Shibazaki, Kagari and Marshall, Nigel (2013) Gender differences in computer and instrumental based musical composition. Educational Research, 55 (4). pp. 347-360. ISSN 0013-1881

Background: Previous studies have argued that technology can be a major support to
the music teacher enabling, amongst other things, increased student motivation,
higher levels of confidence and more individualised learning to take place [Bolton, J.
2008. Technologically mediated composition learning: Josh’s story. British Journal of
Music Education 25, no. 1: 41–55; Kardos, L. 2012. How music technology can
make sound and music worlds accessible to student composers in further education
colleges. British Journal of Music Education 29, no. 2: 143–51]. In contrast, a
reasonable number of alternative voices [Conlon, T. and Simpson, M. 2003. Silicon
Valley versus Silicon Glen: The impact of computers upon teaching and learning: A
comparative study. British Journal of Educational Technology 34, no. 2: 137–50;
Convery, A. 2009. The pedagogy of the impressed: How teachers become victims of
technological vision. Teachers and Teaching 15, no. 1: 25–41; Treadway, M. 2001.
Making a difference? An investigation into the relationship between ICT use and
standards in secondary schools. Cowbridge: Fischer Family Trust] have also argued
against the claims made for the effectiveness of technology in enhancing the learning
process. More specifically, recent work by Armstrong [Armstrong, V. 2008. Hard
bargaining on the hard drive: Gender bias in the music technology classroom.
Gender and Education 20, no. 4: 375–86; Armstrong, V. 2011. Technology and the
gendering of music education. Aldershot: Ashgate] has explored issues of technology
and music education in relation to gender, suggesting that the construction of gendered
meanings associated with digital technologies is having a major effect on
pupils’ attitudes and thus ultimately, on their level of achievement in areas such as
musical composition. However, there is relatively little research on how primary-aged
boys and girls relate to technology as a composing tool and how they experience this
compared with using more traditional instruments to compose. More specifically,
very little research has been carried out into the extent to which boys and girls differ
in their attitudes towards using technology as a composing tool.
Purpose: This small-scale, exploratory study had two main aims. The first aim was
to investigate whether any gender differences existed between the attitudes of boys
and girls towards the use of computers in creating musical compositions. The second
aim was to compare their attitudes between composing with instruments and
composing with computers.
Sample: Our study was based in England and involved class groups of 10–11-year-old
pupils in three state primary schools; a total of 63 children were involved in creating
short musical compositions over a two-week period. Forty-three of them were
interviewed about their experiences.
Methods: Our method involved children composing two pieces of music on the same
theme. In the first lesson, they composed a piece using a musical notation software
package on a computer whilst in the second lesson they composed a piece on the
same theme using percussion instruments. Forty-three children (22 pairs of children)
*Corresponding author. Email:
© 2013 NFER
Educational Research, 2013
Vol. 55, No. 4, 347–360,
were subsequently interviewed about their attitudes towards composing with
computers and with percussion instruments.
Findings and discussion: Our findings suggested that children could appreciate both
the advantages and disadvantages of using computers to compose musical pieces and
a number of differences existed between boys and girls in terms of their attitudes
and the way in which they composed their pieces. The findings also suggested that
differences might exist in the way in which boys and girls integrated previous
musical knowledge, skill and teaching into the compositional process as well as
affecting their levels of motivation, confidence and self-esteem in gender-specific
Conclusions: This small and exploratory study suggests that variations do exist in
children’s approaches to computer-based musical composition activities and that
attitudes do appear to vary as a function of gender.

Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email