Date of Award

Spring 5-2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education & Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Thomas Cordy, PhD

Second Advisor

K. Michael Hibbard, PhD

Third Advisor

Kevin Jay Isaacs, A.Mus.D.


This researcher sought to investigate the relationship between perceptual learning modalities of fifth grade elementary school students and their compositional processes and products. Music composition, at the elementary school level, has been studied for many years, as the creation of new music can give students a more active role in learning, and in many cases, a greater understanding of musical concepts than can performing and responding alone. However, there is no research to suggest that learning styles play an important role in music composition processes and products of the elementary school student.

The purpose of this study was to determine if a relationship existed between students’ preferred learning modalities and their music composition products, and if students articulated a heightened sense of confidence in the process of composing when creating music through their preferred learning modalities. Research indicates that innovative techniques to music composition are necessary to allow students opportunities to think in sound. It is agreed that while there may be multiple ways of teaching students to compose original music, often the methods of doing so dampen the motivation and creativity of children by being too structured to allow exploration and the development of musical decision-making, or, are so unstructured that they frustrate the children.

This study utilized the qualitative design, as the intent was to examine not only the products developed by the subjects, but the processes the subjects went through while composing. Each subject (n = 11) composed four musical compositions, initiated through each of the four learning modalities, (visual, auditory, tactual, and kinesthetic). Compositions were scored using a 6-point rating scale on the dimensions of aesthetic appeal, originality, craftsmanship, and proportion by independent music experts.

Following the music composition tasks, subjects completed a learning styles instrument, Learning Style: The Clue to You! (LS:CY!), to detect preferred perceptual modalities. The perceptual modality scores derived from the LS:CY! were then compared to the scores from the music composition tasks. During the second phase of this study, semi-structured interviews allowed the researcher insight into subjects’ music composition processes as they related to preferred learning modalities.

An implication of this study is that by studying the optimal conditions by which students achieve success in music composition, educators might design appropriate composition tasks and assessments to further students’ musical understanding.