Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

The Collaborative Learning Behaviours of Middle Primary School Students in a Classroom Music Creation Activity

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

The Collaborative Learning Behaviours of Middle Primary School Students in a Classroom Music Creation Activity

Article excerpt


This paper explores the findings of a 2013 research study into the learning behaviours of middle primary students in a collaborative music creation task. The study was located in a northern Tasmanian government primary school and the findings have the potential to inform the ways in which teachers structure music creation tasks for the classroom. Whilst the study focussed on a range of learning behaviours characteristic of collaboration, such as 'conversation', 'negotiation', and 'sharing materials', the findings indicate that the gender make-up of groups may have considerable effect on these behaviours.

The genus of this study may be found in a desire to explore the impact of collaborative music tasks on social development. There is a developing body of research regarding the impact of Music education on student social skills (Allsup, 2003, 2011; Gooding, 2009; Hallam, 2002, 2010; Reissman, 1998; Robinson, 1999; Scully & Howell, 2008) and this research builds on these studies. For the purposes of this study the term 'collaborative' was used to describe any task that requires students to engage with at least one other student, and 'social development' was used to describe improvement in social etiquette, skills and behaviours. A mixed methods study, this research collected both quantitative and qualitative data, using classroom observations, surveys and student learning journals, and data were analysed through thematic induction.

The findings are limited by the scope of the project, focusing on a single task in a single school with twelve student participants, however they do support earlier research and there is much scope for these findings to be expanded through larger studies. While there was an overall majority of positive collaborative behaviours displayed by participants in this study, there were considerable discrepancies between groups. As each group consisted of a different gender makeup, it is suggested that gender had an impact on the differences in behaviours displayed by each group, and that middle primary students work more positively in collaborative music tasks when grouped with the same gender, and boys particularly so. Similar findings have already been presented by Abramo (2011) and Burland and Davidson (2001), who suggest that same-gender groupings can be more functional than mixed gender groupings.


Previous studies have shown that involvement in collaborative music activities can have a positive impact on social development and classroom atmosphere. This may occur through deliberate pedagogical decisions made by teachers (Gooding, 2009; Scully & Howell, 2008) or as a result of engaging with peers in a music context (Allsup, 2003, 2011; Devroop, 2012; Hallam, 2002, 2010; Reissman, 1998). In considering students' motivations for participating in music Hallam (2002) argues that music can be used to promote social skills and enhance classroom atmosphere. Hallam (2002) acknowledged that there are a variety of factors, including personality, educational goals, self-perception and self-efficacy, that influence students' decisions to learn an instrument or participate in a band or musical group. However, she concluded that the most important impact on students' enthusiasm was their surrounding environment including their social interactions. In a later work, Hallam (2010) focussed on the emotional benefits of music participation and found that music activities can improve students' value of self.

She argued that participation in music activities opened social networking opportunities which increased feelings of self-esteem, belonging, and subsequently confidence. Her study found that when students could express themselves in group situations they formed tighter bonds than through individual presentations, learning to trust and respect their peers through music learning.

Allsup (2003) considered music learning as a means to promote democratic action. …

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