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Music and academic motivation: A case study of an at-risk student

1 August 1998


The purpose of this qualitative case study was to answer the question: How does music affect academic motivation in an at-risk high school student's curriculum? My research on the changes in motivation was based on the work done by Robert J. Hanson, Harvey F. Silver, and Richard W. Strong (1991) and by Scott Shuler (1991) on at-risk students and how music affects their lives; and on the work done by Carl Jung (1921) on personality traits and learning styles. This study took place at a high school located in a somewhat affluent neighborhood of a suburb of a major metropolitan city in the Pacific Northwest. The participant was a second year senior in high school. Information was gathered by observing the participant throughout the year, and by conducting extensive taped interviews with the subject, the subject's mother, the subject's learning specialist and the subject's teachers. In order to protect the participant's rights to privacy and anonymity I have provided pseudonyms for all participants in this study. After collecting and organizing the field notes and interviews, no real conclusions about how music affected his academic motivation were revealed. What was revealed was a myriad of factors and high interest areas that affected his academic motivation. My research showed that the subject was greatly influenced by external and very little by internal motivators. There was one exception. Being cast in the spring musical seemed to uncover internal motivation that had rarely shown itself before.


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