UNESCO-NIE Centre for Arts Research in Education (CARE)

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Research Studies in Music Education
Name(s) of Author/Editor(s): 
Gary E. McPherson and Susan A. O'Neill
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Volume No.: 
Issue No.: 
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Year of publication: 
Country of publication: 
United Kingdom
Country of Research Data: 
Mexico, USA, Brazil, Finland, China, Hong Kong, Israel and Korea

This study draws on an expectancy-value theoretical framework to examine the motivation (competence beliefs, values and task difficulty) of 24,143 students (11,909 females and 10,066 males, aged 9 to 21 years) from eight countries (Brazil n = 1848; China n = 3049; Finland n = 1654; Hong Kong n = 6179; Israel n = 2257; Korea n = 2671; Mexico n = 3613; USA n = 3072). Music was studied in comparison to five other school subjects (art, mother tongue, physical education, mathematics, science) across three school grade levels that included the key transition from elementary to secondary school. Results indicated that music as a school subject was valued less and received lower task difficulty ratings than other school subjects with the exception of art. Students reported higher competence beliefs for physical education and mother tongue compared to music and lower competence beliefs for mathematics and art. There was an overall decline in students’ competence beliefs and values across the school grade levels for all countries except Brazil. Females reported higher competence beliefs and values and lower task difficulty ratings for music, art and mother tongue than males. Males reported higher competence beliefs and lower task difficulty ratings for physical education and mathematics. There were no gender differences for values in mathematics. Music learners reported higher competence beliefs and values and lower task difficulty across school subjects than non-music learners. Secondary analyses were used to further explore differences within each of the eight countries. Findings suggest that once students have experienced learning to play an instrument or voice, they become more motivated towards other school subjects. Implications of the findings suggest that advocacy aimed at increasing the values that students attach to music as a school subject may encourage more students to become music learners across a wide range of countries.

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