SUSAN A. O'NEILL & GARY E. McPHERSON
Research on motivation in music seeks to understand how children develop the desire to pursue the study of a musical instrument, how they come to value learning to play an instrument, why they vary in the degree of persistence and the intensity they display in achieving their musical goals, and how they evaluate and attribute their success and failure in different achievement contexts. Current theories view motivation as an integral part of learning that assists students in acquiring the range of adaptive behaviors that will provide them with the best chance of achieving their own personal goals. We review the literature on these topics and provide a framework for understanding the complex range of thoughts, feelings, and actions that either sustain or hinder musicians through the many years that it takes to develop musical skills.
Why do some children seek the challenges of learning and persist in the face of difficulty, while others, with seemingly equal ability and potential, avoid challenges and withdraw when faced with obstacles or difficulties? Over the past 20 years, this fundamental question has underpinned an enormous body of educational and psychological research. The findings have contributed to our understanding of motivation by clarifying what initiates a desire to pursue certain goals, by explaining why certain goals are valued over others, by describing how students vary in the degree of persistence and intensity they display in achieving their own goals, and by specifying how children evaluate and attribute causes for their success and failure in different achievement contexts (see Pintrich & Schunk, 1996, for a comprehensive overview). An important outcome of this research is that motivation is no longer viewed as a distinct set of psychological processes but as an integral part of learning that assists students to acquire the range of behaviors that will provide them with the best chance of reaching their full potential.