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TRANSFERRING SKILLS FROM ENGLISH-LANGUAGE ARTS AND MATH

CLASSROOMS TO INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC CLASSROOMS

Review of Literature

Introduction

Something happens at a given point in the curriculum of the researchers orchestra

classes. Once the classes have finished going over the basic concepts and begin to build

on those concepts and move on to more in-depth material, many students become less

inclined to analyze their sheet music to figure out how to perform a given piece. In most

instances, this is not necessarily out of laziness from the student, but occurs when a

student is unsure of their own abilities to take what they have previously learned and

apply them to new situations. In these cases, students tend to let those who sit near them

do the grunt work of figuring out new pieces or sections of music and ape what they hear,

or try to watch their neighbors fingers to see which notes they might be playing. Some

might even get away with this for a time, given that their neighbor figured it out and is

able to play the piece correctly. More times than not, however, this is detrimental to a

group. If one person attempts to figure out a piece of music and is inaccurate, and the rest

of that persons section blindly follows, it can take a lot of time out of rehearsals and

lessons in trying to re-teach and break bad habits. In getting students to take charge of

their own analysis and performance, and understand that they are capable of being

successful, they make the entire group more successful. If this can be accomplished then

there should be no limit to what students should be able to take on in the orchestra

classroom.
The researcher has organized the review of literature in following with the

research questions and sub-questions. The first part of the review focused on student

motivation with an emphasis on the music classroom. The rest of the review followed in

looking at bringing strategies from reading and math into the music classroom, and

whether or not students are aware of how these strategies affect their learning of music.

The last part of the review examined how cross-curricular staff collaboration might

impact student abilities to transfer these skills.

Student Motivation

One of the key pieces to the puzzle of getting students to understand and figure

things out for themselves, not only in the classroom, but also outside of the school

building, is motivation. Deci and Ryan (2000) discussed two types of incentive

motivation. First, they described extrinsic motivation as referring to the performance of

an activity in order to attain a desired outcome. Second they described intrinsic

motivation as the innate desire to seek out new things and new challenges, to analyze

one's capacity, to observe and to gain knowledge. While some of the motivation for

students to analyze and figure out new pieces of music is certainly extrinsic (the teacher

has asked them to perform it, they will be expected to perform it for their families, peers,

and general public at an upcoming concert), much research has been done that supports

the claim that intrinsic motivation is very powerful in helping people to push through the

discomfort of a new concept, skill, or task in order to achieve a given outcome.

Students join instrumental music classes for many reasons. In the study of 24

school-age music students, who achieved high interest and high achievement in the study

of music in Hong Kong, Leung and McPherson (2011) conducted interviews with the
students to find what motivated the students to begin playing their instruments, and also

why they continued in their musical study. Through the interviews the researchers found

that students became interested in music for either personal (intrinsic) or environmental

(extrinsic) reasons, but that their long-term involvement was due to increasing intrinsic

motivators. A lot of incoming students start out with this intrinsic motivation, a genuine

desire to learn, but lose this as the music class progresses to new and more difficult

concepts. The key to success looks to be to continue to nurture this inner desire to learn.

In studying 169 undergraduate and graduate students in university instrumental

ensembles, Diaz (2010) noted that students who attributed their musical success to

intrinsic factors, like how much effort they applied to their practice, were more likely to

continue their practice than if they believed their success was due to external factors like

talent or luck. The study utilized a survey comprised of 42 five-point Likert items about

motivation that was given to each of the students in three different university level

ensembles. Diaz continued that it was evident that intrinsic motivation was a powerful

aspect of continued interest in a students musical study. He also warned music educators

that relying too heavily on external motivators could negatively impact the quality and

even retention of music students. This follows the work of Fant (1995) who asks us to

keep in mind that what motivates one individual will not likely motivate all and posits

that extrinsic motivators must be used to lead students to experiences that help them to

develop internal motivation.

In observing four group-piano classes made up of 20 students total at the

beginning and intermediate level, Pike (2013) observed students who were motivated in

their learning. The groups that were observed looked to be a music teachers dream in
that the students all seemed to be fully engaged in their classes and even the homework.

While the teachers for each of the groups had detailed lessons for each class, it was noted

that even if the teachers ran short on time, each were able to briefly introduce a new

concept to their students for them to practice on their own before meeting again in the

next class session. From the account of the report, the students actually did the outside

work. In order to try to get her students to practice outside of class, one of the teachers

tried using an extrinsic motivator where the students would earn music money for

accomplishing given skills. Students were able to exchange their money for items from

the music store. During observations and student focus groups the researcher found that

intrinsic motivators associated with the group learning and group dynamics taking place

in the classes were considerably more effective at not only engaging students but also in

getting them to practice. The group of students of the teacher who did not use external

motivation techniques appeared to be just as motivated in their instrumental study both in

class and in their home practice.

Incentive motivators are also important in understanding why students cease

playing their instruments. Evans, McPherson, and Davidson (2013) studied 157

individuals who began playing musical instruments in classroom settings in Australia.

The students were interviewed shortly after beginning to learn their instruments and were

interviewed again 10 years later to see which students had kept up with their instruments

and which students had given it up along the way and why. For the 51% of the students

who responded, a number of reasons for giving up their playing of an instrument were

given including the students relationships with their teachers, whether or not playing an

instrument was perceived by their peers as cool, and whether or not students liked the
music selections they were getting to play. In this light, it was concluded by the authors

that teachers would do well in making lessons challenging, while trying to maintain

interest, and providing ways for the students to gain new skills.

Butkovic, Ullen, and Mosing (2016) in studying more than 10,500 individuals of

a Swedish twin cohort, determined that genetics could play a large role in influencing

music practice behavior and musical enjoyment. The study explored personality related

traits as well as IQ and gender as possible predictors of music practice. While the study

shows a strong correlation between genetics and music practice - it also shows that there

is a strong correlation with how an individual perceives their ability to a given domain,

and their likelihood to continue in that domain. Butkovic et al. (2016) posits that

subjective experiences of absorption and enjoyment within a specific domain are

important predictors of long-term engagement, especially when the level of difficulty

matches the skills of the individual.

In looking at these studies of motivation and what it has to do with students

learning to play an instrument, it is easy to notice parallels between how students

perceptions of their knowledge and abilities affects their enjoyment of playing and

practice. If a student believes they are doing a good job of playing, they are more likely

to stick with playing their instrument and to take more risks in how to tackle new

concepts. The questions then become how do we boost students perceptions of their

knowledge and abilities in how it relates to their education and how it relates to their

experience in the music classroom?

Music and Math


Once students have a good foundation for how to read notes on the music staff in

orchestra class, one of the main challenges for them is figuring out how to perform

rhythms. In teaching instrumental music, many teachers start by teaching students

melodies using quarter notes. In these songs, once a steady pulse, or tempo, is

established, students are typically playing one note per beat of the tempo. Students are

usually fairly successful in playing melodies made up of quarter notes. When moving on

to melodies that start using half notes (notes that are held for two beats) and whole notes

(notes that are held for four beats), the playing becomes more complicated. Things really

begin to get hairy when students are learning to play eighth notes (notes that are held for

half of a beat). In these situations students not only have to read the pitches of the notes

on the page, but also have to feel the tempo and how each notes duration corresponds to

this tempo. For the non-music person, it is easy to see in reading this passage that

rhythmic values of notes use some of the same language that would be used in working

with fractions. This is in fact true, but not always picked up by the students.

Often, core teachers think that integrating music into their curriculum means

teaching a catchy jingle in order to teach memorization of vocabulary, or a formula, or

historical event. I can still recite the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States

thanks to watching Saturday morning cartoons and hearing it on Schoolhouse Rock. I

still know the quadratic formula from learning it to the tune of Pop Goes the Weasel in

freshman algebra, but I would fail to come up with a practical use for it (or any use for

that matter). Unfortunately there has not been a lot of research done on explicitly helping

students draw conclusions between math and music strategies.


Cranmore (2015) interviewed 24 high school seniors to find out if they saw a

relationship between music and math. The population was made up of both students who

were involved in performing music, and those who were not. While many of the students

thought that there was a definite connection between music and math, many of the

students not involved in music could not explain what the connection was. They just

noticed that a lot of their peers who were perceived as good at math were also involved in

music. Out of the students involved in music, many saw a connection between math and

rhythms, but even some of the students in this population could not explain what the

connection was. There were even a couple of students who were involved in music who

did not think that there was a valid link between music and math. This study was small,

and it is impossible to know whether or not these perceptions are the norm. It does

illustrate, however, that students do not necessarily make the connection between musical

concepts and performance, and math. Cranmore (2015) suggests that it may be beneficial

for music and math teachers to form strong partnerships and even co-teach music and

math concepts that are related to reinforce concepts in both areas of study.

Jones and Pearson (2013) pointed out a number of lessons that combined music

and math in a number of elementary school lessons. Both the music teacher and the

classroom teacher collaborated to create and implement these lessons to further student

learning of each subject area. One of the lessons included asking students to create a

fraction addition sentence based on a given measure of music in a 4/4 time signature (i. e.

+ + + = 4/4 = 1). Students were also given an incomplete measure of music and

asked to create a fraction addition sentence for the measure in order to figure out what

kind of note was missing. What they found was that some of the more experienced music
students would use the musical notation in order to solve the problems, but they were

able to make the connection between math and music.

Reading Strategies and Music

In the last few years an increasing emphasis has been put on all teachers in the

education system to teach English and language arts skills in all classes regardless of the

subject.

Many teachers balk at this idea. This is understandable with all of the other pressures of

making it through their own curriculum and getting their students to perform well on the

various

standardized tests that they are required take throughout the year.

Hall (2014) studied 100 university and college music education degree programs

to determine how pre-service music teachers were equipped to address language arts

within the general music classroom. The study began with a content analysis of the

programs (more than half were found to require a reading course) and was followed by a

survey taken by the general music instructors to understand their perceptions and feelings

about reading integration in the music classroom. Hall (2014) found that a majority

(93%) of the instructors who responded to the study believed that music could be a great

support to other academic areas. On the other hand, only 64% felt that content from other

subjects should be integrated into the music classroom. Is this approach to integrating

ELA skills into the music classroom really that outlandish? Not everyone seems to think

so.

Essex (2012) emphasizes that Music content is not sacrificed with the integration

of [reading] strategies. On the contrary, utilizing effective reading strategies enhances the
content of the music classroom (Essex, 2012, p. 89). Smith (2014) adds that components

of the ELA Common Core State Standards, like critical thinking and cross-curricular

learning, are also a part of the National Standards of Music Education. Smith (2014) goes

further in suggesting that ELA Common Core instruction can be added into general music

programs without taking away from music performance like singing or performing on

instruments.

Hall and Robinson (2012) agree by adding that music and reading share

instructional strategies that could compliment both areas if reading is integrated into them

music classroom. Hall and Robinson (2012) go on by advising music teachers not to go

searching outside of music in order to support reading. They just need to be prepared to

find connections in music that are already there.

Van de Cavey and Hartsuiker (2016)did some more advanced research that

included 30 participants of Ghent University to look at the way the human brain

processes language and music. The participants were all native Dutch speakers and in one

experiment were given 80 sentence beginnings and were asked to complete the sentences.

In between each of the sentence completions each participant also listened to a series of

eight musical pitches through headphones. Once they had listened to the musical

sequence, two music pitches were played and the participant had to determine whether or

not they had heard the two pitches played in the same order in the previous eight-note

sequence. The responses of the participants were analyzed by the researchers, and the

sentence completions were labeled as being either high attachment or low attachment

depending on whether or not the responses fit well with the prompts. The researchers did
find a connection, but were not convinced that their experiment was conclusive enough to

support the connection.

Van de Cavey and Hartsuiker (2016) went further with their study and conducted

a second experiment using 40 student participants of Ghent University. The participants

in this experiment were given the same sentence completion task as those from the first

experiment, but were then shown sequences of colors in between each sentence

completion task instead of sequences of music pitches. The experiment was run exactly

the same as the first time, and the researchers found that their analysis of the second

experiment (using color sequences) gave them similar results as the first (using pitch

sequences). The researchers concluded that there was a connection in the way the

participants processed both language and music.

In adding a writing component into the Oakdale Community Choir (a group made

up of 30 male inmates of a medium-security prison and thirty community members),

Cohen (2012) found that not only was National Standard 8 (understanding relationships

between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts) covered, but it allowed the

instructor to develop individualized instruction for her members. In allowing members of

the choir to respond to certain writing prompts during each rehearsal (though none were

required), Cohen (2012) was able to find out questions that members had about what was

talked about in the rehearsal if they did not quite grasp a certain concept or idea. The

prompts also gave insights to what drew the members to specific pieces (part of the

intrinsic motivation piece). The lines of communication were found to be much more

open than they would be under typical rehearsal settings.


In the study mentioned previously Hall (2014) proclaimed that it was imperative

that university music teacher programs teach pre-service teachers how to make reading

connections clear within the music classroom in order to benefit student understanding of

music concepts.

A Collaborative Effort

As teachers, we are all well aware of the phrase 21st century skills. We have all

heard numerous times that we are preparing our students for jobs that have not even been

imagined yet, much less created. We are continually charged with the task of teaching our

students how to problem solve, how to think critically, how to synthesize, in short how to

take information and apply it in meaningful ways. Included in this is the emphasis of

teaching across the curriculum.

While many teachers see the value in this, few feel that they have the skills to do

so adequately. Before giving a number of ideas for supporting music with science and

math, Rogers (2004) states that it is assumed by teachers that music teaches math when

dealing with counting rhythms and looking at how fractions relate to note durations, but

warns that this assumption is superficial compared to the mathematical basis of music.

Rogers (2004) goes on to suggest that while one does not have to be a mathematician in

order to explain connections to students, music teachers may want to consult with math

teachers, but do not necessarily need to team teach with them in order for a lesson to be

successful.

Savage (2012), in his case studies of four teachers working in their own subject

areas, found that each of the teachers naturally leaned toward making connections to

other subject areas, whether explicit or not. While this case study is too small to make
broad generalizations about teachers in general, it is interesting to see a natural draw to

teaching a given subject while giving examples of another subject or discipline to help

students make connections.

Critical thinking is another term that is often spoken in the same breath with 21st

century skills. Shaw (2014) looked at using open-ended questions in the music classroom

in order to get students to think more deeply about the music they were playing. He saw

that music teachers might shy away from having open-ended conversations with their

students during class out of fear that these conversations often take a lot of time away

from rehearsal. He raises the point that If musicality is aided by informed and passionate

decision making by students who are deeply engaged with musical materials and the

richness of the musics context, then critical pedagogy may be considered essential

(Shaw, 2014, p. 68).

Lind (2014) also discussed strategies to get students in general music classes to

think deeper about a piece of music that they listened to in class. She used questioning

techniques that encouraged students to more accurately describe what they hear. After

getting some descriptions from the first listening, she had students listen to the same

piece again and asked them to add to what they had already said. The routine encouraged

students to expand on their original thoughts and to listen more deeply to other parts of

the music than just melody. In hearing what other students heard, the routine also helped

students to think about other ways to describe sound. Such a technique could be

invaluable to an instrumental music class as well in recording student performances and

having them listen to the recordings and describe what they hear, or even what they might

like to change to make it better.


Conclusion

In much of the literature cited above, there is a lot of discussion of not only how

to implement strategies from other subjects into the music classroom, but also that it does

not need to be extremely involved or time consuming to do so. Much of the work done in

this field shows that music is a natural link to other areas of study. In looking at the work

that has been done before, the hope is to draw students attention to strategies that they

have been taught in other classrooms in order to get them to take what they know and

confidently apply these strategies to individually figuring out new musical passages for

themselves.

In this study, the researcher planned to take the suggestion of Cranmore (2015) in

forming partnerships with math teachers to reinforce concepts in both music and math.

Combining this idea with Halls (2014) work, the researcher also planned to collaborate

with ELA teachers in order to help the researchers students make explicit reading

connections with music concepts. In doing so, the researcher tried to build intrinsic

motivation within the students in an effort to get them to want to dive deeper into their

musical study to make themselves, and their ensembles better.