Teaching/learning philosophies - Do they matter?

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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu May 08, 2008 8:01 am

We have said many times on the site that the best teachers will tailor their teaching to the strengths, weaknesses and interests of the individual student. They will choose, combine or invent materials and approaches that work best for that student. However, most teachers can be said to have some basic philosophies behind their teaching, putting aside the issue of piano methods, per se.

For example, some teachers believe that ear training and playing by ear are preferable to an emphasis on sight-reading music. Since some students play well by ear and may have interests in improvisation (jazz), this might make sense for those students. Other teachers believe that constantly challenging the student with progressively more difficult material and concepts is the best approach, while others concentrate more on making lessons "fun". Which is "right"? I have heard many times from teachers who use the "Suzuki method" that Suzuki is as much a philosophy as a teaching approach. What is it about that method's, or any other's, philosophy that is unique in value for students?

I not so much interested in piano "methods" here, though we can certainly discuss the philosophies behind the methods without a detailed examination of them. Rather, I think it would be valuable to talk about the philosophical differences in approach that might make a difference in learning, and in whether students and parents should care about them. This is a "big" question which could go off in a lot of directions, but one to which many people should be able to contribute. :cool:




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Postby 112-1182392787 » Thu May 08, 2008 8:59 am

Well, I think the first thing is to know what the student's goals are. The teacher should know what needs to be done in order to meet those goals. A student wishing to learn jazz will need a different set of skills than one who wishes to be able to interpret difficult classical music at a professional level. The teacher should know what those skills are, and what a student has to do in order to reach them.

Secondly, those things can be worked on in different degrees of depth. The student has to be willing to work at that level, and if not, a different level would be chosen. that's probably in part a judgement call.

You have mentioned strengths and weaknesses: There are learning styles - some students might process information visually, others audially or tactily. Some may be global or linear learners. Those things can be balanced out or exploited. The choice of teaching material might be determiend by the student's attributes plus the former.

A "method" is a didactic tool in which the learning material has already been organized. A system such as Suzuki is a complete system (or can be). Such a packaged system may have strengths and weaknesses. The teacher might want to balance these out. Suzuki, for example, is known for a weakness in reading skills. In fact, Suzuki did not want his philosophy to be used as a method. A teacher who knows about the reading weaknesses may choose to use Suzuki but bring in other activities and lessons to strengthen reading skills as well.

A student might be in a particular situation: a school program emphasizing the arts making particular demands, registered in RCM or similar and taking part in the exams, preparing for music studies at conservatory which will have prerequisites, already a performer in some situation. These would also influence what should be taught, what goals are kept in mind.

I guess it's a question of juggling all these things and coming up with something of "best fit". Not an easy thing.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu May 08, 2008 11:30 am

pianissimo wrote:A "method" is a didactic tool in which the learning material has already been organized. A system such as Suzuki is a complete system (or can be). Such a packaged system may have strengths and weaknesses. The teacher might want to balance these out. Suzuki, for example, is known for a weakness in reading skills. In fact, Suzuki did not want his philosophy to be used as a method. A teacher who knows about the reading weaknesses may choose to use Suzuki but bring in other activities and lessons to strengthen reading skills as well.


I guess it's a question of juggling all these things and coming up with something of "best fit". Not an easy thing.

I'm not sure that I understand what you're saying when you point out the differences between a "method" and a "system". It seems to me that all methods embody, to at least a certain degree, a certain philosophy of teaching.

As for "Suzuki, for example, is known for a weakness in reading skills. In fact, Suzuki did not want his philosophy to be used as a method[.]," many Suzuki method teachers will probably disagree in various ways. Please send all hate and flame mail to pianissimo. :D

Been there! :D
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Postby 112-1182392787 » Thu May 08, 2008 5:17 pm

I was trying to give a comprehensive overview, rather than bogging into details, sketching out the ideas as a whole. However, when discussing things it is important to define them in order to make sure that everyone understands the same thing.

What I was trying to do is sketch out each of the variables that may be involved in teaching decisions, since that was asked for. I tried to think of as many as possible. Perhaps I should list them to make them more visible since I did not name them as such.

When it came to method and system, I was not trying to differentiate between the two. I was looking at a certain category of variable. Some teachers have in their head what and how they want to teach and will not follow a program as such, and will also select from a variety of material. Others, however, will use something that is already organized, and the "method" and "system" fall within this "organized" area. We were looking at philosophies, and I was seeing how a philosophy might be dealing with an organized thing.

Perhaps someone can help me out with the word "method" as used in piano. When I first came to piano forums, somebody would ask "What method do you use?" and somebody else would answer by giving the name of a book (series). So I understand "method" to mean a book or series with a given name which probably organizes things to be learned in a certain manner. Is that what "methods" are?

I have not written anything controversial about Suzuki. His not wanting it to be considered a method constitute his own words quoted in a Suzuki book. In both violin and piano forums the debate rages whether Suzuki students are handicapped with poor reading skills, and the defence is always that a good Suzuki teacher will not allow that to happen.

However, that is not what my post was about. The question was whether a teacher would adjust his teaching according to variables and governed by his philosophies. The idea in "method/system" is that a method or system would tend to have strengths or weaknesses just like an individual student will have strenghts and weaknesses or his situation may call for certain adjustments.

If, theoretically, Suzuki is strong in ear training and technique but weak in reading, then a teacher would work to balance that out. If, on the other hand, a traditional reading-based approach is weak in spontaneity or playing by ear, a teacher would work to balance that out.

I was exploring concepts and the details have just been examples to flesh out the concept.

Possible variables I saw before were:
- student's strengths and weaknesses
- student's primary senses of learning (tactile, ear, visual)
- depth at which student is willing to work
- student's goals
- situation (aiming for conservatory, pleasure, jazz, already performing, already plays another instrument, parental goals)
- nature of organized system being used vs. elements in teacher's philosophies
- nature of student's instrument (digital, acoustic - what can be done with this instrument?)

There may be others or these may not be valid, but maybe it will get the ball rolling.
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Postby 112-1182392787 » Thu May 08, 2008 5:24 pm

It seems to me that all methods embody, to at least a certain degree, a certain philosophy of teaching.

If "method" means an organized series (book), then yes, it does embody a philosophy of teaching. In fact, it embodies a teaching "method".

A teacher, however, may have his own philosophy of teaching, and he may have a complete system in his head. It may not be identical to the one in the method book. He may still wish to use a method book because it is easier to use than to create a curriculum outline for every single student. The method book may be his base. However, there may be elements of it that he does not agree with, or it may be missing something this teacher finds important. So he might adjust, flesh out by adding, decide to use it a certain way.

We have two philosophies: that of the compilers of the book, and that of the teacher. In most cases they probably coincide.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu May 08, 2008 6:01 pm

pianissimo wrote:A teacher, however, may have his own philosophy of teaching, and he may have a complete system in his head. It may not be identical to the one in the method book. He may still wish to use a method book because it is easier to use than to create a curriculum outline for every single student. The method book may be his base. However, there may be elements of it that he does not agree with, or it may be missing something this teacher finds important. So he might adjust, flesh out by adding, decide to use it a certain way.

We have two philosophies: that of the compilers of the book, and that of the teacher. In most cases they probably coincide.

As I understand what you're saying, it sounds as if you're in agreement with the position that good teachers will tailor teaching using parts of one or more methods, supplemented from their own knowledge, as I said earlier. However, even though those teachers might use parts of different methods with different students, most teachers I know use the parts that are consistent with what they feel to be important and efficacious (i.e. consistent with their teaching philosophy). I tried to indicate in my initial post that teaching philosophy is not identical to "method", even though a method might be mostly or fully consistent with a teaching philosophy.

What I'm trying to get at in this thread is the role of teaching philosophy in lessons. For example, a teacher who believes strongly in sight-reading ability probably will choose to use certain methods and not use others. A teacher who teaches jazz piano probably will have a different underlying philosophy, i.e. one more attuned to ear training and improvisation, as I said earlier. A teacher who teaches only advanced students will likely have a different approach and different values than one who teaches only young children. However, I would submit that, while you would probably get somewhat different answers, all these teachers could, and probably would, tell you what they think is most important about piano learning.

I think students might be well-advised to ask a prospective teacher what she feels is most important in giving and receiving lessons. If the teacher gives an honest and forthright answer, the student will have a pretty good idea of what ideas are foundational for the teacher and her lessons. If the teacher can't answer that question meaningfully, the student would be well-advised to exercise caution.
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Postby 112-1182392787 » Thu May 08, 2008 7:16 pm

I think students might be well-advised to ask a prospective teacher what she feels is most important in giving and receiving lessons

Not only will that give a student an idea of what philosophies this teacher holds; it will give a student an idea THAT the teacher holds a philosophy. It is all too easy to have learned to play the piano, fall into teaching, without ever having thought through one's approach or goals.
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Postby celia » Fri May 09, 2008 12:45 am

It was interesting for me to come across this discussion as I am a pianist and pre-school teacher about to start combining these skills in my new job piano teaching at a school (starting Monday!)
Although I have not had a practical chance yet to develop my piano teaching philosophy I have been giving it lots of thought as i prepare to start this job.
During my research on the internet I came upon the RSM courses in piano teaching and study contents. This reassured me as I was happy to see that these principles were totally similar to what I did in my teacher training.
As a new teacher of young children I will be looking primarily for them to establish a good relationship with me. (Particularly as I had negative experiences with several piano teachers as a child nearly causing me to quit on several occasions). I will chat to the children about what they enjoy and feel they are good at on the piano, and what sort of things they want to learn.
I will try to be calm, positive and enthusiastic throughout each lesson. My role model (in my memory although we have sadly lost touch) will be my favourite piano teacher who I kept managing to go back to for lessons after I quit lessons with the 3 "nasty" teachers I also had along the way. The lovely one taught me from age 6 to 18!
I will try to set work that the children want to do. If they do not want to do it I will try to compromise by listening to what they do want and maybe meeting them somewhere in the middle!
I will give lots of praise and encouragement. Rather than getting stressed about them not practising I will try to give them pieces they will want to and enjoy learning to play. I will praise first and present any "criticism" by explaining what they need to do to improve rather than "what they have got "wrong"
These factors sum up my general teaching philosophy:
(1) Set goals which are challenging but achievable.
(2) If a child is failing to achieve or is bored or frustrated I look at what I could be doing better as a teacher.
Finally I will remain aware of the things I believe my own teacher could have improved upon which were mainly improving my sight-reading. i will be using the Music Tree series because it includes assignments on composing, improvisation playing and ensemble playing which were things I did not do much as a child.
I would appreciate any comments on what i have said. I am looking forward to starting but I am a bit nervous, I desperately want to be a good piano teacher!! Thanks for reading all that, Celia.
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Postby Tranquillo » Fri May 09, 2008 6:20 am

What I'm trying to get at in this thread is the role of teaching philosophy in lessons. For example, a teacher who believes strongly in sight-reading ability probably will choose to use certain methods and not use others. A teacher who teaches jazz piano probably will have a different underlying philosophy, i.e. one more attuned to ear training and improvisation, as I said earlier. A teacher who teaches only advanced students will likely have a different approach and different values than one who teaches only young children. However, I would submit that, while you would probably get somewhat different answers, all these teachers could, and probably would, tell you what they think is most important about piano learning.

I think students might be well-advised to ask a prospective teacher what she feels is most important in giving and receiving lessons. If the teacher gives an honest and forthright answer, the student will have a pretty good idea of what ideas are foundational for the teacher and her lessons. If the teacher can't answer that question meaningfully, the student would be well-advised to exercise caution.


I cant agree more to this myself. I have been through sevral teachers and now, seeing things from differing perceptions and approaches when I call up perspective teachers I dont think its enough to ask : Do you teach x, y, z ... I often ask for the opinouns and perceptions on the part of the teacher on what they teach. What they see as important and of value, sometimes a teacher may be trained in a certain area or have an understanding in a particular area however they do not agree to that area as really important or fundamental.

For example: The AMEB system of going up the grades, I saw to be very limited and rigid. At first I had initially believed in progressing through the grades and gaining a better profieciency ... Later I disagreed and reackoned that the system of grading is rigid and narrow, there is so much that it does teach but there is so much that it doesnt teach. Because of my perceptions I called up perspective teachers, not simply asking: do you teach for exams? I asked: what are your perceptions on the examining system? Through this I was able to choose a teacher that suited me.

I believe it is beneficial for a teacher to have philosphy, through that a framework and purpose is provided, there is clarity in the goals and criteria in the studio.

I think for a teacher, (I am speaking from a perspective of a student) ... the teacher has really got to think what they are making out of the student? ... What are the students goals, and will they be able to cater to their goals? Its not just a matter of that but there are occasions were teachers teacher according to a way that suits their students but feel "bored" with what they are teaching, although they have the musical skill and training they do not have the enthusiasm and real expertise in that area to teach according to the student's likes. Also, some teachers like said earlier put more stress in differing areas then others. One of the teachers I went through put a big emphasis in sightreading and technique, another I had encouraged better listening it varies from teacher to teacher ... even so, that is another area that should be discussed.

My goals and perceptions have changed over the years and that is when I seek out new teachers if they are not wishing to change the way they teach. Through conversing a prospective teachers philosophies and perceptions I am able to get an understanding to what areas they stress to be important and through that pick a teacher that is suited to me.

I will try to be calm, positive and enthusiastic throughout each lesson. My role model (in my memory although we have sadly lost touch) will be my favourite piano teacher who I kept managing to go back to for lessons after I quit lessons with the 3 "nasty" teachers I also had along the way. The lovely one taught me from age 6 to 18!


I think this sounds excellent, you have been real specific here in your ideology and certainly portrayed your confident attitude to how piano lessons are to be looked upon, as enjoyable and being a benovelent teacher, you have shown your thoughts through experience what drove you away from piano lessons.


I will try to set work that the children want to do. If they do not want to do it I will try to compromise by listening to what they do want and maybe meeting them somewhere in the middle!


This shows flexibility, as a student I like to see this in a teacher, this is because I believe everyone is there own individual and a point of "adaptation" should be excercised from he part of a teacher, I have been through teachers that only teach a certian way and are very "stuck in their ways", teaching a way for so long and not allowing their students tastes and likes to get in.

These factors sum up my general teaching philosophy:
(1) Set goals which are challenging but achievable.
(2) If a child is failing to achieve or is bored or frustrated I look at what I could be doing better as a teacher.


My questions return, who is setting the goals? The student or the teacher or both? If a student is bored or fustrated its great to venture into your own teaching and seewhat you coud be doing to better your teaching but having said that would you question if the student had the initial motivation and interest in the piano in the first place? These are things to consider.

Finally I will remain aware of the things I believe my own teacher could have improved upon which were mainly improving my sight-reading. i will be using the Music Tree series because it includes assignments on composing, improvisation playing and ensemble playing which were things I did not do much as a child.


I love reading this! I can recall my music education in particullar piano and I would say that I feel the same. There is so much in the musical world, nobody would be an expert in everything however, being exposed and being taught in different skill stimulates interest in different areas of music.

I look forward to your future posts Celia when you have begun teaching (I know its only a few days away!) ... all the best!
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Fri May 09, 2008 8:50 am

celia wrote:These factors sum up my general teaching philosophy:
(1) Set goals which are challenging but achievable.
(2) If a child is failing to achieve or is bored or frustrated I look at what I could be doing better as a teacher.
Finally I will remain aware of the things I believe my own teacher could have improved upon which were mainly improving my sight-reading. i will be using the Music Tree series because it includes assignments on composing, improvisation playing and ensemble playing which were things I did not do much as a child.
I would appreciate any comments on what i have said. I am looking forward to starting but I am a bit nervous, I desperately want to be a good piano teacher!! Thanks for reading all that, Celia.

It seems you've made a very good start, in that you already have some good ideas about what things you think are important in teaching and learning. I think most teachers have strong ideas, often derived from the way they were trained, about what constitutes good piano teaching, but would not necessarily think of the sum of those ideas as a "philosophy of teaching". Yet, one could argue that the teaching philosophy, even if the teacher hasn't articulated it, even to themselves, determines more about their teaching than the method or their knowledge of piano, per se, since the philosophy determines pretty much everything else they do.

I have looked at literally thousands of piano teacher web sites. I used to maintain a page of piano teacher site links on PEP, and looked at them before linking them. Many of the sites had statements of philosophy, but some of the statements were of the "touchy-feely" sort ("I believe in bringing the joy of music to everyone"), rather than statements of what the foundations of their way of thinking about lessons were. Perhaps, those teachers who haven't thought directly about what principles and goals they base lessons on should do so and state them directly. I can't think of a better way to know what a teacher values, and, by extension, the way she teaches. :cool:
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Postby 112-1182392787 » Fri May 09, 2008 5:49 pm

As a student, I find what I am reading here encouraging.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Fri May 09, 2008 6:43 pm

pianissimo wrote:
I think students might be well-advised to ask a prospective teacher what she feels is most important in giving and receiving lessons

Not only will that give a student an idea of what philosophies this teacher holds; it will give a student an idea THAT the teacher holds a philosophy. It is all too easy to have learned to play the piano, fall into teaching, without ever having thought through one's approach or goals.

Yes, absolutely! The teacher may struggle a bit if you ask him/her for their "teaching philosophy", since some teachers may not think of their foundational principles as a "Teaching Philosophy". But, I think you would get solid answers from most teachers if you asked them what they thought was most important about the things one can and should learn in lessons.
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Postby Stretto » Sat May 10, 2008 9:54 am

Actually having a teaching philosophy is the first step. I believe I have been too "wishy-washy" over the years not having a strong teaching philosophy due to wavering between which philosophy is best. Not having a solid teaching philosophy has probably in the end not been good for my students.

For example, the philosophy "tailor lessons to the individual", let students have a say in what they play, make lessons fun, make music motiviational so students will want to play and practice, etc. When I follow this line of philosophy it tends to make me cater too much toward the student, trying to bend over backwards to "please" the student. Letting students choose to learn songs they approve of and decline to learn songs they dissprove of. For example, student saying "I like pop music, I don't like classical". Has the student heard or played enough of either one to make this judgement for themselves? Whenever I have presented pop book after pop book asking the student to try it out and see how they like it, playing some for them and saying, "if the book seems appealing to you, we'll get you your own copy", inevitably the student returns the book to me saying, "I don't know any of the songs in this book". Or "I decided I really don't want to learn this song". Most students, especially the kids haven't heard enough variety of songs or music to know very many songs. This way of thinking as a teacher seems to backfire on me. Students, I think want and expect more guidance and direction from the teacher. Letting students have a lot of "say" in lessons always seems to lead to them not really certain of what they want, declining more songs than they approve of, floundering around on a linear line too long not progressing forward. They all eventually have quit and I think it's because they aren't making any progress this way. OK, well that's sort of my line of thinking on that philosophy.

Then there is the philosophy of me as a teacher having most of the say in what students are to learn with some choices but more limited as my choices would be what's best for the student to learn. This philosophy would include the student trusting the teacher to select and teach music in a way that helps the student progress and learn more. This philosophy involves being more strict in requirements in types of pieces learned, amount of practice, and how the music is taught at the lesson. It may be less "fun and games" but the student could be progressing more and getting better in their playing.
Would the student ultimately be happier because they are getting more guidance and direction with somewhat less decisions they have to make for themselves? Would they quit just as readily or quit sooner than the bunch under the first teaching philosophy I talked about or would they stay longer because they feel more secure with somewhat stricter guidance? Would they be less happy with the music because it's not as close to what they had in mind?

I feel that I waver back and forth between these two philosophiles wondering where the balance is. I've leaned more toward the "let the student have more say" philosophy and feel I would be better off having a stricter approach with more "whether you like it or not" type requirements. I think the student would be happier in the long run having more guidance from the teacher in what they learn and types of songs they learn.

I keep having student quit after about 3 years of playing, students losing motivation, not making progress, not practicing much while I keep on my quest of "pleasing" the student, making lessons fun, etc. - students seem to become unhappier and unhappier. I feel if they are going to quit anyway, I might as well have stricter requirements and be more "in charge" of what they learn, allowing them some choice but those choices being "in addition" to my requirements. If they quit because they weren't learning the music they had in mind . . . They quit anyway being allowed to pick the majority of the music themselves so why not a stricter approach.
???

I've always kept a handful of students at any given time for over 10 years. Over this spring I have had 4 students. 2 are quitting after 3 years. They are getting to an age where other activities seem more interesting than piano. They liked piano but they lost motivation and weren't practicing much even though they were being allowed to choose almost all of their music. One student was one any teacher would have considered the "ideal" student and could have practically taught herself. The other adult students I have just started a couple of months ago are not showing up 50 % of the time. I think they probably won't continue so now I'm down to 0 students. This is pretty typical of what's happened to me over the years with students quitting, loosing motivation, no practicing, some not committed to coming to lessons (although on this, I've still been payed because of my policy but having payed for a lesson doesn't seem to motivate people to come to or make-up for a lesson missed). Does this mean that I am not helping students be motivated enough? I probably will take a break from teaching for the summer. I am at a point I really need to re-group and change my teaching philosophy.




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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Sat May 10, 2008 11:01 am

Stretto wrote:Actually having a teaching philosophy is the first step. I believe I have been too "wishy-washy" over the years not having a strong teaching philosophy due to wavering between which philosophy is best. Not having a solid teaching philosophy has probably in the end not been good for my students.

For example, the philosophy "tailor lessons to the individual", let students have a say in what they play, make lessons fun, make music motiviational so students will want to play and practice, etc. When I follow this line of philosophy it tends to make me cater too much toward the student, trying to bend over backwards to "please" the student.


Would the student ultimately be happier because they are getting more guidance and direction with somewhat less decisions they have to make for themselves?

I feel that I waver back and forth between these two philosophiles wondering where the balance is. I've leaned more toward the "let the student have more say" philosophy and feel I would be better off having a stricter approach with more "whether you like it or not" type requirements. I think the student would be happier in the long run having more guidance from the teacher in what they learn and types of songs they learn.


I've always kept a handful of students at any given time for over 10 years. Over this spring I have had 4 students. 2 are quitting after 3 years. They are getting to an age where other activities seem more interesting than piano. They liked piano but they lost motivation and weren't practicing much even though they were being allowed to choose almost all of their music. Does this mean that I am not helping students be motivated enough? I probably will take a break from teaching for the summer. I am at a point I really need to re-group and change my teaching philosophy.

Thanks, Stretto for sharing your thoughts on teaching philosophy with us. There is so much about your post that is thought-provoking that it's hard to know what to start with. So, I will make a few comments and let others with different insights make theirs.

I don't really see the "tailor lessons to the individual" matter so much as an issue of philosophy, as approach. Good teachers tailor lessons to the individual whether they believe that the most important aspects of piano lessons are learning to sight-read, or playing by ear, or just "having fun" (to name a few aspects of possible philosophies that I've already mentioned). If you believe that sight-reading is important, you'll choose books and approaches that strengthen sight-reading. Just because you decide to use different books and approaches with different students, precisely because you know what you're doing, doesn't mean that you've changed your view that sight-reading is important, for example.

One of the most important aspects of human nature is that most people are "followers" most of the time. Only a few are "natural leaders". Those who are followers want guidance and leadership most of the time, even if they occasionally chafe against the restrictions that being led sometimes imposes. I think you would find, if you asked students, that they want you to lead them in their piano lessons, because you know a lot more about piano than they do. As they learn more, the few leaders in the group will assume more and more independence; the others will continue to look to you. You can lead without being tyrannical as a teacher. Leading by example is one good way of doing it. However you choose to lead, above all, you will need self-confidence, in yourself and in your teaching.

As I've discussed at some length in my new article, Acquiring and Using Student Feedback, student turnover is a fact of life in all studios that I've known about. Loss of motivation is, too. You might want to take a look at that article for some suggestions of how you might get student feedback on the reasons for their loss of motivation and/or departure from the studio. You might be surprised at what they say, in that you might well find that these issues are more about things going on in their lives than about your teaching.

Your comment about changing the teaching philosophy brings to mind something I've been meaning to say, but had forgotten. Concentrate on thinking about what you believe are the most important aspects of giving and taking lessons, then think about what approaches you might use to reinforce those aspects. Business consultants would call this "devising a mission statement." Once you have the basic philosophy in place by knowing what you think is most important, devising approaches that work may be much easier, because you will have developed the self-confidence that knowing where you're going gives. I would advise any teacher who hasn't taken the time to think about what really counts in lessons to do so. Each teacher's answers may be a little different, but they will be right for that teacher.




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Postby Tranquillo » Sat May 10, 2008 8:00 pm

Stretto wrote:Actually having a teaching philosophy is the first step. I believe I have been too "wishy-washy" over the years not having a strong teaching philosophy due to wavering between which philosophy is best. Not having a solid teaching philosophy has probably in the end not been good for my students.

For example, the philosophy "tailor lessons to the individual", let students have a say in what they play, make lessons fun, make music motiviational so students will want to play and practice, etc. When I follow this line of philosophy it tends to make me cater too much toward the student, trying to bend over backwards to "please" the student. Letting students choose to learn songs they approve of and decline to learn songs they dissprove of. For example, student saying "I like pop music, I don't like classical". Has the student heard or played enough of either one to make this judgement for themselves? Whenever I have presented pop book after pop book asking the student to try it out and see how they like it, playing some for them and saying, "if the book seems appealing to you, we'll get you your own copy", inevitably the student returns the book to me saying, "I don't know any of the songs in this book". Or "I decided I really don't want to learn this song". Most students, especially the kids haven't heard enough variety of songs or music to know very many songs. This way of thinking as a teacher seems to backfire on me. Students, I think want and expect more guidance and direction from the teacher. Letting students have a lot of "say" in lessons always seems to lead to them not really certain of what they want, declining more songs than they approve of, floundering around on a linear line too long not progressing forward. They all eventually have quit and I think it's because they aren't making any progress this way. OK, well that's sort of my line of thinking on that philosophy.

Then there is the philosophy of me as a teacher having most of the say in what students are to learn with some choices but more limited as my choices would be what's best for the student to learn. This philosophy would include the student trusting the teacher to select and teach music in a way that helps the student progress and learn more. This philosophy involves being more strict in requirements in types of pieces learned, amount of practice, and how the music is taught at the lesson. It may be less "fun and games" but the student could be progressing more and getting better in their playing.
Would the student ultimately be happier because they are getting more guidance and direction with somewhat less decisions they have to make for themselves? Would they quit just as readily or quit sooner than the bunch under the first teaching philosophy I talked about or would they stay longer because they feel more secure with somewhat stricter guidance? Would they be less happy with the music because it's not as close to what they had in mind?

I feel that I waver back and forth between these two philosophiles wondering where the balance is. I've leaned more toward the "let the student have more say" philosophy and feel I would be better off having a stricter approach with more "whether you like it or not" type requirements. I think the student would be happier in the long run having more guidance from the teacher in what they learn and types of songs they learn.

I keep having student quit after about 3 years of playing, students losing motivation, not making progress, not practicing much while I keep on my quest of "pleasing" the student, making lessons fun, etc. - students seem to become unhappier and unhappier. I feel if they are going to quit anyway, I might as well have stricter requirements and be more "in charge" of what they learn, allowing them some choice but those choices being "in addition" to my requirements. If they quit because they weren't learning the music they had in mind . . . They quit anyway being allowed to pick the majority of the music themselves so why not a stricter approach.
???

I've always kept a handful of students at any given time for over 10 years. Over this spring I have had 4 students. 2 are quitting after 3 years. They are getting to an age where other activities seem more interesting than piano. They liked piano but they lost motivation and weren't practicing much even though they were being allowed to choose almost all of their music. One student was one any teacher would have considered the "ideal" student and could have practically taught herself. The other adult students I have just started a couple of months ago are not showing up 50 % of the time. I think they probably won't continue so now I'm down to 0 students. This is pretty typical of what's happened to me over the years with students quitting, loosing motivation, no practicing, some not committed to coming to lessons (although on this, I've still been payed because of my policy but having payed for a lesson doesn't seem to motivate people to come to or make-up for a lesson missed). Does this mean that I am not helping students be motivated enough? I probably will take a break from teaching for the summer. I am at a point I really need to re-group and change my teaching philosophy.

Stretto, some of your comments are much the same as my new piano teacher's comments. I explained to him that I was with another teacher and looked to change and didnt know how to say it to my old teacher. He said that changing is very normal in a part of a students education course, sometimes you get those keen students that put in 2 hours of practice a week and then after 6 months lose their interest. Other times, you see students for 5 or 6 years and then they leave to see another teacher or quit. This is completly normal and its a proffession that is constantly changing.

Having said that, what you say about being too wishy washy and tailoring lessons does make me think. Dr. Ziegler states that many people are "followers" rather than "natrual leaders". This does make sense and since you are the teacher you would be the one with greater knowledge to impart to your students. In saying that, the balance with how much a say both members has is another area that should be considered. I think students should be entitled to their own opinouns and be respected for their opinouns. However, as you have said you can get the student saying "I like pop music, I dont like classical" ... I get this all the time from the teenagers in my school, after listening to me sing something classical or listening to classical. Normally I would ask "Why?" ... often the answers vary and from there I can get a better sensitivty to their likes reasons behind them. Often the case is that they havent listened to enough classical to make a proper judgement. So you are right in that area, do you ask the student why they dont like classical? Even so, the term classical doesnt have a proper definition, many people call classical instrumental music. I heard one girl say refer to an orchestra when there was really a string quartet ... often the case is that there are misunderstandings to the term classical.

Whenever I have presented pop book after pop book asking the student to try it out and see how they like it, playing some for them and saying, "if the book seems appealing to you, we'll get you your own copy", inevitably the student returns the book to me saying, "I don't know any of the songs in this book". Or "I decided I really don't want to learn this song". Most students, especially the kids haven't heard enough variety of songs or music to know very many songs.


See I think the problem with the student here is that they want to play what they have heard and are familar with. I dont see the harm in asking why ... and if they say that they dont know any of the songs maybe you can ask "how can you not like a song that you havent played or listened to? You havent givern it a chance ... " Often I would say, its ok to "hate" something but you have to tell me why, and I would like a good reason not "because its dumb"...

I might add an experience of mine ... I went through a time where I wanted to play pop ... I saw a teacher and brought in pop books and she gave me her approval. The reason why I left her was I found she didnt know much about pop herself, I saw here to be inadequate to teach or impart to me anything about pop, I knew how to read music and count I dont need her help. My point is ... as a teacher its good to have an awareness and show that you have an understanding of pop music. It shows you to know what you are talking about.

Even so, going back to the area of "classical" ... I think the reason why many people dont really enjoy the classical music is due to the fact that there is not enough taught in the area of appeciation, students learn to play but do they even listen to classical in their spare time? ... A girl in my school admits to playing classical but she'd never listen to classical.

Those are just some of my ideas. As a student myself, I want to take lessons to be a better musicain ... not just a singer or pianist, I dont just want to take lessons to play certain tunes,I want to gain skills and get a better knowledge and understanding of music in general and I dont want to get to a certian level then stop, I believe there is so much to learn in music its never ending. That is my philosophy "learn for life" ... I believe that music, or anything in life that is pursued should be enjoyable and fufilling, I believe in being open minded and broad, hence being exposed to as much as possible. That is my philosophy on music education ... :)
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