Even courses that students enjoy can still be stressful. They may come to class anxious about understanding the course material, performing in upcoming exams, or interacting with their peers, and this year they have the added stress of pandemic conditions. Music can be an enjoyable way to lower their stress level a bit. Many college students love music and many use it to unwind and relax between or after classes. Research on college students has found that “listening to self-selected or classical music, after exposure to a stressor, significantly reduces negative emotional states and physiological arousal” (Labbe, et al., 2007).
The field of music therapy has studied the impact of music on the brain and limbic system (behavioral and emotional responses) and what happens when music and sound are processed. Listening to music often triggers an instant reward, releasing enkephalins and endorphins to change moods, evoke relaxation, and alter pain perception (Ferrer et al., 2014).
Instructors who want to help students reduce their stress level—such as before giving a high stakes exam or teaching difficult content—may want to integrate instrumental music into their lesson. There may also be times when students need to energize themselves, such as when taking notes during lecture or during a long class period. That would be a good time for upbeat, inspirational, or even student-selected music.
Occasions to Use Music During Class
- Play music as students arrive to class to create a calming atmosphere and help students prepare their minds for learning.
- Play instrumental music during transitions and breaks to allow students time to pause and process what they just learned.
- Play music with lyrics and/or a genre relevant to the course topics; for example, using music that promotes racial equality and social justice during the Civil Rights Movement. This will be most effective and thought-provoking at the start of class or during a break.
- Play up-beat music to energize the class; you may want to allow students to take turns sharing music they find energizing, motivating, or inspirational.
Playing Audio in Zoom
If you are sharing your screen in Zoom and you would also like to share your computer’s audio during the screen share, see Zoom instructions for “how to share computer sound during screen share.” For easiest access to start and stop the music, you may want to embed media on your slideshow or play music from an app such as Spotify or Pandora.
There may be times when you are not using screen sharing and only want to share audio. Go to share your screen, as normal, then click the Advanced tab at the top of the window. You'll now see the Music or Computer Sound Only button.
Playing Music in the Classroom
If your laptop is connected to the podium, or you have a music site/app open on the podium computer, you can play directly to the room sound. If you find you need assistance with this, you can submit this form for LSA-Classroom Training.
Playing instrumental and inspirational music in class to reduce stress can be a simple and memorable way to reduce the stress many college students experience. If you’d like to talk over what kind of music might suit your class best, or plan out how and when to play it, you can request a consultation here or email the LSATSLearningTeachingConsultants@umich.edu.
Ferrer, E., Lew, P., Jung, S. M., Janeke, E., Garcia, M., Peng, C., Poon, G., Rathod, V., Beckwith, S., & Tam, C. F. (2014). Playing music to relieve stress in a college classroom environment. College Student Journal, 48(3), 481+. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A387058977/ITOF?u=umuser&sid=ITOF&xid=376a5f5b
Labbé, E., Schmidt, N., Babin, J. et al. Coping with Stress: The Effectiveness of Different Types of Music. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback 32, 163–168 (2007). https://doi-org.proxy.lib.umich.edu/10.1007/s10484-007-9043-9