Augustana Center for Teaching and Learning
To colleagues unfamiliar with the process of teaching instrumental or vocal music lessons, there may seem to be little in common with learning and teaching in the classroom. But like many initial impressions, those misjudgments are allayed upon closer inspection. For example, the most important element in both situations is the necessity to teach problem-solving skills. Sooner than they realize, my cello students will find themselves without a cello teacher. So my job is to make myself expendable; to show them, early on, the strategies they will need to identify, solve and practice any musical challenge they might encounter.
The identification of the problem is usually fairly obvious—out of tune, incorrect rhythm, ugly sound quality. The “Oh Yuck!” phase. Then the questions begin: Where exactly (on the page) is the problem? What is the essence of the problem? What is its cause? How can you apply previous technical or musical skills to solve this new problem? Or do you need to learn a new skill? Once these questions have been answered, various practice techniques are enlisted to train muscle memory, refine aural acuity, and build confidence. As each solution is mastered, another level of difficulty is added—from rhythm to pitch to tempo, articulation, vibrato…. The list goes on until the student gains a new level of technical mastery, musical expression and independence.
Today at his lesson, Robert (a senior computer science major) told me that he applies this process to other areas of his life—writing computer programs, studying, etc. According to him, the quest to solve a musical problem in a variety of ways challenges his creativity and helps keep his approach to practicing (or writing a computer program) fresh and enjoyable. He doesn’t need me any more!
Department of Music
Kwantlen University has a very interesting on-line eJournal entitled Transformative Dialogues: Teaching and Learning Journal. The link below takes you to the proceedings from a Symposium held on their campus in August of 2007. Examples of presentation topics include:
- “Reflection on a Practice Course”
- “Educational Benefits of Student Research Projects”
- “Teaching and [Un]Learning “Race” to “Non-Black” Students by a “Black” Professor
- “Narrative and Multiple Intelligences to Improve Engagement and Learning”
- “Practicum in Professional Education: Pre-Service Students’ Experiences”