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The effects of sensitivity to criticism on motivation and performance in music students

  • Gordon D. Atlas (a1), Terry Taggart (a1) and Debra J. Goodell (a1)


Music education inherently relies on a process of providing and receiving critical feedback. Students who are very sensitive to criticism, however, may present a unique challenge for the music educator. This study investigated the ways in which sensitivity to criticism affects the educational experience of music students. Nineteen students were assessed for sensitivity to criticism, self-reported motivation, and perceived quality of performance early and late in the semester. High scores on the Sensitivity to Criticism Scale (Atlas, 1994) were associated with decreases in ratings of importance of the activity and mildly connected with decreases in enjoyment and confidence levels. Highly sensitive students were more hurt by their instructors’ criticisms, felt they improved less in response to criticism, and found it more difficult to communicate with the instructor following criticism. These results suggest that being sensitive to criticism can have an impact on music students’ motivation and performance – and that instructors should be particularly careful in considering the effects that critical feedback may have on highly sensitive students.



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