All around the country, Alpha Chi members are producing extraordinary scholarship across the disciplines. We’ll be spotlighting some of their most compelling research projects in the coming months. Let their work be your inspiration.
Class of 2021
Q: What is the full title of your project?
“An Evaluation of the Relationship Between Music Education Involvement and Graduation Rate in Title I High Schools in North Carolina.”
Q: How did this project get started? What was your research question?
This project began through a funded summer research experience offered generously by Gardner-Webb. My interest in the topic has grown as I’ve become more passionate about music education. Through my years in public school arts programs, I saw that many struggling students found their comfort zone in the arts. Then, as a future music teacher, I began to understand more of the needs of a learner, realizing that this relationship could have a significant impact on education. I believe that the arts are a powerful tool for impacting overall student success, and I wanted a chance to begin exploring the related data.
Q: What did you learn?
Most significantly, I learned that there’s a huge amount of red tape in the education research field that may negatively impact our ability to improve the education system for our students. While smaller than I’d hoped, the data I gathered all pointed to a significant positive relationship between music involvement and graduation rate. Furthermore, I learned that there’s a significant amount of related literature that supports my hypothesis and encourages a continuing study within the topic area.
Q: What changed in your perspective along the way?
When I developed my study and completed my IRB, I learned about the statistics for the survey response. so my expectations were realistic for the percentage of individual responses. However, I was unprepared for the school district resistance that I received. I never realized counties would fight so hard to avoid disclosing information that they didn’t want to be known (such as arts funding). I had no idea that local-level school districts would be opposed to research that solely seeks to find what benefits learners, and I’m terrified of the long-term consequences of this resistance.
Q: Why does it matter?
It is imperative for educators to find ways to engage students and keep them in school. An average of 1 in 5 students will drop out of high school, which will have a tremendous consequence for the United States economy as well as for the individual student’s lives. I think it’s essential to explore all options for engaging students and any expanded learning opportunity that encourages them to stay in school. While I know that music has numerous intrinsic benefits that give it value in school, understanding its benefit on the overall learner can promote its importance in the curriculum. Furthermore, an education system designed for our students’ needs will vastly improve the student experience.
Q: What do you want people to take away from your project?
An average of 1 in 5 United States high school students will drop out of high school. This is incredibly costly to our society. Prioritizing music education may serve as a powerful investment for boosting student engagement and success, and additional research should take place to determine this relationship both in North Carolina and across the country.
Q: What’s next for you (both personally, academically, and in the life of this project)?
This summer I’m working with a local arts school to get some hands-on K-12 music experience. I’ll begin my (official) junior year in the fall, and I look forward to spending time learning many different pedagogy skills, 5+ instruments, and choral conducting techniques. I plan to continue research in graduate school and would love an opportunity to further explore the impact of music education on low-income North Carolina schools.
Q: Any additional thoughts you’d like to share?
Alpha Chi is a wonderful organization that has inspired me to pursue further academia and research. I’m so honored to be a member.