Grant holder
Angela Voyajolu, University of Roehampton
Project status

Exploring the trajectory of musical development in the early years using the Sounds of Intent Framework

Research exploring early childhood musical development as it relates to the Sounds of Intent Early Years Framework.

Research aims

- To investigate the validity and relevance of the Sounds of Intent Early Years (SoI-EY) Framework by following individual children’s development over time within the context of their natural environments.

- To explore factors pertaining to the child’s environment (including interpersonal relationships with key adults and peers, activities and contextual surroundings) that may most effectively promote musical engagement and development in the early years.

- To explore whether (and if so, to what extent) children’s musical development, as assessed using SoI-EY framework, is age-related.

Design and methodology

The study maintained a mixed-methods approach, in which the musical development of a larger group of children was explored, followed by a subsample of case studies. The review of literature included an exploration of the relationship of the SoI-EY framework and the project to Froebelian theory and related literature.

Data collection included observations gathered of children from three early years settings in London. Seventeen parents also provided observations of their children from home. A total of 950 video observations, ranging in length from 30 seconds to five minutes, were collected. Questionnaires were created and distributed to parents in order to gather information on all children’s musical activity at home. A total of 29 questionnaires were completed. Semi-structured retrospective interviews took place with four case-study families to expand on the children’s musical experiences at home.

Observational data was reviewed as it was gathered. All video clips were coded according to the SoI-EY framework, surrounding environment and social context. Questionnaires were analysed using descriptive statistics. Interviews were analysed through thematic analysis. Quantitative analysis was undertaken to look at broad patterns across all the data. Following this, the musical development of three children was explored through longitudinal case studies, with comparisons made in relation to the results of the full data set.

Key findings

1) The SoI-EY framework is an effective model from which to capture children’s emerging musical development in the diversity of their naturally occurring environments. Results suggest that musical development is complex and fuzzy; the emergence of musical engagement in subsequent SoI-EY levels occurs as continuation of development in prior levels continue.

2) The implied relationship between a child’s age and predominant SoI-EY level of musical development represents a non-linear growth curve, including a stage of acceleration followed by deceleration, leading to an eventual plateau; individual differences in musical development are seen among children.

3) Children demonstrate engagement at more complex SoI-EY levels of musical development when observed: at home versus in early years settings, with others (regardless of setting observed), and during singing activity versus instrumental play (again regardless of setting observed).

4) Musical activity which may support and promote children’s musical engagement and development is grounded in social context and includes characteristics of playfulness, multimodality, and a balance of choice and repetition. Shared musical culture between parents and children was also observed to support musical engagement at home.

Angela Voyajolu presented her research during Froebel Trust Conference held in March 2021 (Mapping Emerging Musicality, exploring musical development in the early years - Starts in video at 00:39:00)

Research documents

Final Report Exploring the trajectory of musical development in the early years using the Sounds of Intent Framework Voyajolou PhD 2020