Topic: The effects of listening to music on the written language skills among B.Ed TESL UiTM students.
Georgi Lozanov (1979) argued that human brain could process great quantities of material if given the right conditions for learning among which were a state of relaxation created by music (as cited from Brown, 2001). Music seems to enhance the process of learning as what underlay Suggestopedia method that had once prevailed as a language teaching method. However, In ‘Program Pemantapan Wawasan Dan Pembangunan Akademik”, a programme held in UiTM Faculty of Education on 19 to 20 July, 2008 which had been attended by approximately 70 B.Ed TESL part 3 students, Mrs. Rosilawati Sueb, an education lecturer, stated that people can study better in a quiet place without the use of music.
The effect of music in learning is questionable because the two theories seem to contradict as both theories respectively support and reject the use of music in learning. It is important to identify the effects of music in learning since the practice of listening to music while studying specifically in reading and writing is prevalent among the students of faculty of education in the lecture room, library and other places. Thus, an investigative report must be carried out in order to investigate the effects of the music on their performance in written language skills. The skills are narrowed to written language skills since these skills are really important in learning and they constitute the most applied skills in academic activities. The investigation was carried out on TESL students of the faculty in order to identify the effects of listening to music in the written language skills.
1.2 Terms of Reference
On 23 July 2008, Madam Usdiyati, a senior lecturer at Academy of Language Studies for BEL 422: REPORT WRITING, had requested Mohd Sirhajwan Idek, Ahmad Taufik Mohd Tahir and Ibrahim Ismail as the students of ED220 TESL in Faculty of Education, UiTM, to carry out an investigation of an issue which was the effects of listening to music on the written language skills among TESL students at UiTM. She requested the report to be submitted on 24 September 2008.
The purpose of this report is to investigate the effects of listening to music on the written language skills among B.Ed TESL UiTM students. It aims to identify the influences of music on the factors of reading and writing, how they affect the factors and the application of music on the students’ performance in the written language skills; reading and writing. As the required information is obtained, the students and the faculty itself will be able to consider the appropriate practice of reading and writing in order to help them to perform these skills better.
The focus of this report is on the effects of listening to music on the written language skills by both male and female TESL students of the sophomore year in the faculty. The investigation was centred on the effects of music on reading and writing in order to identify the influences of music on the factors of reading and writing and the application of music in the two skills on the basis of these effects. Only TESL students of the sophomore year part 3 were selected as the respondents which consist of 50 students. The survey was conducted on 16 August 2008 from 8 A.M. to 7 P.M in the faculty of education, UiTM.
Background information was acquired from the survey conducted on the 50 TESL students in the faculty and it was supported by relevant literature.
There were 50 respondents involved. They were the TESL students of sophomore year in the faculty, who were all selected from the two streams of students, namely the mainstream programme and the link programme. Two teacher training institutes were involved in the link programme. In order to ensure the validity of our findings, all the different streams of the TESL students were excluded. There were 186 TESL students of sophomore year in the faculty and 50 of them were selected as the respondents. The suggested 10 percent of respondents was exceeded by the percentage of our respondents, which was 27 percent. The questionnaires were distributed to the respondents both individually and as a group and were collected within 5 to 10 minutes, immediately after the respondents had completed the questionnaires. The questionnaires which were in the form of brochures were made up of 15 questions of closed and open-ended questions.
2.1.2 Pilot Survey
Prior to the implementation of the survey, a pilot survey had been done to ensure the effectiveness of the questionnaires. It was conducted on 10 TESL students at 6 August 2008, at the Faculty of Education. The responses received were good as they answered the questions appropriately and a solid finding was produced from the responses. The viability of the topic and the practicability of the methodology were justified by the responses.
The limitation of the investigation was the geographical width. It was narrowed to the TESL students of Faculty of Education due to the time and management factors that imposed difficulty on wider geographic area of investigation. The efficient implementation of the survey on all students was hindered by the conflicting schedule among the students on the basis of programmes and parts. In addition, the location of the Faculty of Education was separated from the other faculties which were mostly situated in the main campus of UiTM. Thus, the respondents were selected from the TESL students of sophomore years especially part 3 in order to facilitate the investigation.
2.2 Library Search
Library search had been also carried out in INTEC Library of Faculty of Education to obtain pertinent and relevant works which can be utilized to support the data we have analyzed.
2.3 Data Analysis
The data from the survey were collected and analyzed. Frequency counts were obtained from closed questions through the use of tally marks and the grouping of similar responses was utilized for open-ended questions. Overall totals were converted to graphs.
3.0 FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION
Observation had been carried out randomly in several places in the faculty; lecture room, library, cafeteria and TESL square. It was found that a quarter of the students actually adopted the habit of listening to music while doing reading and writing. The habit was most prevalent in the library followed by the lecture room.
MP3 players and mobile phones were the most used devices by the students to listen to music. The portability and efficiency of these devices were the reasons that they were most preferred by the students. The range of reading materials and type of writing materials read by the students who listened to music varied from academic materials to non-academic materials.
3.2 Survey / Questionnaire
A questionnaire, consisting of eight items, was administered to 50 students of the Faculty of Education.
3.2.1 Detail of Respondents
All of the respondents were studying in Faculty of Education in UiTM on the third semester of their course.
3.3 Genre of Music
Figure 1: Genre of Music
Figure 1 shows the genre of music that the respondents listen to. Out of 50 respondents, 9 (18%) preferred R&B music, followed by Pop music with 8 respondents (16%). 7 respondents (14%) went for Rock music and 3 (6%) voted for Country music. The rest of the respondents (36%) chose more than one genres of music to be listened when they were reading and writing. The genre of music preferred by the respondents was crucially vital in the investigation because it affected their reading and writing. According to Whitley (1940), he claimed the different kind of music had different effects upon the learning process (as cited from Lundin, 1967).
R&B, Pop and Rock music were among the most preferable music as compared to Country music. The respondents preferred to listen to strongly rhythmic, loud and exciting music rather than soft and slow number such as country. Whitley (1940) added that tempestuous type of music was more distracting than smoother music. In this case, most respondents presumably were confronted with difficulty in learning while listening to music since the genre they chose served to distract attention (as cited from Farnsworth (1969).
3.4 Places to be Equipped with Background Music
Figure 2: Place to be Equipped with Background Music
Figure 2 shows the percentage of places that could be equipped with background music in the faculty. 31 (62%) respondents preferred cafeteria as their favourite place to be equipped with background music, followed by library with 8 (16%) respondents, as well as hall with 7 (14%) respondents. The remaining 1 (2%) respondent had answered more than one option.
Cafeteria is the most preferable place because it is a place for the respondents to have their leisure and meal. Thus, the availability of background music meets their need of music in the place. In fact, music can boost their pleasure and benefit them when they are having their meals.
According to Pavlov (1928), he said that music could promote the flow of digestive juices by arousing the pleasurable emotions (as cited from Lundin, 1967). Lundin (1967) added that in fashionable eating places, dinner music accompanied the meal. He also added that music could serve to elicit a pleasurable response while one was eating and gave a feeling of repose. The functions of music fulfilled the need of the respondents who came to the cafeteria for leisure and to have their meals.
The background music was compatible to the purpose of leisure and eating in the cafeteria. Litch (1946) mentioned that music should be unobtrusive and lack stimulating qualities that attracted attention if the music was to aid digestion. Thus, the most appropriate music was soft and slow (as cited from Lundin, 1967). These characteristics correspond with the background music which is instrumental and smooth.
3.5 Reasons of Listening to Music while Reading and Writing
Figure 3: Reasons of Listening to Music during Reading and Writing
The main reasons of listening to music during reading and writing by the respondents are show in Figure 3. Out of 50 respondents, 30 (60%) of them listened to music in order to gain relaxation, while 6 (12%) respondents answered that it helped them in generating ideas. 5 (10%) respondents believed that music could help them in handling stress while the other 3 (6%) respondents turned to music in order to boost their concentration. The remaining 6 (12%) respondents believed that that they had other reasons why they listened to music.
3.6 Types of Reading Materials
Figure 4: Types of reading materials
Figure 4 shows types of reading materials read by the respondents when they are listening to music. In reading part, 30 (60%) respondents preferred to listen to music when they were reading magazine. Equally, 3 (6%) respondents preferred to listen to music when they were reading each academic writing, newspaper, and blog. 11 (22%) respondents preferred other reading materials.
3.7 Types of Writing Materials
Figure 5: Types of writing materials
Types of writing materials written by the respondents when they are listening to music are shown in Figure 5. In contrast with writing part, 12 (24%) respondents preferred to listen to music when they were writing diary. 11 (22%) respondents listened to music when they were writing blog, while 9 (18%) respondents turned to music when they were writing academic writing. Only 8 (16%) respondents listened to music when they were writing e-mails. The remaining 10 (20%) respondents listened to music when they were doing other types of writing.
3.8 The Effects of Listening to Music in Reading and Writing
Figure 6: Factors which are influenced when listening to music during reading
Figure 7: Factors which are influenced when listening to music during writing
Figure 6 and Figure 7 both show the factors which are influenced when listening to music during writing and reading. These five factors are concentration, attention span, speed of performance, enthusiasm and relaxation. The results are as follows:
It was found that 30 respondents (60%) claimed that their concentration in reading was moderate when they listened to music while 19 (38%) of them answered that their concentration was good. Only 1 respondent (2%) answered that his or her concentration became excellent in reading while listening to music.
Of the total 50 respondents, it was found that 30 respondents (60%) claimed that their concentration in writing was moderate while listening to music and 13 (26%) answered that their concentration became well. Only 7 respondents (14%) answered that their concentration increased.
Most respondents stated that their concentration in both reading and writing was moderate when listening to music because the presence of music required them to actually divide their attention on reading or writing and listening to music. According to Purdie (1997, 212), music could arouse attention, and thus actively engaged attention and memory system (as cited from Thaut, M.H (2005)). Thus, the respondents were confronted with the difficulty of giving full concentration in reading and writing as the music consumed some of their concentration which resulted in their moderate attention. This was strongly supported by McFarland and Kennison (1987) who assumed through their studies that the right hemisphere of the brain processes music. They found that participants required greater effort to successfully learn a task with the presence of music (as cited from Andrea, et al., 2008).
3.8.2 Attention Span
It was found that 25 respondents (50%) stated that their attention span in reading remained moderate while listening to music. 20 respondents (40%) claimed that their attention span increased while the remaining 5 (10%) answered that their attention span in reading was excellence while listening to music.
It was found that 26 respondents (52%) answered that their attention span in writing remained moderate while listening to music. 15 respondents (30%) claimed that their attention span was good while the other 9 (18%) stated that their attention span became excellent.
Almost half of the respondents stated that their attention span increased in both reading and writing while the other half asserted that their attention span remained moderate. The attention span increased because the presence of music actually stimulated their attention as what has been suggested by Mortal et Al (1990) that music improved capacities for attention and decreased distractibility (as cited from Thaut, M.H, 2005). However, if they failed to balance their attention in juggling two activities at one time, their attention would probably remain either moderate or decrease. Thauth,M.H (2005) claimed that music provided multiple layers of information, and thereby stimulated more than one level of attention. Thus, their complete attention would be divided into two activities; reading or writing and listening to music which required extra efforts from the respondents to cope with.
3.8.3 Speed of Performance
Of the total 50 respondents, it was found that 20 (40%) of them stated their speed of reading was good as they listened to music while 26 (52%) believed that their speed in reading remained moderate. Only 4 (8%) answered that their speed was excellent.
It was found that 24 respondents (48%) answered that their speed in writing remained moderate while listening to music and 21 (42%) of them claimed that their speed in writing was good. Only 5 (10%) of the respondents claimed that their speed in writing reached excellence.
Music exerted some influence in increasing the speed performance of reading as it boosted their ability to comprehend the text. A study conducted by Hall (1952) found that 60% of his junior high-school students did better on the Nelson Silent reading test while listening to background music (as cited from Lundin,1967). This study indicated that listening to music while reading could boost the performance in reading. However, there were many respondents claimed that music did not enhance their speed in reading. The level of difficulty of the reading materials is essential to be considered as the factor of the moderate speed because Frendrick (1937) demonstrated that music served as a definite distraction on reading very difficult material ( as cited from Lundin, 1967)
On the other hand, music increased a proportion of the respondents’ speed of performance in writing but another proportion of the respondents claimed that their speed of performance in writing remained moderate. The respondents’ speed in writing was moderate because they tended to slow down while writing since they were inclined in making more errors. According to Farnsworth (1969), he asserted that if rhythm was not adapted to the rhythm of the work, it reduced accuracy in typewriting and handwriting; the result would be shown in an increase number of errors. However, if the rhythm was compatible to the rhythm of the work, it could probably enhance the speed because it would produce the opposite result. This explained the reason that another proportion of the respondents believed that music increased their speed in writing.
It was found that 27 of the respondents (54%) answered that their enthusiasm in reading became good while the other 15 (30%) stated that their enthusiasm in reading remained moderate. Only 8 (16%) stated that their enthusiasm increased to excellence.
It was found that 21 respondents (42%) claimed that their enthusiasm in writing became good while listening to music while the other 20 (40%) stated that their enthusiasm remained moderate. Only 9 (18%) answered that their enthusiasm was excellent.
A majority of the students claimed that the presence of music enhanced their enthusiasm when they were reading and writing. According to Lundin (1967), he claimed that music gave rise to changes in the rate of physiological reactions which among was excitement. Weld (1912) stated that music increased blood pressure and heart rate (as cited from Lundin, 1967).
The changes in these physiological reactions were the factors which led to the increase of enthusiasm of the respondents when they listened to music while reading and writing because enthusiasm is associated with the active increasing in heart rate and blood pressure which spur the emergence of excitement. Thus, the students became more enthusiastic in reading and writing with the presence of music.
3.8.5 State of Relaxation
It was found that 21 (42%) of the respondents responded that their state of relaxation became good as they read while listening to music while the other 18 (36%) stated that their state of relaxation became excellent. Only 11 (22%) respondents answered that their state of relaxation remained moderate.
Of the total 50 respondents, it was found that 17 (34%) claimed that their state of relaxation in writing became excellent while listening to music. Similarly, another 17 (34%) answered that their state of relaxation remained moderate. The other 16 (32%) answered that their composure was good.
Majority of the respondents said that the presence of music enhanced their relaxation. Paul R. (1969) said that there was a fairly strong relationship existed between the feeling of restfulness and the pleasantness of music. He added that after listening to our favourite composition, most of us would feel more alert and rested. This suggested that the respondents gained relaxation as they were listening to the music that they liked since the interest on the music was inextricably linked with the relaxation elicited from the music.
3.9 Summary of Findings
Following is a summary of the major findings of this study.
- It was found that only 6% of respondents listen to country music.
- 62% of respondents preferred cafeteria to be equipped with background music.
- 60% of respondents listened to music in order to gain a sense of relaxation.
- Nearly three-quarters of respondents read magazines while they were listening to music.
- It was found that 24% of respondents chose to write their diary when they were listening to music.
- 40% of the respondents gained better concentration in both reading and writing while listening to music.
- Half of the respondents had moderate attention span in reading and writing while listening to music.
- 56% of respondents had better speed of performance when they were reading and writing while listening to music.
- Nearly three-quarters of respondents felt very enthusiastic about their reading and writing while listening to music.
- 72% of respondents claimed that they gained a sense of relaxation when they were reading and writing while listening to music.
- Out of 72%, 35% had gained an excellent relaxation.
From the findings, several major conclusions can be deduced:
4.1 The Selection of Music Genre
The genre of music which is selected by the respondents affects most of the factors. Smooth and soft instrumental music serves to enhance the speed of performance and state of relaxation of the respondents while the loud and fast music is inclined to serve as a disturbance on these two categories.
4.2 The Preference of Music
It can be concluded that the use of music in reading and writing is more on the purpose of leisure or entertainment as to provide relaxation to the respondents rather than academic purpose. The application of the music for such purpose can be clearly seen in types of reading and writing materials:
4.2.1 Types of Reading Materials
It can be concluded that there is an apparent lack of the use of music for listening in reading academic reading. It is caused by the effect of music that does not enhance concentration of the respondents. Their concentration remains moderate. Majority of the respondents prefer to listen to music while reading magazine. They only listen to music while reading for leisure or entertainment.
4.2.2 Types of Writing Materials
It can be concluded that the writing performance in academic writing while listening to music received the least percentage. Listening to music is not effective in increasing the concentration respondents in writing academic writing. In fact, their concentration and attention span remain moderate. The majority of the respondents prefer to listen to music while writing diary and others.
4.3 Level of Concentration
It can be concluded that listening to music while reading and writing has less effect on the enhancement of respondent’s concentration. Majority of the respondents’ concentration remained moderate while performing these two language skills. In fact, music can even interrupt their concentration.
4.4 Provision of Background Music
There is an apparent lack of preference on the provision of background music in lecture room since the use of music will only interrupt the concentration and attention span of majority of the respondents. Majority of the respondents prefer that cafeteria should be provided with background music. The provision of background music is more preferable in the cafeteria since it is a place for leisure while lecture rooms involve good concentration and attention span during lecture.
On the basis of the conclusion, the B.Ed TESL students and the Faculty of Education itself should consider several recommendations:
5.1 The Selection of Music Genre
It is recommended that the B.Ed TESL students and the Faculty of Education should consider the selection of the genre of music if it is to be used in reading and writing because it affects the performance of the two skills. It is advised that soft and smooth instrumental music should be selected as it serves to provide an environment conducive to learning more than loud and fast music with songs.
5.2 The Application of Music in Reading and Writing
It is recommended that the effectiveness of the students’ performance in these two skills should be effective and efficient especially for academic purpose. It is vital for the students to be able to create or obtain atmosphere conducive to their performance of reading and writing. Thus, the B.Ed TESL students and the Faculty of Education especially the lecturers as educators should not use or reduce the use of music in reading and writing for academic purpose since it does not enhance the concentration and attention span of the students during any academic activities such as revision and lecture.
5.3 Level of Concentration
It is recommended that B.Ed TESL students should reduce the use of music in writing and reading because music is not effective in increasing the level of concentration for most of the respondents. Thus, the prevention of the use of music in reading and writing can maintain or enhance their concentration in their performance.
5.4 Provision of Background Music
It is recommended that background music should be provided in cafeterias. The faculty should equip the cafeterias with background music as majority of the respondents preferred cafeterias to be provided with background music. Cafeteria is associated with leisure activity especially eating and it does not necessarily require atmosphere conducive for studying. Thus, the presence of music suits the leisure purpose.
As undergraduates, reading and writing are inextricably linked with the students’ performance in their study. The implementation of the recommendations will better benefit the students. The B.Ed TESL students should be able to perform more efficient and effective performance in the two language skills which will produce quality outcome of their reading and writing.
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