Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Music Education

First Advisor

James R. Austin

Second Advisor

Margaret H. Berg

Third Advisor

Martina Miranda

Fourth Advisor

Allan McMurray

Fifth Advisor

Susan Jurow


The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of two different reciprocal peer-assisted learning (PAL) arrangements on music achievement and learner engagement in the secondary instrumental music classroom. Using a quasi-experimental design, six middle schools in one large urban/suburban school district were purposively chosen based upon the following criteria: grades 6-8, non-selective enrollment, one full-time band director, only one section of 7th-grade band, students begin instrumental music in 6th grade. Student participants (N=261) representing six separate 7th-grade bands were randomly assigned at the school-level to one of two treatment conditions: symmetrical PAL where students of like-ability were paired together and asymmetrical PAL where students of divergent ability were paired together. Over the course of four weeks during twelve, twenty-minute sessions, students worked in pairs taking turns being the 'learner' and the 'teacher' to improve sight-reading ability and music theory knowledge. Students were provided with a variety of structured activities including rhythm-counting worksheets, composition exercises, sight reading etudes, and key signature worksheets. Students were allowed to determine their own rules for interaction, turn taking, and the amount of material to be covered in each session. Additionally, the concepts of interdependence and intersubjectivity (Piaget, 1938; Vygotsky, 1978) were embedded in the activities for each session. Three pre/posttest outcome variables were assessed: sight-reading performance, music theory knowledge, and learner engagement. Sight-reading ability was assessed using SmartMusic © where students individually performed a researcher-constructed etude in-line with state music standards for second-year instrumental music. Music theory knowledge consisted of a researcher-constructed, ten-item written measure asking students to identify various major key signatures. Learner engagement was measured using the learner engagement and disaffection self-report measure developed by Wellborn (1991). Additionally, two individual difference variables were measured: individual socioeconomic status and achievement goal motivation orientation (Elliot & McGregor, 2001). Data were analyzed using hierarchical linear regression to account for data nested at multiple levels and to avoid violations of non-independence. Results indicate that each of the three outcome domains showed significant gains. Moreover, a significant interaction effect was found between socioeconomic status and learner engagement. Implications for teaching and future research are discussed.