I was looking through Friday’s Globe And Mail (C2) when this headline caught my attention; “If music be the food of work, play on.” I read the article with interest.
Workers are more turned on by tuning in to music, a survey finds.
Nearly one-third -32 per cent- of 1,613 U.S. employees said they listen to music while working through the use of an iPod, MP3 player or similar device.
And 79 per cent of them said all that humming along improves their job satisfaction or productivity, the survey conducted by Harris Interactive for staffing company Spheron Corp. found.
The effect of music was the highest among younger workers, with 90 per cent of those 18 to 24 and 89 per cent of those 30 to 39 saying it boosted job satisfaction.
That finding didn’t surprise me one bit. As a teacher, I’ve known that for years. Listening to music helps improve productivity. Why? One reason is because music acts like white noise in the background preventing students from noticing every other little noise that usually distracts them. Some kids can’t tune out things like a pencil dropping or someone asking a question. Their brain takes everything in; consequently, they are often distracted and off task in the classroom.
Just so there is no confusion here, I want to say that I do not advocate listening to music during a lesson when the teacher is teaching or during class discussions. During these times students need to be attentive listeners and listen to what is going on in the class.
Of course there have to be some guidelines for this to work effectively. I’ve learned the hard way.(Have you noticed, I seem to say that often?) After discussing using music as a tool to assist with concentration and focus, I give student these guidelines (well, they’re actually rules, but “guidelines” sound so much better. Some of my at risk students have trouble with rules. It’s all how you say it. I’ve learned that the hard way, too) These are the guidelines:
1. Listen to music that you know and love. Listening to new, unfamiliar music is distracting (your brain focuses on the new) and that defeats the purpose.
2. Listen to your own music on your own iPod, Mp3 player etc. Absolutely no sharing. Sharing wastes time and causes commotion that is distracting to other students and that defeats the purpose.
3. Listen to your music after I have taught the lesson. Listening to music while I am teaching distracts you from what I am saying and that defeats the purpose.
My students are cool about the whole music thing in class. They understand the need for guidelines and usually don’t push too often. It’s amazing to see the kids hooked up to their music and working away, doing far more while listening to their music than they would without listening to their music.
When I create an Individual Education Plan for my Learning Disabled or Behaviour students, if I believe that listening to music while working will help that student be more successful, I will include that accommodation in the I.E.P. and share that with the student’s teachers.
Click here for research about benefits of music in the classroom
Update- April 23, 2010- another research study about benefits of listening to music. Be sure to check out the comments, too.