Saturday, September 12, 2009

Research: Review: The Use of Music with Young Children to Improve Sustained Attention

The Spring issue of the Journal of Music Therapy had some interesting research about music and attention for school children. This research was nice because it helps in confirming common sense thinking that information provided during a song is more memorable. The abstract for the research can be found here.

The study presented the same educational material in different conditions: music without distractions, music with distractions, spoken without distractions and spoken with distractions. The most important thing that the researchers found was that there was a significant difference between music with distractions and spoken with distractions. This finding has positive implications for teaching and therapy in the classroom. The distractions were the sound of sirens, people talking or a phone ringing. Unfortunately, these are all common distractions that occur everyday in the classroom, so trying to teach through these distractions is very important.

This study was done with 76 well children who were not classified with disabilities or illness. The sample is relatively small and the study will have to be repeated across multiple sites or with a much larger population sample to increase robustness of the findings. The study will also have to be recreated using different populations with disabilities to see if the significant results are maintained. The subjects in this experiment were wearing headphones that precisely controlled the music and verbal instruction as well as the distracting noises. It will be interesting to discover if the significant findings in this research can be maintained under free field testing conditions or when the music is live and not recorded. This study is a great milestone and foundational resource for further investigation!

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