Academic Skill Learning and the Problem of Complexity: II. Underdeveloped Mental Action, Its Role in Students who Struggle as Their Formal Education Begins, and Evidence from Kodàly Music Training for Opportunity to Address This Problem


Martin F. Gardiner



Longitudinal evidence reviewed here associating Kodàly music training that begins at school entry with significant improvement in academic progress in students who struggle at math or verbal language skill or both is difficult to fully explain by improved attitude, classroom behave or, overlap of information to be learned or demographic differences.  Patel (2008) has proposed overlap in organization of processing by the brain of musical and verbal language that could be involved, but the Kodàly evidence extends to impact on mathematics as well.  I propose here that, more generally, the impacts have to do with how the complex system of our brain addresses the complex variety of skills each of us must develop. At the heart of the problem of many struggling students can be underdeveloped capability for what I term mental action, i.e. for manner of engaged thinking, which becomes increasingly necessary if school learning is to advance. I interpret the music training data I review as illustrating this problem and also showing the potential of an effective path to address it.

Keywords: Kodàly, academic achievement, music education, learning, brain activity