Paper 2

You want to know if music instruction early in life increases academic performance in school. Treat each of the items listed below as a different type of evidence intended to address this question. Do the following:

  1. Rank order the pieces of evidence from most convincing to least convincing. By convincing I mean how well does the evidence answer the question "does music instruction early in life increase a student's academic performance in school?"
  2. Explain why you ranked the different types of evidence in the order you selected.
  3. Identify those pieces of evidence listed below, if any, from which you believe a conclusion can be drawn about whether early music instruction increases academic performance in school. Briefly explain.


a. You have overheard many teenagers talking about how learning to play a musical instrument really improved their focus in school, so you believe you have a good understanding of how early music instruction improves school performance.

b. 30 well-designed correlational studies published in prestigious journals discovered that children who took music lessons in elementary school had higher grades in high school than those students who had no music lessons.

c. A Professor of Music Education, appearing on Good Morning America, stated that she believes teenagers perform better in school if they have taken music lessons because, as she learned in her interviews with students of all ages, students who took music lessons reported being more self-disciplined.

d. Your cousin has a hunch.

e. 20 well-controlled experiments published in prestigious journals found that taking music classes in elementary school leads students to achieve higher grades later in school.

f. After a recent airing of a story on the news show Dateline on NBC about high school valedictorians, Channel 5 asked viewers to call in the reasons they performed well in school. One of the reasons given most frequently for why viewers performed well in school was the musical training they received earlier in life.

g. The results of two well-controlled experiments published in a prestigious journal suggested that learning to play a musical instrument as a child had a positive effect on the child's school work later in life.

(Major Hint: I am rather partial to the phrase "alternative explanations")