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The tools used for improving cognitive performance in early childhood are increasingly being drawn from more diverse areas of human experience. Music has long been considered a tool to enhance a child's education, assisting in forming potential skills such as dexterity, and creativity. This study will set out to conduct a quantitative and qualitative longitudinal research into whether or not there is substantial evidence of increased cognitive ability above the standard development a child may experience without the use of music. The purpose for researching whether music is a serious contender as a complimentary learning and developmental tool is significant due to the fact that most schools have existing music departments which could be improved or utilised to a larger extent.
Can children's education benefit from increased musical tuition in the core curriculum?
This research study is an investigation into the feasibility of increasing funding for comprehensive music tuition within the current education curriculum. The study will make use of quantitative and qualitative research methods to reveal any connection between music and the enhancement of cognitive capability. Holmes, Hughes and Julian (2007) for example, discuss quantitative research as the collection of data often using measurable experiments and statistical surveys, along with qualitative data which routinely uses interviewing or observation. Substantial quantitative research has previously been conducted by researchers such as; Piro and Ortiz (2009), Glenn Schellenberg, Nakata, Hunter, & Tamoto (2007), and Jackendoff (2008). Each has investigated the phenomena from different aspects, such as arousal and mood, or the difference between music lessons or not, and the similarity between language and music, with each study producing measurable results. However, they correspondingly recommend further research, due to the difficultly in reproducing their research. Therefore, this research project aims to produce repeatable concrete findings that either support or refute the claim of music affecting cognitive learning and ability. Two questions for consideration are; does music have an actual measurable effect on the cognitive abilities and the learning attributes of children? Is it feasible to consider funding in order to implement additional technology and educators for the purpose of expanding comprehensive music tuition, within the existing curriculum?
Aims and objectives
The aim of this study is to examine the argument with an unbiased agenda, to either support increased funding for highly beneficial programs of music education, or alternatively propose further research be conducted to authenticate the claims of the increased cognitive capability. For example Piro and Ortiz (2009b) claim substantial vocabulary improvement in their experiment group of approximately 4 points on their verbal sequencing scores table. If a substantial increase in children's cognitive capabilities can be demonstrated repeatedly through measured improvement in reading, language, mathematics, concentration, behaviour, memory, and creativity, then it would be advantageous for the government to increase funding toward music education, and future research.
A Brief Overview
The music and cognitive ability question was raised in 1993 as Jones (2003) cites the original researchers of the "Mozart Effect"; Irvine, Rauscher, Shaw & Ky, who implied a difference in spatial-temporal intelligence after 15 minutes of listening to Mozart. In contrast Piro and Ortiz (2009c) examined music's ability to heighten learning through connecting language or literacy to music, with the connection channelled through the human auditory system. Jackendoff (2008b) researched the similarities and differences between music and language, by linking rhythm, structure, function, and pitch, to conclude that music compliments language in addition to increased cognitive capability and learning. Glenn Schellenberg et al., (2007b) endeavoured to link music's ability to affect arousal and mood, with experiments to increase IQ and creativity ratings. Even though all the papers concerned were able to measure some amount of difference in cognitive ability by means of intelligence tests or comparisons, they all noted the difficulty with producing reliable replication. Perhaps the type of IQ test needs further consideration such as suggested by Sigelman and Rider (2009) who cite Gardner and Glenn & Gardner who argue that intelligence should be considered as a complex joining of linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily-kinaesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic intelligences. Therefore, when commencing with this particular study it would be prudent to use diverse intelligence testing when measuring results.
The research will be conducted over a 10 year period. The research will consist of weekly lessons, questionnaires, interviews, observation, diary keeping, and testing. The experimental group will experience comprehensive music tuition, and the control group will learn via standard cognitive development tools. Both groups will undergo IQ testing prior and post experiment. In addition reviews of past research will be undertaken using the internet, accessing sites such as Ebsco Host. Throughout the process all data will be collated and analysed using quantitative analysis tools such as described by Babbie (2010) who cites programs such as, SPSS or Microcase which specifically analyse social research coding.
The research will be conducted by recruiting 2 primary and 2 secondary schools in a similar demographic, willing to enlist 25 female and 25 male students to participate in a combination of cognitive learning studies. The research will be facilitated by 2 qualified music teachers and 2 qualified cognitive learning and development teachers. In addition a rotating staff of 4 researchers who will facilitate the process and record all data.
The researchers will make use of IQ testing to measure prior and post cognitive ability. The music departments in schools will be employed to facilitate comprehensive music tuition. Researches will use video and audio equipment to record all interactions with the participants. Questionaries, interviews, tests, diaries and observations will be used to gather as much quantitative and qualitative data as possible.
The ethical issues in this research project are as Babbie (2010b) contest apply to all research and social interaction as a whole, such as confidentiality with particular attention to safety of children, the requisite of doing no harm, avoiding plagiarism by referencing appropriately all literature reviewed. Contracting with all stakeholders in regards to current and future access of information, as well as any potential conflicts that could possibly occur particularly surrounding ownership of data collected and the final research document.
Given that the studies conducted over the last 20 years have each conceded that they could not unequivocally substantiate any definite measurable and repeatable findings, this study is therefore endeavouring to bring concrete evidence via comprehensive teaching, testing, questioning, interviewing, and observing. The study will be a ten year longitudinal research project into music's effect on student's cognitive ability. The study will be broken up into 2 year components, with twice weekly lessons of 1 hour being devoted to music instruction for the experiment group, and language and cognitive tool development for the control group, over each term of the year. Over the 10 year period the research findings and results will be released for review in order to assist researchers to eventually bring a repeatable quantifiable answer to the question of whether children's education can benefit from increased musical tuition in the core curriculum.