Listening to music hinders the learning of new material

Over the years as an educator, I’ve observed many trends when it comes to students and their studying habits. Increasingly, the dominant trend is studying while listening to music. In fact, parents have also come up to me to ask if this habit is conducive to learning. Does music help or hinder learning? It’s a question I’ve been mulling over until I came across this article in The Guardian, on a study done by researchers from the applied psychology department of Cardiff Metropolitan University that that attempts to answer this question.

Ultimately, the study found that while there are some benefits to listening to music while performing certain tasks (improving mood and being a source of motivation), listening to music does not help people learn new or complex material. This is because music – especially tunes with lyrics – takes up processing space in your brain which comes into conflict with the material you are trying to learn. In fact, students who revised in quiet or silent environments actually performed more than 60% better in an exam than their peers who revised while listening to music that had lyrics.

This study clearly dispels the misconception that listening to music helps us learn, get smarter and perform better in tests. Still, I am not discounting each students’ unique learning style – everyone learns and absorbs information differently. At the end of the day, students need to know how to revise well and exercise good discipline in their revision. This means that they need to be self-aware of what works best for them and adopt a personal learning style that will help yield the results they strive for.

If you want to read more about the study, click the following link: network/2018/mar/14/sound-how-listening-music-hinders- learning-lessons-research

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