2010 International Conference on Multidisciplinary Research in Music Pedagogy
May 26, 27, 28, and 29, 2010
Perez Hall, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Motivation: Measuring and Understanding Motivation and Music Learning

Research on motivation and music learning seeks to understand how students develop the desire to pursue the study of a musical instrument, how they come to value learning to play an instrument, why they vary in the degree of persistence and the intensity they display in achieving their musical goals, and how they evaluate and attribute their success and failure in different achievement contexts. This symposium will consider various frameworks for understanding these complex issues and review several measures that are currently being used in different achievement contexts. Discussion will focus on both research methods and practical strategies that can be used to assist students in acquiring adaptive motivation that will provide them with the best chance of achieving their own personal goals.

Chair: Susan O’Neill (Music Education, University of Western Ontario)

Susan O’Neill
Initiators and Sustainers of Youth Engagement in Music: An Interview Study
Motivation is an integral part of what initiates and sustains meaningful engagement in music. Not all youth are engaged in music activities to the same extent or in the same way. Some may show an interest in an activity by simply being involved. Others may take a leadership role by bringing others to the activity or by helping to organize or advocate on behalf of the activity. An engaged youth thinks the activity is an important one, is well-informed about the activity, and has a sense of purpose or derives important meaning and fulfillment from involvement in the activity. This study involved individual interviews with 90 young people in grades 7 to 10. This study examines the question of what makes different forms of music engagement meaningful for different youth in different contexts. The results provide a framework for understanding what gets youth involved in different music activities in the first place (initiators), and what helps to keep them involved (sustainors). 

Veronika Huta (Psychology, University of Ottawa), Jaclynne Smith (Doctoral student, Psychology, University of Ottawa)
Motivational Level of Young Piano Students
Motivation is a crucial topic in pedagogy due to the high dropout rate among piano students. A survey undertaken in 2006 by the Music Teachers' National Association cites the difficulty of maintaining a level of motivation that will foster disciplined practice. This presentation discusses the steps in the development of a scale that will measure the degree of motivation of young piano students. We discuss recent findings that contribute to the theory of motivation, the empirically grounded choice of the proposed measurement scale, and the analysis of its predictive power. This will be illustrated by sample analyses drawn from ongoing research. Our aim is to investigate the development of motivation, its key determinants, and its growth over time in order to establish, from a pedagogical point of view, when best to introduce the crucial stage of musical reading.

YiFei Liu (Doctoral student, Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa)
A Comparison between the Motivational Level of Private Piano Students in North American and the People’s Republic of China
What is the role of culture in education and learning motivation? This study is designed to measure and compare the motivational level of private piano students in North America and in the People's Republic of China (PRC) using the Survey of Musical Interest. It has been suggested that there must be some link between students' success and their motivation levels. Preliminary findings indicate that Asian students pursue their studies over long periods of time and achieve good results in examinations and competitions. We have noted that Caucasian and Chinese students differ from each other in every category of the motivation scale. The impact of these findings for teaching and learning will be examined.

In collaboration with:

Piano Pedagogy Research Laboratory

University of Ottawa


Université Laval


Université du Québec à Montréal

Round Table