New Quarter, More Questions

Last quarter ended without me even realizing it, but I should be used to the schedule by now after attending this school since 2003: 10 weeks and a 3 week break. At any rate, the new quarter starts this Friday, and I will continue to work on my dissertation proposal - Investigating the correlation of number of years enrolled in performance music classes and overall academic achievement.

At the moment, I'm working on my methodology. I know I'm using 7 years worth of data from students in the Tacoma Schools who graduated in 2011 - music class enrollment and GPA, but now I need to look at statistical analysis, sample size, and any other considerations that might affect the results.

Transfer of learning, the theory upon which I'm basing my dissertation, is already a controversial concept. I'm approaching my study with the assumption that a large sample (~1500 students) will shed a greater light on this theory. The past studies I've read haven't had such a substantial sample. I also think it will be interesting looking at past data rather than doing a longitudinal study. Students in past studies were aware of their participation in the study. That knowledge could have affected their academic performance, even subconsciously. I will not have such an issue as the classes have already been completed, and there will be no influence by teachers, classes, or myself.

Proposal Changes
After discussing my dissertation idea with friends and colleagues, I've realized I need to include a few other factors in my study. While many students may want to take music classes, these classes could be prohibitive due to cost of uniforms and/or instruments. I will need to find out if this expense is paid by the district or the families. If these expensives are paid by the school, socioeconomic status will not be a consideration in music class enrollment. If, however, the families have the responsibility of paying for music class supplies, I will need to add socioeconomic status as a variable of my study.

Further, I had struggled with how to consider overall academic achievement. Past studies had used standardized testing. There are a few issues I have with this when considering my study. First, standardized tests are issued only in certain years, and I want to look at year to year significance, if any. Second, the standardized testing in Washington state was changed in 2010; therefore, the scores cannot be considered as equal. Finally, I wish to look at overall academic achievement, including grades earned in electives, physical education, as well as math, science, English, and social studies. Past studies have considered either one or two subject areas, chosen of course because they are the ones assessed in the standardized testing. I have chosen instead to look at GPA. I can use end-of-year GPA for each grade as the variables in my correlation study.

Lastly, I'm still debating at whether I want to include students in my study who never take a music course. I think I want to operate on the assumption that enrollment in music classes does cause transfer of learning, and, therefore, those students not enrolled in music classes would not need to be considered. However, if I want to discuss the controversy of the transfer of learning theory, I need to include those students not enrolled in any music courses throughout the seven years of data. I will still need to read more literature before I make that decision.

Next Steps
I hope that with my next submission, I can get my topic approved and continue to discuss my methodology in detail and actually conduct my study. Financial aid is a factor as I've exhausted all student loans after this quarter, but I'm still determined to finish my degree!
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Mom K; g'ma; charki said...

Some students may not take music classes, but be involved in music classes outside of school - community or church choirs, community symphony, etc. The conclusion that students not enrolled in school music classes are not involved in any music classes may skew your study.
Char Kibbie

Deborah W Halasz said...

Definitely; however, I was following up on previous studies who only looked at students enrolled in performance music classes. Also, I would have gotten my information from the school district on students who had already graduated, so any extracurricular music classes wouldn't be known.
At any rate, I've withdrawn from my doctorate program. I have lots of ideas where I can pursue research, but for now, I'll be looking for paid internships or opportunities for continuing education because I have zero practical experience.