Want to keep kids focused? Play some music, JU student’s research concludes
By Kevin Hogencamp/Jacksonville University
Jacksonville University elementary education student Elizabeth Kohnen says that she thinks she will be able to make a strong case to her bosses, if necessary, for playing background music in her elementary school classes.
Not only does Kohnen’s exploration of the well-known “Mozart effect” and other studies conclude that listening to music can promote student motivation, engagement and achievement, preliminary results of her own classroom study make the case, as well, she says.
A final-year master’s degree candidate from Highlands Ranch, Colo., Kohnen reviewed the details of her ongoing study on Thursday, April 4 at the three-day JU Faculty & Student Symposium, which continues through Friday at the Davis College of Business.
This spring, Kohnen is testing and surveying 21 of Jacksonville’s Louis S. Sheffield Elementary School fourth-graders that she recently taught during an internship.
“They are responding positively, especially with jazz music. The music is definitely making them more focused,” Kohnen said in an interview following her symposium presentation.
Already, some renowned research results indicate that listening to Mozart’s music may induce a short-term improvement on the performance of some mental tasks.
“My results show that there is more off-task behavior before the implementation of music, than after the music,” she said. “There is a change in behavior during the listening of music as well, specifically during different genres. Smooth jazz with a distinguishable beat was the most effective music for student focus, with classical Mozart being the least effective.”
Kohnen, who says music helps her stay focused in her personal life on tasks ranging from writing a paper to washing dishes, says she recommends portable music players such as MP3s for older students “so long as the guidelines in the classroom are being followed.”
“I’ve also considered using multiple long cord headphones connected to a teacher-selected playlist, but that’s assuming there’s a good budget involved,” she said.
A musician whose specialty is trumpet, Kohnen says that most elementary schools allow teachers to play background music in classrooms. In spite of the famed “Mozart effect,” thus far, her study indicates that her students benefit just as much from listening to jazz over classical.
“The drum beats, the percussion, seem to provide relaxation. They are calmer as long as it is not music that jerks them away from what they are doing,” she said.
Featuring studies across all academic disciplines highlighting cutting-edge work being done by JU professors and students, the symposium runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day in the Davis College of Business conference rooms.
Here are photos from some other Symposium presentations: