Factors Affecting Boys' Participation in Elementary Classroom Music

September 27, 2010 / By: Cynthia G. Gilman

The problem of this thesis was to determine the factors that affect boys’ participation in elementary classroom music.  Research over the decades has often addressed the lack of male participation in music as the student matriculates through the grades.  Research shows factors that affect a person’s decision to participate in any activity can include the nature of the activity, peer influence, parental, or other, support, how the activity is presented, encouragement from a respected other, the stress of required participation, and the value one places on the activity. These factors translated into seven areas of investigation in the research literature and student survey: (1) The musical activities in the music classroom boys enjoy most (2) Peer influence (3) Parental influence (4) Music teacher influence (5) Classroom teacher influence (6) Music as a requirement (7) Student value of music.

The data were collected from three hundred seventy-one fifth grade students in the North Kitsap School District in Poulsbo, Washington.   An anonymous paper survey was administered by the music specialists as a supplemental activity in conjunction with the Washington State Fine Arts Classroom Based Performance Assessment (CBPA) or as an end-of-the-year course evaluation.  The survey consisted of mainly Likert-scale statements, two comment questions, and selections from a list of all applicable criteria.

Findings revealed that boys generally participated, but liked to choose which activity; and generally scored lower than girls in preference of activity.  More boys chose to participate because of their own decision, rather than influence from peers or family. Gender trends were noted in families that played instruments and sang, revealing more males played instruments while more females sang.  No conclusive evidence showed that participation in music with the family or outside the school affected in-school participation.  Significant findings indicated that the music teacher and classroom teacher influenced participation in the music class, likely for different reasons.  Most students valued music as an important part of their education, and many indicated they would participate in a music class even if it were not required, however, very few indicated that they would pursue music instruction if it were not offered in public school.