Valley Fellowship Christian Academy
3616 Holmes Avenue, Huntsville AL 35816
Piano-Based Academic Study
In the spring of 2006, Ms. Patti Simon of Valley Fellowship Christian Academy in Huntsville did her own piano-based music research study using the children in that private school. Based on her findings VFCA established piano lessons as part of every child’s curriculum from K3-6th grade beginning August 2006. Here is a look at her results.
She compared grades from fourth grade children who were taking piano lesson vs. those who were not.
A standard deviation comparison was used. One standard deviation point encompasses 66% of the population. Two standard deviation points encompasses 99% of the population. That makes these scores off the chart. Amazing!
EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND DESIGN
FINAL RESEARCH PROJECT
The Effects Of Taking Piano Lessons On
Does taking piano lessons enhance student learning in science, math and reading in the
fourth grade class at Valley Fellowship Christian Academy (VFCA)? Could the addition of
piano/music lessons to preschool and elementary grades be a validated educational addition to
the curricula at VFCA?
Introduction and Review of Literature:
This research project explores the effects of taking piano lessons over a period of two and a-half years on VFCA’s fourth grade students in the Subject Areas of Science, Math and
Statement of the Problem
I have recently been presented with the possibility of offering piano and music lessons twice a week to the entire population of Kindergarten to sixth grade students at VFCA where I serve as the administrator. This study will involve action research and tracking of the academic achievement within the classroom setting by reviewing classroom grade averages in math, reading and science and assessed by the Standardized Achievement Tests (SAT10) National PR-S percentiles over the past two years. Explorations of the possible benefits or non-benefits are the basis of motivation. Current research may also offer additional insights and case studies in this area. The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of piano lessons on the learning achievement of VFCA’s fourth grade students in the subject areas of math, science and reading and make a comparison with the non-piano students who were not exposed to piano lessons.
Significance of the problem
A major area of interest for educators and parents is providing children opportunities to increase student achievement in the areas of science, math and reading. The educational ambition of helping students obtain higher level thinking skills, problem solving skills, and increased comprehension and have put an emphasis on searching for techniques and tools that can increase a student’s learning potential. Recent research offers an interesting glimpse into the benefits of music for brain enhancement. Don Campbell’s writing suggests that music, especially music written by Mozart, at the prenatal level, increases learning potential in the life of children. The Mozart Effect prompted parents and educators to investigate this theory. Recent brain research also points to a connection of how listening to and learning music works with the natural way the brain is programmed for the learning process. Due to the layout of the key board, the piano is often the instrument of choice when taking music lessons. The key board provides students with a linear and audible representation of the relationship between sounds. Therefore, the primary instrument used in learning music is the piano. My interest is in finding a connection with increased learning and piano lessons.
Does taking piano lessons enhance student learning in science, math and reading in the fourth grade class at VFCA? Would offering piano/music lessons to preschool and elementary grades be a validated educational addition to the curricula at VFCA?
Review of the Literature
Music has been a part of human life and learning since the beginning of time. God created a world that is full of signs and sounds. Creation itself sings the praises of God. Over two thousand years ago, the early Greeks acknowledged benefits of studying music and how music has an effect on the human mind (Costa-Giomi, 2004). Katie Overy claims that “music can improve the mind, not only through the development of intellectual skills such as abstract thinking and logical reasoning (Overly, 1998).” Can exposure to and training in music develop particular cognitive abilities? Costa-Giomi (1997) monitored a significant improvement in the verbal, quantitative and special skills of ten to eleven year olds after they had received two years of piano lessons. I have personally observed my own children’s involvement with music and have suspected a connection with their progress impart to early childhood music exposure.
A study of seventy-six students in
With significant research on this subject, why are there a limited number of school systems running to adding music lessons and music curriculum into their school curricula. Methods Section:
Subjects: The pool of subjects was taken from the 2005-2006 fourth grade class of VFCA. Two sample groups were drawn for this study. The subject groups were divided into sample groups as follows:
¨ Group (A)-Piano Students (This group is comprised of fourth grade students who are currently taking piano lessons and have done so for two year and one-half year’s begining in August 2003).
¨ Group (B)-Non-Piano students (This group is comprised of fourth grade students who have never taken lesson in piano or any other lessons on musical instruments over the past two and one-half years).
The sample group has a total of sixteen students. Two of the students from the fourth grade sample group are new at VFCA and will not participate in this research project. Therefore, there are fourteen fourth grade students in total who have been enrolled at VFCA over the past two and one half years and will participate in this study. There are seven girls and eight boys. The ages in the sample group range from nine years old to ten years old. A permission letter was sent to each of the fifteen participating student’s parents. There was a one-hundred percent response from the parents to participate in this research project. The average family income for group (A-Piano) is $40,000. The average family income for group (B-Non-Piano) is $40,000. The subjects were given a survey designed to reveal the students personal attitudes and level of interest in music, music lessons, favorite classroom subjects and person interest inventories. One-hundred percent of the subjects responded and were evaluated by groups. Three of the four subjects in group (A) received private piano lessons during the school years on the school premises by the same piano teacher. One of the subjects received piano lessons outside of the school premises by a teacher unrelated to the school. The lessons were given by two different music teachers. All of the piano lessons were thirty minutes long each week and the students were required to practice and additional two and one-half hours per week. This would be a total of three hours of combined instruction and practice weekly. Group (A) was asked to respond to a questionnaire asking how much weekly practice time was actually taking place on average.
Instruments: Data Gathering Methods
The academic assessment are the Stanford Achievement Test 10 (National PR-S) percentiles in the subject areas of math, science, and reading spanning the past two and one-half years from 2003-2004 and 2004-2005. The second assessment used for research are the averages in the classroom grades in the subject areas of math, science, and reading form 2003-2004, 2004-2005, and 2005-2006 through the first semester (August to December). The informational survey was one page in length with twelve questions. The items provided a variety of response formats including Likert items with a 1-6 (strongly disagree to strongly agree), free response, check list and demographic information. The data collection included the averaging of SAT (PR-S) percentiles for group (A) and group (B). The mean percentiles were compared and a standard deviation was derived. The collection of data for the classroom grades comprised averaging classroom grades in the subject areas of math, reading and science for group (A) an group (B). The mean grades were compared and a standard deviation was derived.
The data was analyzed and presented in percentage formats drawing possible comparisons between group (A) and group (B) over the past two and one-half years from 2003 through December of 2005. The SAT Test results were only available for the years of 2003- 2004 and 2004-2005. The 2005-2006 results were not yet available. The questionnaire was analyzed into common responses for both subject groups. The strategy for conducting this research is designed to reveal the presence of or lack of evidence that taking piano lessons can be reflected in higher student academic performance in students who take lessons compared to those who do not take lessons. The only difference between the groups of subjects for this study is the students who participate in piano lessons and those who did not. This design is more experimental in research design.
The initial step required parental permission to allow the students to cooperate in this research study. A written letter was sent to each fourth grade family requesting permission to allow their child to participate in the survey and the use of their SAT and classroom grades over the past two and one-half years. Some confirmations were provided over the telephone. Confidentiality was offered. Each Student was assigned a letter of the alphabet to insure privacy. The next step was to present to students the interest questionnaire. The third step involved a detailed study of each of the SAT and classroom grades in the subject areas of math, science, and reading for each member of the sample group. The PR-S of the mean grade was used as the indicator score and the point of comparison on the SAT and Otis-Lennon in the subject areas of math, science and reading. The final average of classroom grades used for comparison over the school year span from 2003 through December 2005. The procedures section of this research project requires a past score comparison of group (A) to group (B) for each student.
There are a number of variables that may or may not contribute to the validity of this research project. The amount of actual weekly piano practice time may impact the influence of lessons on the student achievement levels. Having two separate piano teachers may also impact the performance of the students. Individual teaching ability of the classroom teachers and varying pre-existing student ability levels may also influence the correlation of piano lessons to overall higher student learning levels. Individual learning abilities may or may not be affected by piano lessons. The purpose of this study is to look for any outstanding confirmations that music lessons positively contribute to higher student achievement in the tested subject areas.
This action research project reviewed the comparison of fourteen fourth grade students from VFCA. All of the fourteen students have been enrolled in this class from 2003 to the current day. The student’s parents were informed of the research and unanimously gave their approval. Of the fourteen students, four had taken piano lessons since August of 2003. Each of the four was currently enrolled in private piano lessons. Three of the four students shared the same piano teacher and one had a different teacher. Each received a thirty minute lesson weekly and averaged two hours of practice weekly. The remaining ten fourth grade students had not had any piano lessons from August 2003 to the current day. Therefore twenty-nine percent of the fourth grade class had received piano lessons over the past two and a half years and sixty-one percent had not.
The results of the research focused on the standard deviation between the classroom grades in the subject areas of math, reading and science from August 2003 through December 2005 and SAT (National PR-S) percentages from August 2003 through May 2005. The results were outstanding. Significant differences were found in every area with the exception of science grades in the 2003-2004 school year. During the second grade year the students all received “ESNU” grades in the subject of science. All of the students received a performance grade of an “E” which was equivalent to ninety-five percent so there was not an academic grade available for the subject of science during the 2003 year.
During the 2003-2004 second grade school year, the comparison between the non-piano and piano students in the class grade averages in math produced 2.6 standard deviation and in reading a 1.9 standard deviation found in Table 1.0 and Table1.1. There were no significant or measurable differences in the subject area of Science. During the 2004-2005 third grade school year, the comparison between the non-piano and piano students in the class grade averages in math produced a 10.6 standard deviation, in reading a 5.5 standard deviation and in science a 4.6 standard deviation found in Table 2.0 and Table 2.1. During the 2005 fourth grade school year from August to December, the comparison between the non-piano and piano students in class grade averages in math produced a 7.7 standard deviation, in reading a 4.3 standard deviation and in science a 4.7 standard deviation found in Table 3.0 and Table 3.1.
During the 2003-2004 second grade school year, the comparison between the non-piano and piano students in SAT National PR-S in total math produced a 25.4 standard deviation, in total reading produces a 4.24 standard deviation and in science/environment a 6.3 standard deviation found in Table 4.0 and Table 4.1. During the 2004-2004 third grade school year, the comparison between the non-piano and piano students in SAT National PR-S in total math produced a 30.4 standard deviation, in total reading produces a 7.7standard deviation and in science/environment a19.0 standard deviation found in Table 5.0 and Table 5.1. During the student’s fourth grade year of 2006, SAT results were not available. The SAT testing takes place in the spring and results will not be available until the end of May of 2006.
Overall, a significant comparison is represented when evaluating the piano to non-piano students in the subject areas of math, reading and science and in the SAT (PR-S) percentiles in the subject areas of math, reading and science over a two year period from August 2003-December 2005. This research shows a significant impact with increased percentiles for students who received piano in the chosen subject areas. Further and more comprehensive research is necessary to further validate the results. The follow expressed data is represented in the following tables.
This research represents valid and reliable data in the comparisons of student classroom grade performance and SAT (PR-S) percentiles. The correlation between higher achievement levels of piano taking students over non-piano taking students is significant. The applicable validity and reliability is yet to be determined. This research used a small sample group and the results can only reliably be applied to use at VFCA. Each of the assessments for achievement was designed to reflect student achievement. Within the classroom grade evaluation an element of teacher subjectivity is possible. Any teacher assigned grades have the potential of misrepresenting a student’s true achievement. However, this is the most widely used and depended upon method for student evaluation. Therefore, I feel it is as reliable a source as is possible. This is why a secondary for of assessment was drawn upon with the use of the SAT percentile results. Both assessments have a perceived margin of human error. Both sets of data were collected over a two and one-half years time span increasing the validity and reliability. Charting this information over the course of a larger span of time (perhaps five or even ten years) would be beneficial.
The SAT percentiles demonstrated the most significant deviation and potential for greater academic student achievement for piano students. A 25. Standard Deviation in math was an indicator of significant correlation warranting further research. Student’s classroom grade averages and SAT percentiles in the subject of math revealed the most outstanding comparisons. The research in this project shows a significant correlation between these two factors. There is also a significant correlation in the subject area of science. The data reveals as high as a 19. Standard Deviation in the subject area of science. The overall data reveals that piano students scored higher and performed at higher rates in each of the tested subjects of math, reading and science during each of the years researched. The research also reveals higher percentage during the second year after the piano students had taken piano lessons. In the comparisons of SAT percentiles between the piano and non-piano students, the piano students rated significantly higher in the subject area of math the Standard Deviation increased from 25. to 30., in the area of reading the Standard Deviation increased from 4.2 to 7.7 and in the area of science the Standard Deviation increased from 6.3 to 19.
This research was insightful and stirred a greater interest in the use of music via piano with in the realm of educational curricula. Strong correlation on how the brain is affected by music and the disciplined application of learning a musical instrument like the piano and how it effects student achievement is present. As a Christian Educator and mother, I am not surprised by these findings. I have taught for twenty years and have used music and rhythm to teach my students in various academic subjects. God is a musical God. Being made into His image and likeness, humankind has a facet of music in our design. Research has revealed the as soon as a baby has ears to hear, what they hear affects their development. Would this not continue to be true in the rest of a person’s life and learning? God created mankind to be made up of three parts; body, soul and spirit (I Thessalonians NIV). The physical body is the facet that individuals can touch, hold, feel, hear, taste, and smell. The soul or the mind is the intellectual facet. The spirit is the part that experiences new birth in Christ and is made to become one with God. Music touches all these areas.
Psalm 1:1-3 that if we mediate upon the Word of God day and night both success and prosperity will be given in every thing we do. We are admonished in the both the Old and New Testaments to worship the Lord with singing and with skillful instrumentation (2Chronicles 5:13 and 2 Chronicles 20:21 NIV) Ephesians 5:15 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise” and goes on to admonish believers in verse 19 to “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord”. Biblically there is evidence that music, especially music unto the Lord increase our success and our ability to think. As a Christian educator I am motivated to see music and music training becomes a part of a child’s educational experience. I believe that scientists, educators, and researchers will discover what God has made known is His Word all along. This research has given me statistical proof that there is a strong correlation between music and learning. I plan to further implement music and piano lessons in my school. I am motivated to establish a reliable and valid system of research that can track this school wide.
Bible. New International Version.
Ivanov, V. & Geake, J.G. (2003). The mozart effect and primary school children. [Electronic version]. Psychology of Music, 31, 405-413.
Jacson, C. & Tlauka, M. (2004). Route-learning and the mozart effect. [Electronic version]. Psychology of Music, 32, 213-220.
Jensen, E. (2001). Arts with the brain in mind.
Overy, K. (1998). Can music really improve the mind. [Electronic version]. Psychology of Music, 26, 97-99.
Rauscher, F.H. (1998). Respondent 1: responses to Katie ovary’s paper, “can music really I improve the mind”. [Electronic version]. Psychology of Music, 26, 197- 199.
Rauscher, F.H. & Zupan, M.A. (2001). Keyboard instruction improves kindergarten children’s special performance.
Wolfe, P. (2001). Brain matters: translating research into classroom practice.
Young, S. & Glover, J. (1998). Music in the early years.
GRAPHS: (Overview by Mrs. Denie Riggs)
2nd grade at the end of the first year
After the first year of piano lessons (2nd grade) students taking piano lessons scored:
· 2.6 higher in Math
· 1.9 points higher in Reading.
· An academic grade was not given in 2nd grade so no comparison was given.
3rd grade at the end of the second year
At the end of the second year (3rd grade): students taking piano lessons scored:
10.6 higher in Math
5.5 points higher in Reading
4.6 points higher in Science
4th grade at the end of the first semester
At the end of the semester in the third year (4th grade) those taking piano lessons scored:
· 7.7 points higher in Math
· 4.3 points higher in Reading
· 4.7 points higher in Science
SAT Scores at the end of the first year…
See graph below…
· 25.5 points higher in Math
· 4.2 points higher in Reading
· 6.4 points higher in Science
SAT Scores at the end of the second year…
See graph below…
· 30.4 points higher in Math
· 7.8 points higher in Reading
· 19.1 points higher in Science
As you can see, piano-based music makes a tremendous difference academically for any age person. Based on these findings with school-aged children, you can imagine the value of early, while your child’s brain is forming… during the “formative years” from conception to age five.