PhD Oral Exam - Wynnpaul Varela, Education
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
This thesis examined age-related differences in the self-regulation of Canadian music learners based on extensive secondary analyses of survey data collected in 2014. Respondents involved 3,920 music students from across Canada, with stated ages of 7 to 78 years old. First, MANOVA analyses were conducted to determine the presence of age-related differences in musical self-regulation, with dependent variables comprising 18 factors previously derived from responses to the survey’s closed-ended questions. Next, to better understand how the seven age groups differed, Discriminant Function Analyses (DFA) were performed, yielding weighted linear combinations of those factors which might best predict age groups. Finally, to shed further light on age-related differences, 1,184 responses to the survey’s open-ended question were thematically coded. Findings from the quantitative data confirmed hypothesised age-related differences, with improvements across age groups for planning strategies, persistence in practising, intrinsic motivation to learn music and to practise, reflecting on progress, and motivation to practise. However, physical and mental reactions to performance, the perception of aural abilities, and the use of aural skills were found to deteriorate across age groups. The DFA yielded two functions accounting for 95% of the variance between age groups, but with moderate-to-weak effect sizes. The first of these held greater explanatory power and revealed that what best predicted membership in younger age groups was a combination of extrinsic motivation to practise, enjoying performing for others, a strong perception of aural skills, and a low tendency to reflect on practice strategies. The second function suggested that while extrinsic motivation continued to be one of the predictive factors, lack of enjoyment of music learning, poor motivation to practise well, and an avoidance of technical work and exam skills may also be critical. However, the model’s overall classification rate (44.8%) suggested both functions should be interpreted with caution. Findings from the qualitative data further highlighted age-related differences and showed that the most frequently mentioned theme among the open-ended comments was self-regulation. Also notable were music learning, co-regulation, survey-related comments, socio-contextual factors, and comments about the conservatory system. The dissertation closes with a discussion of implications for education and further research.