Academic journal article Research and Issues in Music Education (RIME)

Music Education from Birth to Five: An Examination of Early Childhood Educators' Music Teaching Practices

Academic journal article Research and Issues in Music Education (RIME)

Music Education from Birth to Five: An Examination of Early Childhood Educators' Music Teaching Practices

Article excerpt

Introduction

A majority of early childhood educators (ECEs) indicate that children enjoy music activities, although most of them also say that they are inadequately trained to awaken children to music (Gruenhagen, 2012). This stands to reason, as in addition to educational principles, music learning consists of specific knowledge that can be acquired only through medium-to long-term training (Young, 2016). It is therefore unsurprising that both the Music Educators National Conference (MENC, 1994) and UNESCO (2002) reported that only half of all ECEs felt that they had the skills they needed to reach children through artistic activities, and particularly music activities. According to Koca (2013, p. 897), a good early childhood music program requires an educator with a good sense of self-efficacy in terms of music education skills.

This raises the question: What place is given to music in early childhood education? Some studies indicate that ECEs who learned music as part of their education (high school, college, university) give more priority to this domain (Kelly, 1998; Kim & Kemple, 2011). Moreover, a recent study showed that musically educated ECEs provide more activities involving sound discrimination, music interpretation, and music appreciation on a daily basis (Bolduc, 2012). In contrast, ECEs with little musical training appear to be less interested in doing music activities, and report that it is difficult to compensate for their lack of training (Gharavi, 1993; Kim, 2013). Kane (2005) and Koca (2013) also found that educators with low perceived efficacy in music teaching had less confidence in their ability to turn children on to music. According to Bandura (1997), to develop self-efficacy, people may regulate their own behavior through motivation, thought processes, affective states, and actions, or they may attempt to change the environmental conditions to bring them more in line with their efficacy beliefs (Bandura, 2006). In fact, it seems that music education practices still vary widely across ECEs. The literature has shown that ECEs and future preschool teachers generally do not receive equivalent music training (Koca, 2013). This would produce evident disparities in the ways that young children (under age five years) experience music (Nardo, Custodero, Persellin & Brink Fox, 2006). To respond to this issue, two main elements need to be explored. First, what are the impacts of music education in early childhood? Second, what type of training would help ECEs improve their music education practices?

Impacts of music education in early childhood

Recent discoveries in psychology, neuroscience, and education have contributed new insights into the field of musical development in early childhood. Intrauterine sonar measurements have revealed that the fetus is capable of reacting to familiar words and songs from the second term of pregnancy (Ilari, 2002; Trehub, 2003). During the first years of life, toddlers rapidly develop the ability to identify, discriminate, and reproduce a variety of distinct sound sequences (Trainor, 2012; Trehub, 2010). In her dissertation, Vannatta-Hall (2013) states that a mother's singing captures an infant's attention better than that mother's speech (Trehub, 2002), and infants prefer the musical qualities of speech that is directed to them over speech that is directed to adults (Cooper & Aslin, 1990). When young children learn music, all the cognitive operations they require to receive and analyze sound stimuli are activated (Kraus and Chandrasekaran, 2010). Additionally, learning music improves memory capacity, as indicated by Franklin, Moore, Yip, Jonides et al., (2008) and Ho, Cheung and Chan (2003), who found in brain imaging studies that the left temporal lobe region, associated with verbal memory, is more developed in children and adults who regularly practice music. Music learning also has considerable impacts on sensory and motor functions. …

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