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Can Music Help Teens Focus on Schoolwork?

by Daisy Peasblossom Fernchild

In spite of a number of studies and articles, whether or not music actually helps teen-age students focus on schoolwork is still an unanswered question. The so-called Mozart effect, in which listener's spatial awareness was raised by listening to 10 minutes of a Mozart, has a spotty record for duplicating the original results. However, there is some indication that quiet background music can be beneficial to some students, and can block unwanted distractions.

Mozart Effect

In "The Mozart Effect: a Closer Look" band teacher Donna Lerch carefully examines accounts of the so-called Mozart effect. She explains that the first experiments were carried out by Gordon Shaw, whose specialty was theoretical neurobiology. The original study involved 36 graduate students. One group listened to Mozart, one to "easy listening" music and one silence. The Mozart group showed a .9 increase in their I.Q. for about 10 minutes, which was long enough to take a simple test. In an article published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, J.S. Jenkins points out that some researchers have been able to duplicate the original findings, but not all.

Music Training and Educational Success

The staff at Neuroscience News has examined how music education can influence student performance. They found that music training enhances neuroplasticity and helps brain patterning. They note that there is a positive crossover between music training and other areas of learning, particularly in math and language. They note that musical training helps students develop discriminate between different types of sounds and helps them to become better listeners. Understanding patterns helps them to better comprehend educational materials. However, studying music and listening to music while doing homework is not exactly the same thing.

Multi-Tasking Teens

Thanks to the plethora of entertainment and informational devices available to teens, many of them routinely multitask, according to "Distractions During Homework" by Chris Gaither of Beech Associated Counselors and Therapists. A well-connected teen may be checking her Facebook account, texting friends, listening to the radio and watching a television show while doing her homework. Too often, the homework becomes low-priority in the mix, and consequently doesn't receive the attention it deserves. However, because teens are used to multiple sources of input, a completely quiet room might become a distraction of a different kind.

Possible Benefits of Music During Homework

Not every teen will benefit from listening to music while doing homework, and those who do may benefit from different types of music. One way in which background music might help is trading one sensory input for the many distractions teens normally enjoy. Have your teen put away cell phones, stay off Facebook and other social media and turn off the television. Let her listen to favorite recordings or radio station. If your teen must study in a noisy or busy environment, such as at your kitchen table, a headset connected to some favorite music can help shut out unwanted distractions. Some special needs teens, such as students with ADHD or epilepsy, might derive unique benefits from listening to music. Web MD Fit recommends for students to listen to instrumental music rather than music with lyrics.

About the Author

Daisy Peasblossom Fernchild has been writing for over 50 years. Her first online publication was a poem entitled "Safe," published in 2008. Her articles specialize in animals, handcrafts and sustainable living. Fernchild has a Bachelor of Science in education and a Master of Arts in library science.

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