This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Technology Use in Instrumental Practicing: A Mixed Methods Study of Middle School Band Students




Gibbs, Elizabeth

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Curriculum and Teaching


Deliberate, thoughtful, and structured practice is critical to developing proper skills on an instrument (Barry & McArthur, 1994; Byo & Cassidy, 2008; Duke et al., 2009; Hallam, 2001a; Lehmann & Ericsson, 1996; Miksza, 2007; Oare, 2012; Prichard, 2017; Ramsey, 2001; Rohwer & Polk, 2006). Yet, many young music students have difficulty maintaining focus while practicing, especially if that student has unclear goals, a practice environment that is not conducive to effective and deliberate practice, and low self-efficacy (Rojas & Spring, 2004). High-achieving music students are more likely to incorporate structured and focused goals in their practicing (Ericsson et al., 1993; Miksza, 2011). Structure, goals, patterns, challenges, feedback, and a sense of control over an activity or experience are also characteristics of flow theory (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975). Metronomes, tuners, drones, recordings, etc. on personal devices allow students to expand their connections in music education beyond the classroom. Many American children grow up surrounded by the overstimulation of technology and the resultant multitasking which may hinder their ability to be productive and develop self-efficacy for self-regulated learning (Alghamdi et al., 2020; Strom, 2014). Research exists on practice strategies, self-regulation, flow theory, and technology within and outside of the music classroom. However, there is little research on how young musicians engage with their technology while they practice. The purpose of the study was to determine how middle school band students in grades seventh and eighth use and interact with technology while practicing their instruments, and in broader terms, to understand middle school students’ abilities to self-regulate their practice and learning specifically through the lens of technology use. I chose seventh and eighth grades due to the emerging nature of musicianship in the students. This research relied on self-reported data from middle school band students. I employed a convergent mixed methods design in which I collected quantitative and qualitative data concurrently, analyzed the data separately, then compared the findings. I used a survey to collect quantitative data and conducted student focus group interviews to gather qualitative data. The desired sample population was middle school band students in grades seventh and eighth in multiple middle schools in East-Central Alabama. I organized the findings into the following themes: (a) student use of music technology in practice sessions; (b) use of personal devices during practice, specifically music applications and attitudes toward music technology; (c) student use of self-regulation strategies; and (d) student motivation. The participants felt encouraged by teachers to use music technology when they practiced and viewed technology as a valuable tool for practicing. Participants regularly incorporated technology into practice, yet technology did not increase students’ overall enjoyment of practice. Students used music technology in combination with practice records to set performance goals when they practiced. The participants shared self-regulation techniques such as using headphones and regulating responses to device notifications. The concept of flow was present in the participant testimonials regarding self-regulation and enjoyment of practice. Further, the participants valued technology for its ability to help improve their overall musicianship which in turn improved their ensemble. The results of this study show that students are motivated to improve on their instruments and understand that individual musical growth enhances their ensemble. Participants did not feel anxious about missing notifications on their personal devices and preferred to respond to notifications after their practice was complete. Practice records contributed to a regimented practice schedule and led students to value performance goals over time-based goals. The results of this study could inform music teachers of the ways students respond to practice records, goal-setting, and technology as a tool for effective practice.