Listening to Music While Doing School Work: A Fine Line

Whether it be welcoming students into class with upbeat tunes, using different songs as part of teaching material, or having music ensembles be a part of the school day, music is widely implemented into the learning environment here at Ipswich High School. Although Ipswich does a much better job compared to other schools, there are still more ways that music can be used in the classroom to benefit students. A great way to begin including music in education is allowing students to listen to their own music while doing individual work.

Music has been shown to improve the work performance of students. According to Nancy Barile, an award winning teacher with a master’s in education, “listening to music leads to positive changes in mood, as well as increased creativity.” Oftentimes when students enter their classrooms, their mind is weighed down by stress. Music can improve their mood, allowing them to forget about the stressors in their lives. 

Jaedan Parker, senior at Ipswich High School, explains: “Music is a form of expression that has helped me through so much in my life.” When Jaedan is doing school work independently, you will likely hear her humming along to the music playing in her headphones. She is a big advocate for listening to music while doing work. Jaedan says “I have actually noticed that if I don’t have something on in the background while doing any work, I tend to get distracted and my work is not as great as it could be.” Strangely enough, there is actually some justification for why that may be the case.

According to ABMS board certified pediatrician, Karen Gill, “ADHD has been linked to lower dopamine levels in the brain.” Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of rewards, motivation, and being productive. Gill explains that listening to music you enjoy can increase dopamine. As a result, focusing on schoolwork may become easier for people who have a harder time paying attention, with the help of music.

Mr. Hughes is a math teacher here at IHS who writes and records songs, plays different musical instruments, and avidly listens to music, in his free time. Every week, Mr. Hughes posts a “suggested listening” on Google Classroom, where he shares some of his favorite songs, especially those that students may not be familiar with. Mr. Hughes describes music as being an “energizer.” He believes that music is great when students are doing individual work on something they have already learned, but can be distracting when a student is learning something new. 

Listening to music while working does not work for everyone, in all situations. As stated by assistant analyst at Resolution Agency, Megan Schumann, “Music affects task performance differently depending on whether a person feels their work is providing them enough stimulation – if a person is more or less prone to boredom.” In other words, whether or not music assists or hinders one’s work really depends on the person and the environment that they’re in.

Additionally, the type of music that a student listens to while working can affect their performance both positively and negatively. Alex Klein, licensed clinical psychologist, explains that your brain can struggle to process musical lyrics and do school work simultaneously, according to the University of Phoenix. More complicated and in your face music can act as a distraction rather than background noise. On the other hand, classical music “can help boost memorization abilities and other cognitive functions.” Some music can inhibit productivity, while other types of music can make people work more efficiently and help them focus; this can also be different from person to person.

Although music can be overstimulating to some students, it can be a very helpful tool for others. Music should be a supported option for students who feel that it helps them work more productively while doing independent school work.