Mollie Talada

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Cynthia Chalupa

Committee Co-Chair

Susan M Braidi

Committee Member

John E Crotty


Research has shown a definitive link between the cognitive processing of language and of musical sound. Music has also been shown to be an effective teaching tool in the ESL classroom. Despite the theoretical studies that draw connections between musical aptitude and linguistic ability, few studies have shown the efficacy of using music to improve student motivation and self-confidence, as well as students' perceptions of learning. The aim of this thesis was to bridge the gap between research and pedagogy and to provide student perceptions of the use of musical tasks in three aspects of their learning: (1) student self-confidence and lowering of the affective filter in language learning, (2) student motivation, and (3) students' perceived efficacy of the tasks in improving their overall proficiency and language skills. The study was carried out over the course of two semesters in two communication skills courses in an Intensive English Program at a large, state institution in the United States. Forty-five students from a variety of language backgrounds participated in the study. Student perceptions were recorded and measured by a pre-study questionnaire in which the students responded to questions regarding their perceived proficiency level, their confidence level, and motivation to learn English, as well as questions about their background (prior English experience, prior instruction in music, etc.). The students completed learning journals during each unit, which prompted them to set goals for themselves for the unit, to track their learning (vocabulary, concepts taught, activities, etc.), and lastly, to assess their own learning, and whether or not they had achieved their goal. Each class took a post-study questionnaire upon completion of the units of study, responding to questions regarding the three areas of research (self-confidence, motivation, and perceived efficacy), and whether or not they perceived the musical tasks to have been helpful in improving these areas. The results showed that the students perceived the music-based learning to be beneficial to their self-confidence, motivation, and improvement of their proficiency, particularly in the areas of listening, reading, and pronunciation, but also in regards to other skill areas including accuracy and cultural understanding. Students' positive comments reflected their enjoyment of the activity with only two students responding negatively to the music-based learning. It is hoped that these data will help fill some of the current gaps in the research and provide a new perspective for teachers to consider regarding the implementation of musical tasks in the language classroom.