Bigger, better brains: neuroscience, music education and the pre-service early childhood and primary (elementary) generalist teacher
AuthorCollins, Anita Marie
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
Document TypePhD thesis
CitationsCollins, A. M. (2012). Bigger, better brains: neuroscience, music education and the pre-service early childhood and primary (elementary) generalist teacher. PhD thesis, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne.
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2012 Dr. Anita Marie Collins
Since the early 1990s, there has been an enormous amount of research into the ways in which music listening and music training can improve our understanding of the structural and functional aspects of the human brain. As research in this interdisciplinary field, known as neuromusical research, advanced, it was also discovered that formal music training may have significant effects on brain development. As this is a relatively new field of research, the findings from these studies have remained predominantly in the area of neuroscience and have not been widely disseminated to educators or applied to educational practice. This thesis initially aimed to explore the possible applications of these findings in music education practice. It was then modified, due to the outcomes of the literature review, to examine the effects of these findings on the values that pre-service generalist primary (elementary) teachers hold towards music education. This thesis consisted of two interrelated studies. Study A mapped the current neuromusical research literature related to the effects of formal music training and summarised the significant findings to date. The mapping methodology included a four-stage process to determine the breadth of the field and identify categories, connections, correlations and contradictions across the findings. Study A revealed that neuromusical research findings are not advanced enough to be confidently applied to music education practices, which indicated the need to modify the initial focus of the thesis. This resulted in Study B, which consisted of a quasi- experimental quantitative study to measure the possible impact of neuromusical research findings on the perceptions of music education held by pre-service generalist primary (elementary) teachers. This study took the form of a ten-week teaching intervention with a pre- and post-test survey, and the resultant data was analysed for changes in values towards music education. Study B revealed that the values held by the participant group towards music education improved significantly after the teaching intervention. Furthermore, the experiment group, who were exposed to the neuromusical research findings, had more positive values than the control group in the majority of measures. Exposure to the neuromusical research findings was shown to affect the experiment group participants’ values in a number of ways: they indicated a higher level of confidence in the delivery of music education, rated music education at a higher level of importance in the curriculum, used higher levels of critical thinking and educational philosophy to justify the value of music education and performed better in their assessment items. This study has shown that exposure to the neuroscientific and aesthetic benefits of music education can positively influence the values pre-service generalist teachers hold towards the discipline. This is worthy of further research, as it could help improve the rate and quality of the delivery of music education by generalist teachers when they enter the profession.
Keywordsmusic education; neuroscience; neuromusical research; brain; pre-service teacher training; generalist teacher training; early childhood education; primary education; elementary education
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