Dr Patricia Bygrave


Welcome to the musicognition web site

Children, music, learning. Three words. On returning to teaching after raising my family, I found that there were many children in ordinary classrooms in ordinary schools who were not interested in learning. Why? Was it the school? The teacher? The subjects? Possibly it was a little of each. A challenge presented itself. How could I as a teacher, provide an interesting, stimulating and fun-way in which these children could learn.

Music has never been held in high regard in Australian schools. It is however, one of the most flexible, inviting and rewarding areas of activity for children. My previous teaching had always included daily music activities. I have qualifications in music, both personal and tertiary, and my children have been exposed to music from birth and before. The challenge quickly became challenges. How to convince other teachers to ‘do’ music activities in the classroom? How to get children to learn through music activities? How to convince a wider education audience of the value of music education?

The challenges began to merge. Alongside teaching music activities in the ordinary and special classroom, my investigations in the early 1980s led to discovering the ‘troika’, Vygotsky, Luria, and Leont’ev. Using concepts from their theories, in particular Leont’ev’s theory of activity, I developed a theoretical framework that could be applied to explaining the learning and cognitive development from music activity. However, I soon found that although theories may provide explanations, practical evidence is also required for ‘the doubtful’. A doctoral study involving children, music, learning, and teachers in schools, resulted in a PhD thesis entitled “Music and the development of listening skills in children with learning difficulties”.

This study provided evidence of the cognitive transfer through the music activities of the children to other areas of learning. Skills such as attention, listening, comprehension, memory, problem solving, communication and language were developed. Together with the theoretical framework this study demonstrated that music education is relevant and has long-term significance for learning in children.

Dr Patricia Lee Bygrave

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