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Running head: IMPACT OF MUSIC COURSES ON STEM ACADEMIC SUCCESS 1

How Does Participation in Music Courses During High School Impact Students’ Academic

Success in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Fields?

Caroline Lanier

Wheeler High School Center for Advanced Studies

Author Note

Caroline G. Lanier, Center for Advanced Studies, Wheeler High School.

Caroline G. Lanier is a student at Wheeler High School’s Center for Advanced

Studies.

Instruction for the format of this paper, as well as additional resources, provided

by Dr. Ginny Berkemeier, Center for Advanced Studies, Wheeler High School.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Caroline Lanier,

Center for Advanced Studies, Wheeler High School, Marietta, GA 30068.

Contact: caroline.lanier@wheelermagnet.com
IMPACT OF MUSIC COURSES ON STEM ACADEMIC SUCCESS 2

Table of Contents

Rationale of Study 3

Research Concept 4

Chapter 1: The problem and its setting

Statement of the Problem 5

Subproblems and Hypothesis 5

Definition of Terms 5

Assumptions 7

Delimitations and Limitations 8

Importance of Study 8

Chapter 2: Review of Related Literature 9

Chapter 3: Data and Treatment of the Data 13

References 17
IMPACT OF MUSIC COURSES ON STEM ACADEMIC SUCCESS 3

Rationale of Study

The purpose of this study is to understand the impact of music course participation on

students’ academic success in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Though many studies in the past have examined the impacts that music has on a student’s overall

academic performance, attitude, or time management skills, few have searched for the specific

connections between music and STEM fields. According to Sharp and Tiegs (2018), “students

develop instrumental 21st century skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving,

communication, and collaboration, as they engage in learning activities enriched with the fine

arts” (p. 25). However, despite these benefits, music education continues to fight for equality and

value within schools. The findings presented by Sharp and Tiegs’ study (2018) introduced data

that pointed to evidence for benefits associated with fine arts enrichment (p. 33). Together,

STEM and music incorporate the majority of essential skills needed by students and adults alike,

creating a need for research about a possible connection between the two.
IMPACT OF MUSIC COURSES ON STEM ACADEMIC SUCCESS 4

Research Concept
IMPACT OF MUSIC COURSES ON STEM ACADEMIC SUCCESS 5

Chapter 1: The problem and its setting

Statement of the Problem

How does participation in music courses during middle and high school impact students’

academic success in the STEM field?

Subproblems and Hypothesis

This study addresses the following questions:

1. What are the elements of student success in STEM schools?

2. What are the benefits of music incorporation in schools?

3. How does participation in music courses in middle and high school impact students’

graduating GPAs?

4. How does participation in varying levels of music courses in high school alone impact

students’ math and science standardized test scores?

As a part of this study, investigation included two research hypotheses:

1. Participation in music courses influences a students’ senior year to be greater than that of

students who do not participate in music.

2. Participation in the highest levels of music courses will be statistically significant in

relation to standardized math and science test scores than participation in lower levels.

Definition of Terms

● Alignment​ - “the degree to which assessments, curriculum, instruction, textbooks and

other instructional materials, teacher preparation and professional development, and

systems of accountability all reflect and reinforce educational objectives and standards”

(​Southwest Educational Development Laboratory​, 2010)


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● Arts integration​ - “an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate

understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process which connects

an art form and another subject area and meets evolving objectives in both” (Silverstein

& Layne, 2010).

● Content standards​ - “standards that describe what students should know and be able to do

in core academic subjects at each grade level” (​Southwest Educational Development

Laboratory​, 2010)

● EOC​ - end of course test. “​The EOC tests align with Georgia's state mandated content

standards and include assessment of specific content knowledge and skills. The

assessments provide diagnostic information to help students identify strengths and areas

of need in learning, therefore improving performance in all high school courses”

(GADOE, 2018).

● GPA​ - grade point average. “the standard way of measuring academic achievement in the

U.S.” (Study in the U.S.A., 2017)

● Integrated curriculum​ - “using a single theme to teach a variety of subjects. It also refers

to an interdisciplinary curriculum, which combines several school subjects into one

project” (​Southwest Educational Development Laboratory​, 2010)

● International Baccalaureate (IB)​ - “a rigorous college preparation course of study that

leads to examinations for highly motivated high school students. Students can earn

college credit from many universities if their exam scores are high enough” (​Southwest

Educational Development Laboratory​, 2010).

● Magnet program/school​ - “a school that focuses on a particular discipline, such as


IMPACT OF MUSIC COURSES ON STEM ACADEMIC SUCCESS 7

science, math, arts, or computer science. It is commonly designed to recruit students from

other parts of a school district” (​Southwest Educational Development Laboratory​, 2010)

● SAT​ - “​an entrance exam used by most colleges and universities to make admissions

decisions. The purpose of the SAT is to measure a high school student's readiness for

college, and provide colleges with one common data point that can be used to compare all

applicants” (The Princeton Review, 2018).

● STEM education​ - science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education that “is

about moving forward, solving problems, learning, and pushing innovation to the next

level” (Gerlach, 2012)

● STEAM education​ - science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics education

which “is set up to ​teach students how to think critically, enabling them to problem solve

effectively and use creative thinking to drive forward and complete projects using new

methods, tried and tested solutions and using their own initiatives” (Berg, 2017)

Assumptions

● The researcher assumes research participants will complete the survey honestly.

● The researcher assumes that each participant actively engages in his or her specific music

course of choice.

● The researcher assumes that participation in music courses impacts students’ academic

standing.

● The researcher assumes a balance of data from students in every sector of the high school

music program will be retrieved.

● The researcher assumes certain standardized test score data relates directly back to
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student academic achievement in STEM areas.

Delimitations and Limitations

The restrictions on this study include:

● The survey results that are submitted.

● Research one specific county school in Marietta, GA.

● Bounds of the Wheeler High School student body.

● Studying the impact of orchestra, band, and chorus courses specifically. It does not

include any research on other fine arts participation.

● Barriers of the school and classroom setting. Other interests in music outside of school

are not taken into account.

Importance of Study

Past studies have shown a decrease in music lesson and education involvement from elementary

school to secondary school (Cremaschi, Ilinykh, Leger, & Smith, 2015). Many possible causes of

this phenomena exist, including more difficult school course loads and extracurricular

involvement. However, research concerning the topic of music benefits, specifically in the

classroom, could cause students to reconsider dropping out of courses that are key to their

success and could even influence schools to implement more benefits for students who take such

classes. At the very least, musical engagement does not detract from academic performance

(Frey-Clark, 2015). Little research can be found specifically on the impact of music course

participation in regards to student achievement in STEM fields. Though many parents and

students stray away from the idea of continuous music education, it may hold the key to success

for students in STEM courses.


IMPACT OF MUSIC COURSES ON STEM ACADEMIC SUCCESS 9

Chapter 2: Literature Review

Topor, Keane, Shelton, and Calkins (2010) demonstrated that parent involvement in

children’s education almost always has a positive effect on student success in their study (as

cited in Baloglu, 2017, p. 38). In addition, economics plays an important role. According to

Baloglu (2017), students in their late teens are most impacted academically by economic

leadership in their family (p. 42). This study used GPA as a means for understanding academic

success. However, within the confines of Baloglu’s research (2017) in Turkey, financial status

fundamentally defines one’s family life (p. 42). Therefore, much more must be investigated in

this field of study, especially in the United States.

Recent research by Cetinkaya (2017) has shown that parent education level also relates

directly to student success (pp. 102-103). In this Turkish study, Cetinkaya (2017) states,

“Turkish lesson success of students with fathers who graduated high school was higher than

those with fathers who graduated middle school” (p. 103). The same was true in regards to

maternal education level and student mathematic lesson success. The study’s trend showed that

as parental educational levels increased, so did student success.

As reported by Yildizbas (2017), “The quality of teacher-student relations is a basic

factor that affects learning” (p. 216). With the most in-depth look on each student’s growth in the

classroom, teachers hold the keys to a student’s potential. Cetinkaya’s study (2017) demonstrated

that teachers assess student success most accurately (p. 97), because of their ability to speak of

the advantages and disadvantages each student faces.

Between all the studies analyzed in this review, the results consistently showed student

mindset as the most significant factor in determining a student’s academic success. All students
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possess academic self-concept, in which, as Cetinkaya states (2017), they “perceive their own

skills as a result of feedback and experience they gain in the school environment”(p. 96). In

Cetinkaya’s research (2017), older students in each grade had a higher self-concept than younger

students (p. 101). These perceptions normally go on to influence student test scores and class

participation. According to Hepworth, Littlepage, and Hancock (2018), a more academically

prepared student can most often succeed at the beginning of a new year (p. 54). Those students

who feel more prepared are mentally ready to take on a the new difficulties that may arise in a

new year.

Mindset also becomes critical when facing challenges in the classroom. Duckworth

(2007) states those students who possess the trait she termed “grit” are individuals who “work

strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure,

adversity, and plateaus in progress’’ (as cited in Hwang et al., 2018, p. 707). In regards to the

research of Hwang, Lim, and Ha (2018), the results proved those “gritty” students to be more

likely to achieve academic success (p. 717). Thus, perseverance is one of the best predictors of

student success.

Some teachers, because of various reasons, have never been exposed to the benefits that

music can offer students in the classroom setting. Generalist teachers have responsibilities for a

wide variety of material in many subject areas and are often unaware of past research-based

conclusions regarding positive impacts on the brain for students when music is incorporated in

the classroom. According to Collins (2014), “exposure to the neuromusical research findings…

heightened the values and levels of confidence, importance and intellectual rigour expressed by

the participants towards music education”(p. 14). Changed values can often result in a change in
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action. When teachers become aware of the benefits music offers, they become more likely to

implement music integration in their own classroom.

Teachers identify music as a necessary element in the classroom because of the

development it brings to cognitive processes used in school and in life. In a recent study at the

University of Texas at El Paso by An, Tillman, Siemssen, Zhang, Lesser, and Tinajero (2016),

preservice teachers went through the process of creating lesson plans for a mathematics course

involving music and then teaching them to a sample class of students (p. 23). An et al.’s study

(2016) indicated that the majority of teachers claimed that “teaching mathematics through music

benefited both their own teaching processes and students’ learning processes” (p. 25). Students

were most often reported to be more engaged and motivated in the classroom when music was

involved. This type of classroom learning also promoted creativity and innovation in students.

Along with its teaching benefits, music provides concentration in the form of background

music. This effect, specifically from classical music listening, known as the “Mozart Effect,”

relates to neuropsychology research done by Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky in 1993 and 1995. Taylor

and Row’s iteration of the previous research (2012) studied the effects of classical background

music on college students taking a trigonometry exam (p. 56). The results of Taylor et al.’s study

(2012) demonstrated that students listening to music while taking tests scored higher on average

than those students in the control group without music in the background (pp. 57-59).

Many past studies have demonstrated a variety of positive benefits for students who

participate in music and fine arts classes. In one 2014 study, Eerola and Eerola searched for

evidence that conveyed extended music education had social benefits for students. The study

results reported by Eerola et al. (2014) showed students in extended music education courses
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were generally more satisfied in the classroom and felt like the classroom had a positive climate

(p. 98). Students also found that, as Eerola et al. (2014) states, “school provided them with

achievement and opportunity more often than the pupils in the normal music education courses”

(p. 98).

Other research in different learning environments has resulted in similar conclusions.

Students in Window on a Wider World (WOWW), a fine arts enrichment program in Texas

schools, were found by Sharp and Tiegs (2018) to have higher assessment scores in math,

reading, science, and writing than those who were not in such programs (p. 33). In another

Texas-based study by Frey-Clark (2015), school music programs wh possessed high academic

standards and scores also demonstrated significantly higher musical ability through their

competition scores (p. 45). Though these studies are both bound to similar geographical regions,

they presented empirical evidence for the benefits of fine arts involvement, specifically in the

realm of academic achievement.

This study aims to understand the impact of music courses, specifically band, orchestra,

and chorus, on STEM field academic success. Two parts exist within this study. The first focuses

on length of participation in music courses in high school in relation to students’ senior year

GPAs. The second aspect seeks out the relationship between varying levels of music courses and

students’ standardized math and science test scores.


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Chapter 3: Data and treatment of the data

The student data needed for this research includes 5 metrics: unweighted GPA, weighted

GPA, biology EOC score, geometry EOC score, and SAT score. The researcher will collect data

via an anonymous Google Form survey. Before the formal research study, the researcher will run

a pilot study with a test population in order to ensure that the survey collects the data needed to

answer the research question.

Survey questions will tentatively include the following and may be altered according to

the pilot study findings. All survey answers will remain anonymous during the research process.

1. What is your gender?


a. Male
b. Female
c. Prefer not to say
2. Did you participate in a music course in middle school?
a. Yes
b. No
i. If yes, which class?
a. Band
b. Orchestra
c. Chorus
ii. If yes, for how many years?
a. 1
b. 2
c. 3
3. Did you participate in music courses in high school?
a. Yes
b. No
i. If yes, which class?
a. Band
b. Orchestra
c. Chorus
ii. If yes, for how many semesters?
Survey participants will be allowed to choose a number between 1 and 8
iii. If yes, what level of music courses did you take each year?
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1. Year One
a. Intermediate
b. Advanced
c. Mastery
2. Year Two
a. Intermediate
b. Advanced
c. Mastery
3. Year Three
a. Intermediate
b. Advanced
c. Mastery
4. Year Four
a. Intermediate
b. Advanced
c. Mastery
iv. If yes, why did you choose to participate in music courses?
a. You are passionate about music
b. You want some down time in between other classes
c. Your parents want you to
d. Other (fill in the blank)
v. If no, why did you not?
a. You are uninterested in music
b. You want to take more AP classes than music allows
c. Other (fill in the blank)
4. Are you a magnet student?
a. Yes
b. No
5. Was music a priority to you in high school?
a. Yes
b. No
Please use your transcript in order to accurately complete the following section.
6. What is your current unweighted GPA? (fill in the blank)
7. What is your current weighted GPA? (fill in the blank)
8. What is your SAT score? (fill in the blank)
i. What is your math subscore out of 800? (fill in the blank)
ii. What is your reading subscore out of 800? (fill in the blank)
9. What is your 9th grade biology EOC score? (fill in the blank)
10. What is your 9th grade math EOC score? (fill in the blank)
IMPACT OF MUSIC COURSES ON STEM ACADEMIC SUCCESS 15

Applied Subproblem #1

How does participation in music courses in high school impact students’ senior year GPAs?

Semesters of Music Participation Unweighted GPA Weighted GPA

Upon collection of this data, the researcher will perform the statistical analyses necessary

for proper description of the data.

Applied Subproblem #2

How does participation in varying levels of music courses in high school alone impact students’

math and science standardized test scores?

Level of Music Participation Biology EOC Score Geometry EOC Score SAT Score

Upon collection of this data, the researcher will perform the statistical analyses necessary

for proper description of the data.

The researcher is a current orchestra student and a senior at the Wheeler High School

Center for Advanced Studies.


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Prior to the administration of the student survey, parents, along with the research

coordinator, Dr. Ginny Berkemeier, and the high school principal, Dr. Peter Giles must sign the

parental consent form. After obtainment of the signatures, students will return the forms to the

researcher. Following the retrieval of these forms, the survey will be shared with students who

returned a consent form, and students will be asked to complete it on their own time after

receiving a link to the survey via email. Teachers may allow students to take the survey during

class if class time allows. The survey will be open for four weeks, tentatively November 1, 2018

through December 1, 2018. The survey responses will then be collected, counted, and analyzed

in order to form conclusions.


IMPACT OF MUSIC COURSES ON STEM ACADEMIC SUCCESS 17

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