Music Learning improves Maths, Science and English grades – Guhn (2019)

An extensive study has been released which found that students who studied music in primary school and into high school were almost one year ahead of their non-musically trained peers in their Maths, Science and English performance. This study is receiving a lot of attention on social media because it has such a large sample size (over 112,000 participants), the factors it controlled for (such as socio-economic status) and distinguishing between the types of music learning (singing and instrumental).

The findings are truly extraordinary and compelling. In the abstract alone the statement that “highly engaged instrumental music students were, on average, academically over 1 year ahead of their peers. The findings suggest that multi-year engagement in music, especially instrumental music, may benefit high school academic achievement” will become a headline in grant applications and presentations across the world.

Out of all the news articles we have picked this one from Forbes to feature because of a later paragraph that sums up the most important aspect of the study. Not just what they found but the WHY. Why music learning has such profound effects on students overall learning and performance. These are the factors we need to help our students, parents and school leaders to understand. We have highlighted some of the key themes in the extract below.

“What this study doesn’t tell us, though, is why music makes these students perform better, but the research paper mentions a few possible explanations. Several studies link music practice with neurological changes that improve certain brain functions. This could explain how studying music affects memory or planning skills, for example. But the researchers also consider that there is a possible motivational factor: Students who take music lessons see a tangible result from practice – they get better – and they might apply that to their other work. And finally, the non-competitive team aspect of making music together could strengthen students’ social development, which would also help them in other areas.”

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