The idea that music can teach science has shown enough potential that a website has been created for K-12 instructors to find music videos that provide students with scientific content. Now, a study has been conducted by researchers from the University of Washington, Seattle, and the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, to find out if it actually works.
The research, published in the International Journal of Science Education, tested the hypothesis that scientific content can be learned through songs, by studying more than 1,000 students using 16 music videos in three separate tests.
The first test of students, ages 8-17, found that those who watched a music video that delivered scientific content did learn some of the information that was provided. A second test found no evidence that the music video helped students when compared to a traditional instructional video, although it was more enjoyable to watch.
A third group of New Zealand seventh- and eighth-graders were randomly assigned to watch a music video about fossils and compared to another group that was assigned a video with the same content but with no music. Both groups showed improvement on test scores immediately after watching the video, but the group that watched the music video did a better job on assessment tests 28 days later.
“These studies are only preliminary, but point to the promise of novel approaches to formal science instruction,” Tania Lombrozo, psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in an article for National Public Radio. “Incorporating music and other media might not only have mnemonic benefits, but also help make science more accessible and more engaging to a broad range of students.”