An investigation into factors affecting motivation for boys playing string instruments at the transition to secondary school

Author Identifier


Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - ECU Access Only


Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Master of Education


School of Education

First Supervisor

Annamaria Paolino

Second Supervisor

Geoffrey Lowe


Music education, particularly the playing of musical instruments, has an abundance of social, emotional, and developmental benefits for students. At an independent boys’ school in Western Australia, one of the music experiences on offer is involvement in a string orchestra program. Many students experience joy and excitement when commencing tuition on their instrument in year 2 and derive considerable enjoyment playing in an ensemble group during primary school. However, the transition from primary school to year 7 can be a time when students have difficulty finding or maintaining motivation to continue playing their instruments. Well documented in wider education research, the transition into secondary school is often when students experience increasing social pressure, develop a heightened awareness of their ability in comparison to others and find themselves with competing time commitments. These and other costs for students can have notable influence on motivation, and ultimately their future participation in string playing.

This study investigated motivational challenges faced by male string players at the transition to secondary school at an independent boy’s school in Western Australia. A sequential mixed methodology was used to explore factors most affecting motivation, comprising a survey utilising expectancy value theory, followed by focus group interviews. The findings included specific recommendations for string teachers at the research school to implement to enhance motivation for students at the transition to secondary school. These recommendations included increasing opportunities for social interaction, providing differentiated activities to allow a range of challenge levels and building students sense of identity as a musician. These recommendations may have potential to inform string orchestra pedagogy with boys of this age group more widely.



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Access to this thesis is embargoed until 12th July, 2028

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