Social and personal development


Researchers have paid less attention to the impact of music on creativity than other types of learning. Simpson (1969) studying 173 high school music and 45 non-music students found that the music students scored higher on several elements of the Guildford’s tests of creativity. Wolff (1979) studied the effects of 30 minutes of daily music instruction for an entire year on first graders. Those participating exhibited significant increases in creativity and in perceptual motor skills compared with controls. Kalmar (1982) studied the effects of singing and musical group play twice weekly for three years on pre-school children of 3-4 years of age and found that these children scored higher than controls on creativity, had higher levels of abstraction, and showed greater creativity in improvised puppet play. They also demonstrated better motor development. High school and university music students scored higher on tests of creativity than none music majors, this being particularly marked in those with more than 10 years of music education (Hamann et al., 1990). A further study compared music students with those whose experiences included theatrical and visual arts. The music students exhibited greater creativity than controls but no effects were found for the visual arts. The greater the number of units of music classes the greater the creativity (Hamann et al., 1991). Other major national reports on the arts have emphasised their importance in developing a range of transferable skills including those related to creativity and critical thinking (NACCCE, 1999).

The development of creative skills is likely to be particularly dependent on the type of musical engagement. This is supported by recent work. Koutsoupidou and Hargreaves (2009) studied 6 year olds comparing those who had opportunities for musical improvisation with those where music lessons provided no opportunities for creativity. Performance on Webster’s measures of Creative Thinking in Music assessed change in extensiveness, flexibility, originality, and syntax. The improvisation activities significantly supported the development of creative thinking as opposed to the didactic teaching. To enhance creativity music lessons may need to be based on creative activities. This is an area where further research is required.

Social and personal development

Research on the impact of participation in music on social and personal development tends to be based on self-report, either questionnaires or interviews. It has received less attention than 17 the impact on intellectual development and attainment, despite the fact that the effects on achievement may in part be mediated by an increase in social and cultural capital. For instance, Broh (2002) showed that students who participated in musical activities talked more with parents and teachers, and their parents were more likely to talk with friends’ parents. She concluded that these social benefits were likely to lead to higher self-esteem in the children in turn leading to increased motivation and self-efficacy. A study by the Norwegian Research Council for Science and Humanities supported this finding a connection between having musical competence and high motivation which led to a greater likelihood of success in school (Lillemyr, 1983). There were high correlations between positive self-perception, cognitive competence score, self-esteem, and interest and involvement in school music. Whitwell (1977) drew similar conclusions and argued that creative participation in music improves self-image, self-awareness, and creates positive self-attitudes. Similar findings have been found with urban black middle school students (Marshall, 1978) and children of low economic status (Costa-Giomi, 1999). It would appear that success in music can enhance overall feelings of confidence and self-esteem increasing motivation for study more generally.

Research in Switzerland showed that increasing the amount of classroom music within the curriculum did not have a detrimental effect on language and reading skills despite a reduction in time in these lessons (Spychiger, et al., 1993; Zulauf, 1993) and there was an increase in social cohesion within class, greater self-reliance, better social adjustment and more positive attitudes in the children. These effects were particularly marked in low ability, disaffected pupils (Spychiger, et al., 1993). Harland (2000) showed that the most frequent overall influences on pupils derived from engagement with the arts in school were related to personal and social development. In music there were perceived effects relating to awareness of others, social skills, well-being and transfer effects. Variations in response between schools related to the degree of musical knowledge and experience that the pupils brought to the school curriculum. Some students perceived the benefits of music classes in being listening to music and the development of musical skills while others referred to the sheer fun and therapeutic nature of music, how it gave them confidence to perform in front of others, how it facilitated group work and how it enabled them to learn to express themselves. Those who played instruments mentioned an increase in self-esteem and sense of identity. Tolfree and Hallam (in preparation) also reported a sense of achievement, increased confidence and the provision of an alternative means of communicating feelings for children aged 9-17 in 18 relation to playing an instrument. They also spoke of enjoying playing with friends and the frustrations that they felt when practising alone when they were unable to get things right.

Two studies researched the perceived benefits of school band participation in the USA. The benefits included accomplishment, appreciation, discipline, fun, active participation and maturing relationships (Brown 1980). 95% of parents of non-band participants believed that band provided educational benefits not found in other classrooms and 78% agreed that band was more educational than extra-curricular. Band directors talked in general terms about the benefits of discipline, teamwork, co-ordination, development of skills, pride, lifetime skills, accomplishment, cooperation, self-confidence, sense of belonging, responsibility, selfexpression, creativity, performance, companionship, building character and personality, improving self-esteem, social development and enjoyment. In a follow up study (Brown, 1985), 91% of non-band parents, 79% of non-band students, 90% of drop-out band parents and 82% of drop out band students agreed that participating in a band builds self-esteem, self confidence and a sense of accomplishment. Similarly, in the UK, peripatetic instrumental teachers working in schools reported considerable benefits of learning to play an instrument including the development of social skills; gaining a love and enjoyment of music; developing team-work; developing a sense of achievement, confidence and self-discipline; and developing physical co-ordination (Hallam and Prince, 2000).

Being involved in the extra-curricular rehearsal and performance of a school show has been shown to facilitate the development of friendships with like-minded individuals and make a contribution to social life through a widespread awareness of the show by non-participants (Pitts, 2007). Such participation increased pupils’ confidence, social networks and sense of belonging, despite the time commitment which inevitably impinged on other activities. Research in the USA has also shown that involvement in group music activities in the high school helps individuals learn to support each other, maintain commitment and bond together for group goals (Sward, 1989). Reflecting on previous and current group music making activities, university music students reported benefits in terms of pride in being an active contributor to a group outcome, developing a strong sense of belonging, gaining popularity and making friends with ‘like-minded’ people, enhancement of social skills, and the development of a strong sense of self-esteem and satisfaction. Students also reported enhanced personal skills facilitating the students’ personal identity and encouraging the development of self-achievement, self-confidence and intrinsic motivation. A further study 19 with non-music students who had previously participated in musical groups established similar benefits but there was a greater preoccupation with the impact of group music making on the self and personal development. Students reported that active involvement in music helped them develop life skills such as discipline and concentration and provided an outlet for relaxation during demanding study periods (Kokotsaki and Hallam, 2007; in preparation). In a study of 84 members of a college choral society, 87% indicated that they had benefitted socially, 75% emotionally, and 49% spiritually. Meeting new people, feeling more positive, and being uplifted spiritually were all referred to (Clift and Hancox, 2001).

Within small musical groups the social relationships and the development of trust and respect are crucial for their functioning (Davidson and Good, 2002; Young and Colman, 1979). For long-term success rehearsals have to be underpinned by strong social frameworks as interactions are typically characterised by conflict and compromise related mainly to musical content and its co-ordination, although some interactions are of a more personal nature (e.g. approval). (Young and Colman, 1979; Murningham and Conlon, 1991) The smaller the group the more important personal friendship seems to be.

In adolescence, music makes a major contribution to the development of self-identity. Teenagers listen to a great deal of music (Hodges and Haack, 1996). In the UK, typically almost three hours a day (North et al., 2000). They do this to pass time, alleviate boredom, relieve tension, and distract themselves from worries (North et al., 2000; Zillman and Gan, 1997; Tolfree and Hallam, in preparation). Music is seen as a source of support when young people are feeling troubled or lonely, acting as a mood regulator, helping to maintain a sense of belonging and community (Zillman and Gan, 1997). Its affect on moods at this time can be profound (Goldstein, 1980). It is also used in relation to impression management needs. By engaging in social comparisons adolescents are able to portray their own peer groups more positively than other groups in their network and are thus able to sustain positive selfevaluations. Music facilitates this process (Tarrant et al., 2000).

In addition to developing personal and social skills, music may also have the capacity to increase emotional sensitivity. Resnisow et al. (2004) found that there was a relationship between the ability to recognise emotions in performances of classical piano music and measures of emotional intelligence which required individuals to identify, understand, reason with and manage emotions using hypothetical scenarios. The two were significantly 20 correlated which suggests that identification of emotion in music performance draws on some of the same skills that make up everyday emotional intelligence.

While it is clear from the research outlined above that music can have very positive effects on personal and social development, it must be remembered that the research has largely focused on those currently participating in active music making not taking account of those who have not found it an enjoyable and rewarding experience. The quality of the teaching, the extent to which individuals experience success, whether engaging with a particular type of music can be integrated with existing self-perceptions, and whether overall it is a positive experience will all contribute to whether there is a positive impact on social and personal development.

No comments