Document Type

Journal Article


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Education / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications




This article was originally published as: Lowe, G. M. (2012). Lessons for teachers: What lower secondary school students tell us about learning a musical instrument. International Journal of Music Education, 30(3), 227-243. Copyright © 2012 International Journal of Music Education. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications. here


In this study I set out to investigate why many students drop out from elective instrument programmes, particularly in lower secondary school. I examined the values and beliefs a sample of students in their first year in secondary school attach to learning an instrument, and the impact of the instrument lesson upon these values and beliefs. Forty-eight year 8 students (aged 12-13) from the Perth metropolitan area participated in eight focus groups. The study found that, while participants had strong cognitive and affective reasons for learning, their competence beliefs were fragile, due in part to the dislocation associated with the transition into secondary school. Students revealed a need for a high level of positive reinforcement from their instrument teachers. The findings indicate that competence beliefs can be just as important as values in determining the future enrolment decisions of students of this age. The study concludes that it is important for instrument teachers to understand the unique needs of students transitioning into secondary school, and develop targeted instructional practices accordingly. Addressing the specific needs of lower secondary students represents one effective step in the process of improving retention rates in elective instrumental programmes.



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