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Title: 'Have you brought your singing voice?' : an investigation into whether a small group singing intervention can improve phonological discrimination in young children
Author: Hunt, Audrey
ISNI:       0000 0004 2734 3177
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2012
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The purpose of this study was to investigate whether a small group singing intervention can improve phonological discrimination, in young children. This is an important question because of the impact phonological awareness, and the precursors to it, have on later literacy. Early activities which enable children to use their voice are particularly pertinent, in light of increasing concerns over young children’s expressive language when starting school. The study was carried out in a primary school nursery class. A mixed methods design was used. Firstly, a quasi experimental method, where 18 participants, aged three to four, received singing intervention, for six sessions, in four small groups and 20 participants were randomly allocated to a control group. The participants were assessed in phonological discrimination, before and after the intervention. Secondly, a qualitative research method, where a semi-structured interview gained the views of the class teacher, in relation to any potential benefits of the intervention and the feasibility of small group singing in future practice. Thirdly, a mosaic approach was used to gather the children’s views of the intervention, underpinned by the important assumption that children are active co-constructors in the research process. Statistical analysis, using ANOVA and post hoc tests, revealed a significant gain in phonological discrimination for children in the intervention group, compared to the control group, where there was no gain. Thematic analysis revealed broader benefits of the intervention, in terms of improved communication, motivation, confidence and opportunities “to shine”. There appeared to be a value to a small singing group, that could add to existing classroom experience, and that was feasible in practice. Themes that were drawn from the mosaic approach highlighted the importance of paying attention to social learning, enjoyment and building on previous experiences when delivering the intervention. The research concluded, therefore, that both the content of the intervention, as well as the nature of the intervention, are important factors to inform practice. The discussion proposed that the wider literature provides a plausible explanation for these gains in phonological discrimination, in terms of an early common development of music and language and shared learning mechanisms, resulting in a ‘near transfer’ of similar skills. The findings are consistent with a number of studies which have found that music instruction resulted in significant gains in phonological awareness with older children, aged four to six years. Significant gains in phonological discrimination, in this study, can perhaps be best understood by considering the development of phonological awareness within a larger phonological processing system, which includes broader language development. This highlights the important relationships between sub-skills such as large scale phonological awareness (rime and syllable), articulation, and receptive language, and acquiring later reading skills. Singing, in particular, gave the children opportunities to use their voice and enjoy rhythm and rhyme and it therefore seems likely that the singing intervention was tapping into these important sub-skills. Alternative possible explanations for the gains were also discussed. Limitations of the study were described, suggestions for improvements made and recommendations for future research outlined. The study provides a fruitful start to an emerging dialogue in relation to small group singing in the early years classroom. Implications for practice include early intervention in terms of language and literacy development and potential partnerships between music specialists and early years settings to support training, resources and staff confidence.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Ed.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology ; L Education (General)