Classroom keyboard instruction improves kindergarten children’s spatial-temporal performance: a field experiment

Rauscher, F. & Zupan, M. (2000). Classroom keyboard instruction improves kindergarten children’s spatial-temporal performance: a field experiment. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 15(2).

Abstract:

The aim of this study was to determine the effects of classroom music instruction featuring the keyboard on the spatial-temporal reasoning of kindergarten children. Sixty-two students were assigned to one of two conditions, keyboard instruction (n=34) or no music (n=28). All students completed two spatial-temporal tasks and one pictorial memory task for pretesting, and were then retested at two four month intervals. The keyboard group was provided with two 20-minute music lessons a week in groups of approximately ten students. The keyboard group scored significantly higher than the no music group on both spatial-temporal tasks after four months of lessons, and after eight months. Pictorial memory did not differ for either group after the lessons.

Key Findings:

The children in the keyboard group scored significantly higher on the spatial-temporal tasks after four months of keyboard lessons than did the children in the no music group. After eight months of lessons the difference in spatial-temporal task scores between the two groups had further increased. No significant differences between groups were found for the pictorial memory task. The data also supports existing research claims that early music instruction enhances spatial-temporal reasoning and task scores.

Significance of the Findings:

The study’s findings are significant for supporters of arts education in that these results continue to positively extend the line of research that finds positive outcomes of the introduction of early music instruction with early childhood and early elementary students. Math and science educators will also find significance in these findings, as spatial-temporal processes are foundational in mathematics and scientific endeavors. These findings provide additional rationale and support for arts educators to continue their advocacy for the inclusion of music education in early childhood and primary education classrooms.

Methodology:

The researchers selected two kindergarten classrooms at two elementary schools for participation in the study. The classes had a total of 62 students and were diverse with regard to ethnicity and balanced in terms of gender. The researchers assigned 34 of the students to an experimental group (keyboard instruction), and 28 students to a control group (no music instruction). A music specialist administered keyboard lessons for 20 minutes two times per week to the experimental group. Children not assigned to this group were engaged in journaling in a separate area of the classroom during the lesson. At the outset of the study, the researchers collected data on student cognition via three tests: puzzle solving, block building, and pictorial memory. These same tests were administered at four months and eight months from the pretest date for both groups. Statistical calculations were to compare test performance of students in the experimental and control groups.

Limitations of the Research:

Limitations of the study’s design include not addressing the specificity of the music instruction to ascertain what aspect of the music curriculum made the most contribution to the students’ spatial-temporal process development. Participants were not randomly selected, and thus might have been deliberately sorted in the experimental and control groups introducing bias into the study.

Questions to Guide New Research:

Does music instruction affect mathematical reasoning as it affects spatial-temporal reasoning? How does music instruction in the public school classroom relate to other academic and cognitive development areas? What age is the opportune window to introduce music education for optimal cognitive development? Do these findings persist after music instruction stops? Does continued music instruction result in improved findings?