The predictive relationship between achievement and participation in music and achievement in core grade 12 academic subjects

Gouzouasis P., Guhn, M., & Kishor, N. (2007). The predictive relationship between achievement and participation in music and achievement in core grade 12 academic subjects. Music Education Research, 9(1), 81-92.

Abstract:

This study examines the extent to which academic achievement of grade 12 students is related to achievement and participation in music, including concert choir, jazz choir, concert band, orchestral, and jazz band. For three consecutive cohorts of grade 12 students (2001, 2002, and 2003), the researchers studied the relationship between achievement in music courses and achievement in English, mathematics, and biology courses, and explored whether group average differences in academic achievement were evident for grade 11 music and non-music students on these grade 12 assessments.

Key Findings:

A positive correlation was found between achievement in music courses and achievement in core subjects across three consecutive cohorts of students. Average correlations between music course achievement and math (r=.22) and biology (r=.26) were equal to medium effect sizes, while the correlation with English achievement (r=.16) was equal to a small effect size.

A consistent pattern of differences in academic achievement was found between students that participated in grade 11 music courses and students that did not participate in any grade 11 music courses across all three cohorts. Students participating in band had, on average, higher achievement scores in English, mathematics, and biology. Other music course participation (string, choir, or music composition), was associated with higher achievement in mathematics and biology, but not English.

Significance of the Findings:

The findings provide support for previous research linking music-related skills and mathematical abilities. As the authors note, the results imply that music participation benefits students in ways directly and indirectly linked to higher academic achievement. Educators and curriculum developers may want to include music as a method to help improve math skills.

Methodology:

This research relied on the use of large archival data sets. Grade 11 and 12 standardized test data (English, biology, and mathematics) were obtained for three student cohorts (2000/01, 2001/02, and 2002/03) from the Ministry of Education's Annual Student Level Data Collection (SLDC). Student performance scores were extracted and matched with students' Personal Education Number (PEN), and the resulting file merged with the Ministry's data file containing grades for Grade 11 music courses. Students' best standardized test scores were selected from up to three possible scores for each test. Simple correlations (Pearson r) and t-tests were used to analyze these data.

Limitations of the Research:

Correlational research does not permit casual inference. It is not possible to disentangle the effects of other variables such as self-selection of higher socioeconomic status students to music classes or third variable explanations.

Questions to Guide New Research:

Is there a causal relationship between the study of music and academic achievement in core subjects? What skills, necessary for student achievement in English, mathematics, and biology, correlate with skills necessary for student achievement in music?