Date of Graduation

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


Learning & Instruction EdD

First Advisor

Mathew Mitchell

Second Advisor

Robert Burns

Third Advisor

Helen Maniates


Individual differences in interest (how students’ interest differs from one another in response to the same experiences) and intra-individual differences in interest (how each student’s interest changes across different experiences) are theorized to play a part in a complex system of interactions between students, lesson content, and educational context. In this study, 360 students from two suburban high school instrumental programs in Northern California rated an average of 12 classroom tasks and music selections on the dimensions of interest, meaning, involvement, complexity, and comprehension. Expected relationships between interest and the other variables were informed by literature on situational interest in educational motivation (meaning and involvement) and by literature on emotional appraisals of interest (complexity and comprehensibility). Student individual differences variables (enduring interest in music in general, gender, age, experience) were also gathered as part of the study. Analyses explored relationships between students’ interest in tasks and music selections and the other variables.

Findings show students’ perceptions of the tasks and music selections in their music class were highly idiosyncratic, that is, students did not rate each task the same as all other tasks, and students did not agree with each other in their ratings of each task. Though the other variables were closely related to interest in the current study, meaning, involvement, complexity and comprehensibility were also highly idiosyncratic, and the close relationships of these constructs to interest were not explained by student individual differences variables. Data from this study show that meaning can be distinct from interest, and a task can be meaningful but not interesting. The role of involvement is much closer to interest than the other variables in these data, as students’ perceptions of involvement varied closely with interest.

Although involvement, meaning, complexity, and comprehensibility correlate strongly with interest, the implications of these findings for researchers are that common self-report instruments for the measurement of interest might not adequately distinguish between these constructs. For education practitioners, the magnitude of idiosyncrasy present in these data strongly imply that learning experiences are not interesting to everyone at once, even in a population with very high individual-interest in the subject in general.


Music Education