How Can Music Make You Smart?

Monday 9th November 2015

The benefits of active music – playing a musical instrument or singing – and seeing the positive results of practice have been shown to have a link to academic performance and could have implications for future teaching interventions.

Results from a new research project indicate that there is a chain of relationships that connect academic and musical self-theories, and that intelligence can be related to certain musical listening abilities. The plasticity of the adolescent brain is well known. However, using musical engagement as a model shows there is a link between self-belief and achievement that can help with the development of cognitive and social skills as well as academic achievements.

Goldsmiths, University of London, has embarked on a long-term collaborative research project at Queen Anne’s School in Caversham to explore the co-development of musical competencies, cognitive skills and self-concept in adolescence.

The project is part of Queen Anne’s School BrainCanDo Programme, created by Headmistress Mrs Julia Harrington three years ago, and now embedded in the school culture. BrainCanDo is based on the principle that in our role as educators it is important that we utilise cutting-edge research from the field of educational neuroscience to understand brain function and development, mindset and the plasticity of the teenage brain.

In a two-day research-gathering exercise, that will be repeated annually over the next five years, 312 girls between the ages of 11 and 16 took part in a series of tests to ascertain their musical listening abilities and preferences. They also undertook computer-based intelligence tests and completed questionnaires concerning their musical activities at school and home and measures of social and academic self-concept.

Dr Amy Fancourt, Head of Psychology at Queen Anne’s School, said:

“Music is a good model for the plasticity of the teenage brain. It can demonstrate that we are not all brilliant but that by learning and practice, we can get better. Poor performance isn’t failure, it’s an opportunity to improve. We all know that music is motivational; this research shows that it can genuinely help teenagers change their attitudes towards learning.

If we can teach our teenagers to adopt a positive approach to learning a musical instrument and to recognise that musicians are not born brilliant but achieve brilliance through effort and hard work, then we can expect that positive growth mindset will transfer to attitudes to intelligence and learning more generally. We know from this latest research that those students who adopt a positive growth mindset approach to musical ability adopt the same approach towards intelligence, and are more conscientious and academically high achieving.”

Dr Daniel Müllensiefen who heads the MSC programme in Music, Mind and Brain at Goldsmiths’ Department of Psychology led the project.

“There have been a number of studies looking at associations between musical training and cognitive skills such as intelligence, memory, reading ability and academic performance. But very few of them track children over a longer amount of time to see how they develop together in adolescence. A special focus of this particular project is to investigate how attitudes and theories of intelligence and academic achievement change when children start to engage with music seriously.”

Through the ongoing study of a group of secondary school aged pupils over time, we hope to be able to demonstrate that learning to play a musical instrument does lead to improvements in attitude, conscientiousness and academic achievement.

Queen Anne’s School will be hosting a ‘Music and the Brain’ conference in June 2016.

Click here to read a full report of the research, which has been published in the latest edition of ‘Frontiers in Psychology’


Recent News

The L4 Conquered their Fears at PGL in Hailsham

22 September 2017

On Monday 18 September, the L4 arrived ready to travel to PGL in Hailsham for a week of team building and bonding through different challenges and activities.

Recent News

Queen Anne's Sports News

20 September 2017

A round up of the latest sports news from Queen Anne's in the week commencing Monday 11 September.

Recent News

Queen Anne's Make It to Botswana!

18 September 2017

In the wind and rain on Friday 15 September, the pupils and staff (and dogs!) of Queen Anne's School completed their epic walk to Botswana!

Recent News

The L6 Get Stuck In with the Army Outreach Team

14 September 2017

On Friday 8 September, the L6 braved the damp conditions at Longmoor Camp in Hampshire where Queen Anne's were the first to experience a bespoke day organised by the Army Outreach Team.

Recent News

Queen Anne’s Head Girls attend Tatler School Awards

13 September 2017

Monday 11 September saw Queen Anne's two Head Girls attend their first outing of the year representing Queen Anne’s School at Tatler’s 14th annual Schools Awards 2017.

Recent News

Bella Competes for England at the Lacrosse Festival

07 September 2017

Over the summer holidays, Sixth Form student and Sports Captain Bella competed for the England U19 A Lacrosse team in the Lacrosse festival held in conjunction with the Lacrosse World Cup at Surrey Sports Park.

Recent News

The Queen Anne's Summer Sport Round Up

07 September 2017

A round up of all the summer sports news from Queen Anne's including an Alumnae achievement and our sports awards guest.

Recent News

GCSE Success for Queen Anne's Girls

24 August 2017

Queen Anne’s School is delighted to announce another year of outstanding GCSE results with 55% of pupils achieving A*/A grades.

Recent News

Outstanding A Level Success for Queen Anne’s Girls

17 August 2017

Queen Anne’s School, Caversham, is delighted to report another set of excellent A Level results for 2017 that the girls can be very proud of with 66% of all grades at A*, A or B.

Recent News

Queen Anne's girls going for Gold!

03 August 2017

31 intrepid Sixth Formers boarded a coach at 6am on the first day of their holidays and headed north to the beautiful mountains and tarns of the Lake District in Cumbria to take part in their DofE Qualifying and Practice Expeditions

Next Event

Joep Franssens UK Premiere at Queen Anne's

03 October 2017

On Tuesday 3 October at 7.30pm, Queen Anne's School will be hosting the UK premiere of Joep Franssens 'Gift of Song' - a work for two pianos: one pre-recorded and one live.