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Creating an Engaging Learning Environment for Engineers through the Mozart Effect and Problem Based Learning

Author Kay O'Sullivan and Andrew Donnellan
Abstract Background music is ubiquitous in many everyday settings, and research indicates that it impacts on a wide range of activities, from driving to gambling to consumer behaviour. The 'Mozart Effect' (ME) was originally associated with the temporary enhancement of spatial-temporal reasoning abilities after listening to a piece of music by Mozart. While this premise is widely debated, studies have indicated that listening to music can impact on mood and behaviour. Music can influence a student's level of arousal and enjoyment, thus enhancing academic performance, as compared to silence. Conscious of the need to motivate learners, engage all learning styles and develop discipline specific skills as well as transferable 'softer', team, communication and lifelong learning skills the software module in the penultimate year of an honours engineering degree had been revised. A Problem Based Learning (PBL) approach had been adopted as a suitable pedagogical approach emphasising student centred learning. This proved positive (Donnellan; 2008: 41). The idea for this collaborative study grew from papers presented by the authors on PBL and ME at the 2008 ICEP conference. Reflecting on what incremental steps could be made to further enhance the learning experience of the engineering learners the idea of a more effective and interesting use of the learning space was considered. Considering that learning styles can be affected by a student's educational experience (Felder, 1988), the idea was mooted of introducing background music to the laboratory sessions to investigate its impact on students' engagement in the sessions. It was hoped to motivate the learners further by developing an emotionally positive learning environment, and thus progressing more than just the delivery mode. This paper outlines the process, taking into account the learning environment and setting, the educational objectives, the background music used, student feed-back, and reports on preliminary findings.
Keywords Problem Based Learning; Mozart Effect; learning environment; background music.
Published In ICEP Proceedings 2009
Date 2009
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