Participation in Musical Theater as a Vehicle For Understanding of Interdisciplinary Work in the Arts, Improvement of Self-Concept, and Music Achievement Among Fifth-Grade Students
Musical theater is a discipline that, by its very nature, engages several disciplines, specifically music, visual art, theater, and dance. The elementary classroom is a viable setting for the study of the arts in an interdisciplinary manner, yet the number of studies examining interdisciplinary instruction with regard to elementary music is scant. The purpose of this study was to examine elementary students’ involvement in a musical theater production in terms of their knowledge of the interdisciplinary nature of the arts, development of self-concept, and achievement in music. Fifteen participants were involved in a seven-week period of rehearsals/performances of the musical Welcome to the Jungle , with the researcher acting as a participant observer and teacher. Analysis of qualitative data (student journals, student/parent questionnaires, researcher notes, and video-/audiotaped transcriptions of individual interviews and group rehearsals) produced a narrative of involvement in a school musical as experienced by both the participants and three student informants. Additionally, thirty 5 th -grade students—15 participants and 15 non-participants—were administered three pretests and posttests: (1) Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale (2nd ed.), (2) Music Achievement Test 1 (MAT 1) , and (3) Music Achievement Test 2 (MAT 2). Pretest/posttest scores provided quantitative information concerning improvement in self-concept and music achievement. The combination of qualitative and quantitative data resulted in a case study of participants’ real-life experiences with a school musical.
Qualitatively, three categories of understanding of interdisciplinary work in the arts emerged: Topical Integration, Conceptual Integration, and Higher Order Thinking. Improvement in self-concept was demonstrated for each of the six domains of the PH-2. Qualitative analysis also revealed evidence of three categories of music achievement: Musical Notation and Symbols, Concept Development, and Assessment of Performance.
Results of a Wilcoxon Signed-Rank Test showed a significant decline ( p < .05) for the PH-2 domain of Intellectual and School Status for participants. Contrary to qualitative findings, participants’ pretest-to-posttest scores remained steady for the domains of Behavioral Adjustment and Happiness and Satisfaction, and decreased slightly for Freedom from Anxiety, Popularity, and Total Score. Non-participants displayed no significant differences in pretest-to-posttest median scores. There were no significant differences in pretest-to-posttest median scores for both groups for all parts of MAT 1 (Pitch, Interval, Meter) and MAT 2 (Major-Minor, Tonal Center, Auditory-Visual). Qualitative findings supported quantitative results with the exception of pitch, in which qualitative improvement was evidenced.