Term Paper: Music and Movement Early Childhood Education

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Music Education

Over the past decade, researchers have paid increasing amount of interest to the impact of music on child development. For example, in 1993 Alfred a. Tomatis coined the term "The Mozart effect" for the alleged increase in brain development that takes place in children under the age of three when listening to music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart based on University of California, Irvine, studies. Since then, there has been a great deal of controversy about the true impact of music on intelligence. Harvard University researchers Ellen Winner and Lois Hetland cautioned in 1999, for example: "Since 1997, we have been analyzing the research relevant to the claim that the arts lead to academic success. So far we have found no actual scientific evidence on the effect of music on infant brain development and subsequent school success." Even the original researchers at UCLA state that Tomatis did not report their findings accurately. Meanwhile, however, additional studies are finding that music may not enhance intelligence, but have other positive impacts on infants and young children.

The actual research evidence on music and the baby brain is very limited. Research shows, for instance, that the fetus responds to music. Studies by Abrams, Griffiths and Huang suggest that as the auditory system of the fetus develops it is able to receive some form of stimulation from the mother's environment. Despite distortion from the amniotic fluid and tissue, music that is received in the form of distinguishable sound transmissions elicits a change in body movement and heart rate variations (Lecanut, Granier-Deferre, & Busnel, 1988). In most cases, the fetus' heart rate slows down, except for a "startle response" with loud noises.

Hepper (1991) studied the effects of hearing music in both pre- and post-natal conditions. Mothers listened regularly to a theme song during pregnancy. Several days after delivery, their infants were tested for responses to this tune. The babies showed a decrease in heart rate not found in the control group. A study conducted at a later time found that the response was specifically related to the tune, not other musical pieces. In addition, when Hepper studied the gestational age of learning, he found that the fetuses only responded to music after 36 weeks when their auditory systems were significantly developed.

Similarly, developmental psychologist John Lynch and his colleagues (1995) found that performance detection of melodic alterations by full-term infants seemed to be influenced by perceptual experience from six months in utero up to birth. In addition, an experiment by Lorch et. al (1999) with premature infants supported the hypothesis that experience impacts music processing in infancy. Infants in the ICU responded with different changes in heart rate, blood pressure and respiration when listening to recordings of contrasting musical styles. Controversy continues to exist about how much stimulation is appropriate for premature infants, but most studies on music as auditory stimulation result in positive outcomes. It is recommended that healthcare providers take into consideration (a) the minimum gestational age at which music therapy is appropriate based on auditory development, (b) the frequency spectrum premature infants are able to perceive that may impact musical stimuli, - the decibel level reaching the ear drum, and (d) the way the stimuli is presented that affect the decibel level reaching the ear drum (Cassidy & Ditty, 1998, p. 87).

The rationale for researching music in early childhood stems back to the earlier 1900s, when studies of music in the home and early childhood classrooms by Swiss educator Heinrich Pestalozzi (1898) and kindergarten founder Frederick Froebel (1906) demonstrated the importance for learning. Froebel collected musical materials for his book on "mother play" and included didactic songs as part of the kindergarten curriculum. Pestalozzi's chronicle of home teaching became the foundation for much of his "experience before theory" pedagogy, which continues to impact music teaching.

Today, brain research and childhood education studies demonstrate that active rather than passive engagement changes brain development in adult musicians; the same is expected to occur in children. It is essential, for parents, caregivers and teachers to involve children in active and expressive modes of music making, such as singing, moving, and playing sound-making objects (Fox, 2000, p. 24).

Dawson and Panagiotides, et al. (1992) researched the connection between frontal lobe activity and emotional impact in 21-month-old toddlers and found that a sad affect was correlated with greater right lobe activity and a happy affect with greater left lobe activity. They further suggest that greater right lobe activation tends to interfere with motor and linguistic ability. Similarly, Malyarenko et al. (1996) studied the effect of background music on four-year-old preschool males. After being exposed for six months to one hour of classical music a day, they showed significantly greater interhemispheric [alpha] range coherence than did the controls, whose [alpha] level decreased. Further, those in the music group had a significant increase in left lobe intrahemispheric coherence in the [alpha] range, while the controls had a decrease in all but the left frontal lobe. The music group members appeared to tire less easily than the controls. It may be possible, then, that music indirectly enhances or impedes learning and ability, depending on internal state evoked as well as influence learning through associated physical activities. When a person physically manipulates an instrument, for instance, the brain appears to develop new synapses to accommodate new skills.

The impact of playing musical instruments was also seen in a study by Bilhartz, Bruhn and Olson (2000), where preschoolers were involved with a comprehensive program consisting of singing, playing instruments, and moving to music. The study found that, on a visual test involving recall of bead sequence, color, and shape, preschoolers with the music training improved more than the controls (Campbell, 2002, p. 61).

A study by DeVries (2000) where a group of preschool children met every day for six weeks for 25 minutes for music, dance and instruments, six themes were addressed in the effect from the lessons: 1) involvement in music activities allowed children to release energy; 2) engagement in music movement activities developed motor skills in children; 3) a variety of music activities promoted opportunities for student socialization; 4) music activities provided opportunities for children to express themselves; 5) music contributed to sociodramatic play; and 6) music listening activities focused children's listening skills.

From such studies, therefore, it is noticed that music does have an impact on various characteristics of fetus, newborn and younger children. Whether or not intelligent development goes hand-in-hand with these is still unknown. A recent study from Toronto investigated this question. The main goal was to test if the duration of children's music lessons was positively associated with IQ. The sample population was made up of 147 children who were between ages 6 and 11 and had a varied amount of private and group music lessons in their background. Detailed information indicated that the group was very diverse culturally and the parents' education and income similarly varied. Data were collected for three main areas: 1) Each child took the WISC-III, which is a widely accepted standardized test of childhood intelligence; 2) Each child filled out the K-TEA, a standardized test for academic achievement, and the parents provided copies of the child's school report cards; and 3) Each parent completed the BASC, which contained 138 items describing their child's social adjustment. The resulting scores were compared statistically, and the results indicated that the duration of music lessons did have a small but positive association with measures of intelligence.

Johnson (2000) admits that she doubts these "music makes you smarter" studies, and even though Toronto is a valid looking investigation, she is still not totally convinced. In studies like these, she adds, one always has to ask the question, "Did the results reflect causality or simply correlation?" In other words, did one (music lessons) cause the other (higher intelligence and academic achievement), or did both occur in the same sample of subjects? Schellenberg (2000) also asks this question when he writes:

It is also possible that high-IQ children enjoy music lessons more than their lower-IQ counterparts because they find it easier to read musical notation, to identify patterns in musical stimuli..., and so on. In other words, high-IQ children may have more mental capacity to take music lessons as well as go to school because both activities are cognitively demanding.

Concludes Johnson (2000) "I would still have to say that the 'bottom line' for me is that music lessons enrich a child's life. They open up a world of beauty and self-expression, and they teach disciplined, sequential learning habits"

References

Dawson, G., Klinger, L.G., Panagiotides, H., Hills, D., & Spieker, S. (1992). Frontal lobe activity and affective behavior of infants of mothers with depressive symptoms. Child Development, 63, 725-737.

Fox, D.B. (2000) Music and the baby brain's early experiences. Music Educators Journal. 87(2): 23-27, S2000.

Froebel, F. (1906). Pedagogics of the Kindergarten, New York: D. Appleton Co.

Hepper, P.G. (1991). An examination of fetal learning before and after birth, the Irish

Journal of Psychology 12:95-107.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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