Motivating Music Students

A Review of the Literature

Chad West

John Dewey knew that when students were actively involved in their learning, they were more motivated and achieved higher. Unfortunately, our practices often negatively affect motivation, such as when teachers emphasize competition, social comparison, normative grading criteria, public forms of evaluation, and ability self-assessment. Most recently, researchers have begun exploring motivation through the lenses of (a) how we attribute successes and failures (attribution theory), (b) reasons for achieving (achievement goal theory) and (c) ways in which we seek to satisfy our internal needs (intrinsic motivation theory). This article examines the music education literature within these three seminal social cognitive theories and discusses the implications to music education with respect to (a) locus of control, (b) self-concept and achievement, and (c) motivational ways of engaging students. The article concludes with specific recommendations for increasing student motivation in the music classroom.

Journal Update
Year 2013
Volume 31
Issue 2
Pages 11-19

West, Chad (2013) Motivating Music Students: A Review of the Literature. In: Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, Vol. 31, No. 2, pp. 11-19. Available at


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