose of this project is to find if there is a correlation between student performance in music classes and their performance in their general education classes.
In order to complete this project, I will be conducting a survey on students who are taking or have taken music classes at UVU. This will include both questions about personal experience in music classes as compared to their general education classes, as well as questions as to their performance i.e. grades, teacher feedback, etc.
I will be using both qualitative and quantitative methods to research this topic. Measured performance from grades and test scores will be identified and compared. There will also be a portion of the study that includes interviews about personal experiences in these classes and any advantages or disadvantages they perceived from taking these classes.

I've also come up with a rough timeline for completing my project:

March 29th – Submit IRB Proposal
March 30th - May 1st - Additional Research
May 9th-23rd – Data Collection
May 23rd – June 6th – Data Analysis
June 6th – 20th – Write up findings and conclusions

Monday, February 27, 2012

What have I started?

It's started to hit me this week the enormity of the project I am undertaking. At least it's doable. It might kill me though. I've talked to Dr. Namie about the IRB approval process and have started looking over the forms I will need to complete. I'm aiming to get them submitted by March 26th. That's four weeks from today. I've also been looking into the teachers I would like for my committee. This may seem early, but I think I may need their help to get this together in time to get my IRB approval. Unfortunately the psychology teacher that would have been perfect for this project is on sabbatical until the fall, so I'm back to square one there.

I'm continuing to look into different research that has been done. I've been feeling like I'm drowning in a sea of research that is of no use to me, but I finally found some research from an old class of mine that I think will get me on the right track.

Participants in this research were asked to complete anxiety inducing tasks with and without music. They found that music had the effect of reducing anxiety in students while participating in these tasks and these effect was especially profound in female music majors. This study helps my thesis of the effect of music on other school subjects seem more promising.

This research included an experiment in which children were given musical lessons as an incentive to do well in math. In the results, they found that the students who had the musical lessons as incentive did consistently better than other students in math, even when these other students had tutors. This is another study that seems to support my hypothesis of a link between music and performance in other areas in school.

While I am finding research that seems relevant to my topic and also seems to support the hypothesis I am making, I do need to focus more on the methods of my research at this point. This week my goal is to find questions to use in my research from research that has been done. I want to hit this hard so I can start focusing on pulling together my proposal for the IRB.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Assignment 3 - Rewrite take 2

I think I've finally narrowed down my question to a semi-plausible research question. Are college music programs beneficial to student performance in general education classes? I think there may be quite a few different ways that music affects our thinking and learning, but for this project I've chosen to focus specifically on college students and seeing if there is a correlation between those who participate in college music programs and their performance in certain general education classes such as math, science, English, and history.

One of my first concerns with this question was which music classes to consider. Should I consider any music class such as music tech classes or music history classes? I think for now I want to consider mainly music theory classes and performance classes such as choir, band, private lessons, etc. This isn't a firm decision. I need to get a lot more research under my belt before I make the final call on this aspect.

Another aspect I've been thinking through is of the general education courses I could involve in this study. I think math, science, English, and history are a good sampling of the courses that every student is required to take. By choosing these, there should be a good overlap of students who have taken music classes (being a music major or not) and these general classes as well. There are two specifications that I think may be important to consider. The first is to put a limit on the level of classes to consider. I don't think any 3000 level or above classes should be included because these are the classes for majors and shouldn't really be considered general education any more. Also, I'm debating whether or not to include classes completed at a different school. My thought here is that there's a possibility of the grading scale being slightly different from school to school and that I would get more consistent results if I only considered classes taken at the same school.

The reason I want to study this particular area is because I believe that music has had a profound impact on my life and I would like to see if that is the case for many other students at UVU. If so, I think it needs to be documented so that school officials making decisions about the music program here can consider the effects it may have on other school programs. There are definitely still some wrinkles to iron out, but I think I'm starting to get a real vision of what I can accomplish with this project.

Assignment 2 - Rewrite

As I read through the comments from my first assignment and as I began to think about my project more, I realized that doing child research may be too lofty a goal for this particular project. Instead, I think I'll focus my research on college students. There are a few reasons for this decision. First, it should be easier to get IRB approval with college students than with elementary school children. Second, information such as grades and classes taken is already codified for me. Third, I can possibly use the internet to disperse surveys for a quicker turn around.

Now that I've decided to change the age range of subjects, I need to focus on what exactly I want to study. As I stated in my last post, I want to study the effect of music on learning. There are many ways music is used though. People listen to music while they're studying, which may have an effect on learning. Do different types of music help them learn more efficiently? Also, many students take music classes who aren't music majors. Do these classes help them perform better in their chosen fields of study? Then, there are the students who are music majors. Do they perform better or worse on average than other students in subjects such as math, science, and English? I think this is where I need to narrow down my field a little more and focus on just one of these and leave the rest for another project.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Assignment 1 - What to Write?

Welcome to my blog. Throughout this semester you're going to get to learn more about my journey of writing a senior thesis that meshes the fields of music and psychology. Doesn't that sound like fun?

As I've been considering the topic on which to base my senior thesis, I continually come back to the way in which music affects child development. Specifically I'm interested in seeing how and if music can improve a child's learning, especially in their early years of development and schooling.

In one of my research methods classes I began searching for previous research that had been done in this area and found a little bit of interest. I found a paper that described the effects of an experiment done to determine the use of music to help with children learning math. Other research I found had to do with music in therapy for adults suffering from such things as post traumatic stress disorder and didn't seem quite relevant to the topic I wish to pursue.

I know that the effects of music on child development is much too broad of a subject for a senior thesis, but I'm still unsure as to how to narrow it down enough. One area I have considered is in comparing test scores in basic subjects such as math and English with children's participation and performance in music classes. I would also be interested in seeing if there is a link between social problems and music classes. These still may be too broad, and I think I may need to be more specific still.

Even if these subjects are specific enough, I think I will need to do a search for previous studies and articles in this area to get a better base for what kind of information has been collected and studied already. What I would really like to do would involve testing and research that may be beyond my capacity for two semesters' time to work. I would like to study previous papers as well as talk to elementary school teachers about children's behavior and performance in their regular classes and music classes. I would also like to interview some of the children themselves to get a view of how they view music in their lives. However, I'm not sure how plausible this would be because of strict IRB regulations, especially where children are involved. As I said, I will need to do some more research on what has already been studied first.