Factors that Affect Middle School Students' Non-Participation in Music

September 17, 2008 / By: Susan R. Potvin

The problem of this thesis was to determine the factors that affect middle school students’ non-participation in music.  Four sub-questions were examined:  (1) What factors affect a student’s decision to choose not to enroll in band or choir upon entering middle school?  (2) What factors affect a student’s decision to withdraw from band or choir while in middle school?  (3) How do the factors affecting student participation in music compare to those found in previous research, e.g., lack of interest; preference of other subjects/activities; scheduling conflicts; personality conflict with the instructor; and pressure from friends and family? and (4) Do students not enrolled in band or choir have an interest in enrolling in a music course that is not band or choir, if such a course were offered in the school?  This study assumed that middle school students would thoughtfully complete the survey generated for the research and that a student would be able to identify factors that influence their enrollment in music. 

Data were collected from 365 middle school students in a suburban school district in Minnesota, where music enrollment is elective with an alternative to band or choir participation resulting in enrollment in study hall.  During a study hall period, participants completed one of three surveys developed for the study, depending on their previous enrollment in band, choir, or in neither music ensemble during their middle school years.   The survey contained primarily Likert-scale statements, with two open-ended questions asking for written responses. 

Findings revealed that a major factor in a student’s decision to enroll in band or choir is the perception by students that a study hall is needed during the school day to complete schoolwork. Other major findings include dislike of the music being learned, the perception that the teacher did not make the course very fun, and the obstacle of carrying an instrument on a crowded school bus.  Additionally, data indicated that many students not enrolled in music were aware that they could enroll but were not interested in the traditional course offerings of band and choir.  Survey data revealed significant interest in enrolling in a music course that is not band or choir, if one were offered in the school curriculum, with possible course topics centering around popular music or playing guitar.