The far-reaching benefits of music education

The far-reaching benefits of music education

While literacy and numeracy are core competencies that every student should have, research has shown that learning music can help students’ self-confidence, self-discipline and team work.

Music has also shown to help students progress in English, Science and Maths, areas of student learning which many nations are trying to improve as they compete on international league tables.

Indeed, countries that place a strong focus on music education tend to have better outcomes in literacy and numeracy as speech and music have a number of shared processing systems.

According to research by Susan Hallam from the Institute of Education at the University of London, musical experiences which enhance processing can impact on the perception of language which in turn impacts on learning to read.

“Active engagement with music sharpens the brain’s early encoding of linguistic sound. Eight year old children with just eight weeks of musical training showed improvement in perceptual cognition compared with controls,” Hallam said.

Hallam’s research has also shown how music psychology in education can be of interest to students training to be instrumental and class teachers, and to all teachers wishing to further their understanding of teaching and learning.

Other research, led by Dr Anita Collins from the University of Canberra, has found that learning a musical instrument lights up all functions of the brain in a unique way, and improves vocal, vocabulary and memory skills.

In a study titled: ‘Neuroscience, music education and the pre-service primary (elementary) generalist teacher’, Dr Collins says neuroscience studies indicate that formal music training has measurable positive effects on multiple aspects of brain development.

“Musicians have been found to have bigger, better brains; bigger in terms of denser grey matter and highly developed structures such as the corpus callosum, better in terms of faster facilities for processing and systems for memory storage and retrieval,” Dr Collins wrote.

Research published in the US Journal of Neuroscience by Erika Skoe and Nina Kraus from Northwestern University in Chicago, shared some insights into the far-reaching benefits of music education beyond school.

The study, titled: ‘A Little Goes a Long Way: How the Adult Brain Is Shaped by Musical Training in Childhood’, found that for children who continue group or private music education beyond school or college, there are sensory, cognitive, and neural benefits.

“Our results suggest that a limited period of music lessons [3 years] during childhood fundamentally alters the nervous system such that neural changes persist in adulthood after auditory training has ceased [7 years later],” Skoe and Kraus said.

The researchers pointed out that while their study did not investigate the enduring behavioural benefits of childhood music training, it “draws from prior work linking enhanced auditory brainstem encoding with heightened auditory perception, executive function, and auditory-based communication skills”.

“This suggests that musical training during development may produce long-lasting positive effects on the adult brain,” they said.


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