Academic journal article Intersections

Addressing Common Parental Concerns about Factors That Could Influence Piano Students' Autonomous Motivation, Diligence, and Performance

Academic journal article Intersections

Addressing Common Parental Concerns about Factors That Could Influence Piano Students' Autonomous Motivation, Diligence, and Performance

Article excerpt

Instrumental music lessons require that parents make a large investment in time and financial resources-parents are involved in transportation to and from music lessons, and they have to pay for lessons, buy a musical instrument, and assume the costs of music books (Dai and Schader 2001). But the role of parents is broader still, as they often influence the age of starting lessons as well as the nature of the lessons, and some are directly involved in home practice (Davidson, Howe, and Sloboda 1995). Studies have suggested that parents are an important environmental factor that affects a child's musical success (Sloboda and Davidson 1996; McPherson and Davidson 2002; Moore, Burland, and Davidson 2003), and the parental influence has been identified as a primary external factor affecting a student's motivation (Creech 2001; Sichivitsa 2007; McPherson 2009).

Our research examined how certain choices regarding piano playing that the parent can influence, and certain parental behaviours with regards to their child's piano playing, correlate with the child's motivation, interest, diligence, and performance at the piano. The choices studied were age of starting lessons, number of years of lessons, method of instruction, whether to take exams, and whether to participate in group lessons; the parental behaviours studied were sitting in on lessons, helping with home practice, and giving rewards for practising. One child variable studied was motivation. In music education, discussions of motivation seek to understand why certain students show a strong interest in music lessons while others do not, why students show different amounts of effort in their pursuit of musical mastery, and why some students persevere while others drop out. The importance of parental influences on musical achievement is well recognized, but their impact on piano students' motivation is not as well documented. We based our assessment of motivation on Ryan and Deci's (2000a, 2000b) self-determination theory. This theory emphasizes the importance of measuring not only degree of motivation but also the source of motivation, which can range from unhealthy external or internal pressures (called controlled motivation) to healthy and genuine internal interest and belief in the activity (called autonomous motivation). Additional child variables with regards to the piano were the child's interest in performance and creativity, interest in effortful practice, time spent practising, feeling of competence, and exam performance. The links between the parental variables and child variables in this research address some of the biggest questions that parents have regarding how they might positively support their child's piano learning.

CHOICES THAT PARENTS CAN INFLUENCE, AND PARENTAL BEHAVIOURS

Age of Starting Lessons

The question of the most appropriate age to start instrumental lessons is a concern for everyone involved in music education. Pedagogy textbooks frequently discuss age readiness for beginning piano lessons (Bastien 1993; Uszler, Gordon, and McBride-Smith 2000). Some promote an early start at four or five years old (Bigler and Lloyd-Watts 1998; Powell 1988; Shor 1989; Suzuki 1969), arguing that there is a high predisposition for music learning in the preschool years (Hodges 2006). Others recommend waiting until the child has completed at least one year of elementary school before registering them in piano lessons (Bastien 1976) and the majority of teachers still believe that the best age to begin individual music lessons is seven years old or eight years old (Uszler, Gordon, and McBride-Smith 2000). Similarly, age readiness is regularly discussed in parents' guide for successful music lessons (Bellavia 2006; Jonas 1988; Schmidt-Jones 2008; Stein Crease 2006) under topics such as "Ready to Begin" (Kazdan 2002), "At What Age Should a Child Start Lessons?" (Grant 1980), and "When Should I Begin Music Lessons for My Child?" (Cutietta 2003).

There is some research literature on the link between the age at which lessons are started and musical performance. …

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