Impact of Musical Interventions on Language and Cognitive Development

Published: 2022-04-07
Impact of Musical Interventions on Language and Cognitive Development
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Music Education Language development Cognitive development
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1752 words
15 min read


The need to address the literacy of children in the preschool period take into account that the precursors of formal reading have their origins in the early stages of the child's life and depend to a large extent on the intervention processes. In other words, the ability to learn is linked to what the mediator does, which stands between the child and the world to make it intelligible (Bruner, 1986, Lautrey, 1985, Adams, 1990, Graves, Neuman & Dickinson, 2003, Juel& Graves, 2000). According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1998, children take their initial critical steps towards learning to read and write in their pre-school years.

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Music education in early childhood is relevant to all the child's linguistic abilities, which are mostly developed around the age of five (Perlovsky, 2010). The age at which musical training begins can be a significant factor of influence (Jentschke and Koelsch et al., 2009, Schellenberg et al., 2001). In this way, music can facilitate expressive language in children with difficulties as well as in children with a normalized development (Corriveau and Goswami et al., 2009, Schlaug et al., 2010, and Vitoria et al., 2005). Music training can also help the development of receptive language in early childhood because the child can better understand the meaning of a word when experimenting with a musical movement or a song (Pica, 2009).

This essay explores various studies that have been conducted on music and literacy in early childhood. The paper evaluates research designs, type of interventions, outcomes, as well as the strengths and limitations of the studies in order to draw conclusions and make recommendations on effective use of music in building a child's early literacy skills.

Impact of Musical Interventions on Language and Cognitive Development

An experimental study conducted by Magne (2006) on the impact of music on 3-4 years old children showed an improvement in the children's linguistic abilities. Its originality lies in the specificity of the selected program and in having considered the evaluation of its impact jointly, through a longitudinal monitoring, which allows verification of the persistence of their effects in the medium term, but also the relationships between the evaluated variables, the predictive power of some over others, the moment in which that the impact occurs and on which of the variables and the size of that impact.

In their comparative study, Levi, Anvary, Trainor, and Woodside et al., (2002) found a strong relationship between the development of musical skills, reading, and phonological awareness in an experimental group of five-year-old children. Likewise, Costa-Giomi, Herrera, Defior, Lorenzo, and Smith et al., (2011) found that musical training also influences the development of phonological awareness and the velocity of naming in children of child education. The main limitation to these studies is the fact that the sample size may not have been representative of target population.

An experimental study conducted by Ho, Cheung, and Chan in 2003, involving 6-15year old children showed that early musical lessons improved the verbal memory and can also influence the development of the receptive language of children at risk of experiencing retracing in language. These results correspond to those of the study by Thompson, Schellenberg, and Husain et al., 2004, which observed that children who take musical lessons from an early age of six decode the speech prosody more quickly than those who do not receive such musical lessons.

A quasi-experimental study done by Lorenzo (2014) involving 8-10 year olds observed that more students in the experimental group were able to create more songs than their counterparts in the control group(different school) after musical learning was incorporated in their studies. The results from the study indicated that continued formal music education improved early childhood development in the scores assessed through the baton of the Child Observation Record (COR). The statistically significant differences were observed concretely in the domains Creative re-presentation, Music and movement, language, and Logical Thinking. Although the scores in the COR for both the control and experimental groups increased over time, the scores of the experimental group were consistently higher. Although the study revealed positive results, lack of randomization may have produced biased results. The strengths of the study however are the relatively large sample size as well as the reasonable duration.

Given that the use of creativity is the second standard for NAFME music education (MENC, 1994) and that it was included throughout the musical activities during the study, it seems logical to conclude that the music education can be in the same beneficial sense for the development of the creative linguistic abilities. The use of music in the development of expressive language is well documented (Wan et al., 2010) and the outcomes of the collective research support its use and consequential advancement of the students learning. Music has been known to help build children listening skills (Wolf, 1992). Musical training activities help learners to develop listening skills, which provide the foundation for language development (Smith, 1992).

In his analysis of 25 studies about music and literacy, he observed that music improved reading skills and comprehension capacity of the students about those without music. The training of teachers in the study was directed towards compensating for their lack of adequate knowledge in music education (Nardo et al., 2006), the need to be intensively trained (Siebenaler, 2006), and the need to increase their levels of self-confidence when developing musical activities (Hennessy, 2000, Holden and Button, 2006). These results can be interpreted as a reflection of the process of improving the quality of music teaching in their classes. It also indicates that teachers who are not specialists in music education can teach necessary musical skills in the courses if they are previously trained.

A study conducted by Dickinson, McCabe and Hammer (2010) demonstrated that oral language skills in preschool children are predictive of future reading. The study observed that music influenced scores of interest in reading activities, as well as scores at the beginning of the reading of stories and simple books and demonstration of knowledge about books. This reinforces the findings of previous studies, which suggest that the formal musical education that integrates singing and playing an instrument from an early age makes it possible for the child's brain to be prepared for reading (Dixon, 2008). The findings support the results of Herrera et al. (2011), who propose that early interventions using music are a vital component in the development of reading. Butzlaff (2000) found that there is a reliable and strong correlation between the reading score of students who participated in music and those who didn't.

Implications for Educational Practice

Many early childhood education programs do not have a staff of music education teachers. In many early childhood education schools, classroom teachers are responsible for conducting musical activities (Custo-dero, Fox, Nardo, and, Persellin et al., 2006, Siebenaler, et al., 2006). However, many teachers lack confidence in their singing skills and therefore avoid the use of music (Heyning et al., 2011; Siebenaler et al., 2006). The musical formation within the curricula of infant education and primary education is an essential component of music education (Koops, 2008). Many teachers use songs and movement activities on a daily basis and value music as a critical tool for learning, but recognize that music education teachers are better prepared to employ these techniques (Hennessy et al., 2000; Button et al., 2006).

A music training program dubbed "Musical Awakening," developed in line with the standards of music education performance (Music Educators National Conference on Performance Standards, 1996), the HighScope curriculum (HighScope Preschool Curriculum) and the objectives of Head Start indicated significant improvement on literacy skills on its initial test (Lebron, 2006). The training program adapted the musical activities that should be developed in the classroom from the preschool curriculum. The teachers were able to work consistently on musical skills at least three times a week with their students and enabled their students to improve in all domains. Different teachers have different views and enthusiasm about the influence of music in their classes, which affect the results of the children.

The present intervention of music programs in schools increases, to a greater extent than the programs current skills used in schools, phonological awareness skills, the recognition and writing of words and texts, as well as also the skills of comprehension and oral production of narrative documents, in the short and medium term. The teacher's level of commitment is significant in the evaluation of the impact of the training. Music education teachers involved in developing the training program showed an improved degree of language mastery among the children. It is necessary to adopt and implement appropriate strategies in education practice to improve literacy skills of children in learning institutions. Music teachers appreciate the use of music in their classes (Kim and Choy et al., 2008, Lum et al.,2008) mainly because they understand that music can have a positive influence in other academic areas (Hash, 2010).

Despite the findings about the benefits of music in cognitive and linguistic development, in general (Dankovicova, House, Crooks, and Jones, et al.,2007, Koelsch et al., 2005, Patel et al., 2008, Perlovsky et al., 2012), and for education in early childhood, in particular (Hyde et al., 2009, Le-vinowitz et al., 2009, and Hannon & Trainor et al., 2007), the music training programs that have been carried out are diverse, and not all of them involve the benefits of musical training led by classroom teachers. In some cases, musical training has been developed by musicians, in others by musical educators outside of the school context, and in other instances by researchers. Also, the musical training has been carried out inside or outside the classroom context, as a formal music education or as an extracurricular activity, and its intensity or duration is also a variable to be taken into account. Conclusion

From the critical analysis of the several studies, it can be assumed, then, that after receiving training and mentoring, teachers will gain a greater understanding of their musicality and ability to teach. Most of research has generally focused on specific elements of musical perception or production (tone, rhythm, timbre, etc.) that have been introduced in the musicians' training, and the analysis of their effects in specific areas of child development (processing skills phonological, prosody in speech, alphabetization, motor skills, etc.). These studies are necessary to increase the knowledge about the effects of musical training in the development of cognition and language, but many of them do not focus on improving teacher competencies to be implemented in the classroom beyond the context of the research itself. The results found provide empirical evidence on the validity of music teaching approach, which has substantial educational implications regarding skills and knowledge imparted. Music schooling demonstrated higher chances of success in learning of reading and writing, which is of crucia...

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