The difference in attributions of success and failure, out-of-class engagement, and predictions of future success of middle school band students in open and closed composition tasks
The purpose of this study was to compare perceptions of success and failure, attributions of success and failure, predictions of future success, and reports of out-of-class engagement in composition among middle school band students composing in open task conditions (n = 32) and closed task conditions (n = 31). Two intact band classes at the same middle school were randomly assigned to treatment groups. Both treatment groups composed music once a week for eight weeks during their regular band time. In Treatment A (n = 32), the open task group, students were told to compose music however they wished. In Treatment B (n = 31), the closed task group, students were given specific, structured composition assignments to complete each week. At the end of each session, students were asked to complete a Composing Diary in which they reported what they did each week. Their responses were coded for evidence of perceptions of success and failure as well as out-of-class engagement in composing. At the end of eight weeks, students were given three additional measures: the Music Attributions Survey to measure attributions of success and failure on 11 different subscales; the Future Success survey to measure students' predictions of future success; and the Out-of-Class Engagement Letter to measure students' engagement with composition outside of the classroom. Results indicated that students in the open task group and students in the closed task group behaved similarly. There were no significant differences between treatment groups in terms of perceptions of success or failure as composers, predictions of future success composing music, and reports of out-of-class engagement in composition. Students who felt they failed at composing made similar attributions for their failure in both treatment groups. Students who felt they succeeded also made similar attributions for their success in both treatment groups, with one exception. Successful students in the closed task group rated Peer Influence significantly higher than the successful students in the open task group. The findings of this study suggest that understanding individual student's attributions and offering a variety of composing tasks as part of music curricula may help educators meet students' needs.