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Music training for the development of auditory skills

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As U.S. schools struggle with funding cuts and the requirements of the test-centered No Child Left Behind Act, music and other arts programs are often put on the chopping block. Because these courses are frequently seen as “impractical,” they’re often the first to be trimmed or eliminated altogether.

However, 2010 a Northwestern University study published in Nature Reviews: Neuroscience, “Music Training for the Development of Auditory Skills,” indicates that early music training can have important effects on the brain’s development. Because music training improves auditory abilities, it can have positive effects on a number of other abilities, including those that could improve performance in other subject areas.

Some of the study’s findings include:

  • Compared with nonmusicians, children with music training were found to have superior linguistic abilities. They possessed a better vocabulary and reading ability and had a greater ability to learn new languages.
  • Children with music training were found to have superior working memory performance.
  • Children who began music training before age seven possessed superior sensory-motor integration compared with those who had not received musical training.

The authors note that other studies have shown that music training can help children with auditory processing and literacy issues. Given the music training’s benefits, they suggest that policies should be targeted to enhance the quality and extent of music training in schools.

Tags: arts, children, parenting

    Writer: | Last updated: September 17, 2010

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    Analysis assignments

    Read the Northwestern University study titled "Music Training for the Development of Auditory Skills."

    1. Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
    2. Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
    3. Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)

    Read the issue-related Springfield Republican article titled "Lack of Funds Silences Music."

    1. If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?

    Newswriting assignments

    1. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
    2. Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
    3. Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
    4. Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.