In their voice: Lower secondary school students' beliefs about playing musical instruments, and the impact of the instrument lesson upon those beliefs
Australian Society for Music Education
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Education
Many young West Australians learn musical instruments through school based elective programs. However, many students drop out from these programs, particularly in lower secondary school. This paper reports on a study I conducted into the motives of 48 lower secondary school students for playing a musical instrument, and the role of the instrument lesson in influencing student decisions to continue learning. Students in their first year in secondary school in WA (Year 8) were chosen, because the first year of secondary school has been identified as a time when student motivation towards elective activities in general decline. Focus group interviews revealed that while Year 8 students generally enjoyed playing an instrument and described playing as important to affirming notions of self, their competence beliefs were fragile. Importantly, students also indicated that the instrument lesson did impact their competence beliefs, and that competence beliefs can, in turn, impact student decisions to continue learning. After discussing the implications of the findings, I conclude the paper with a series of recommendations for teaching practice, designed to target the competence beliefs of lower secondary students.