Student Perceptions of the Challenging Aspects of Playing the Recorder

June 8, 2011 / By: Caitlin Pellerite Lucci

The intent of this thesis was to identify the factors students perceive to be the most challenging when learning to play the recorder, and to determine the relative influence each of these challenges has on students’ perceptions of personal success and motivation to continue recorder playing.  This study examines four sub-problems: (1) What is the purpose of including recorder instruction in an elementary music classroom? (2) What are students’ perceptions of the most challenging aspects of recorder playing? (3) At the age when recorder playing is introduced, what developmental characteristics influence or determine a student’s motivation to persist at a challenging task? and (4) How can teachers influence, maximize, or increase a student’s motivation to accomplish a given task?

One hundred eighty-four third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade beginning recorder students at an elementary school along Chicago’s north shore participated in an outline survey.  Each survey contained five demographics and preliminary questions followed by twenty forced-choice, Likert-type responses to statements addressing their perceptions of challenging aspects of recorder, preference of types of classroom activities, and other opinions related to playing the recorder.  Survey results are displayed through a series of bar graphs in chapter four; each bar graph represents the student responses to an individual survey question or statement, and depicts overall student responses, and those by students in each grade level.

The data collected suggest students perceive playing alone in front of the class to be a greater challenge than any other musical or technical aspects of playing the recorder.  Consistent with previous research and literature, the results also indicate that students at this developmental stage do not wish to be singled out or embarrassed in front of their peers, and prefer playing opportunities in a small group or with a partner.  They feel most successful when given a visual aid to assist in learning a new piece, and as they become older and more familiar with playing the recorder, they enjoy playing it less.  Previous research suggests it is the job of the teacher to appropriately challenge students in order to increase their innate academic intrinsic motivation.