I believe that individuals should be involved in independent music making throughout the course of their life. I also believe that individuals should have a say in the choice of music that they study - music educators should foster and support this voice. In order to achieve these two goals it is necessary that individuals become self-regulated learners. According to McPherson and Zimmerman (2002) there are six areas identified with self-regulated learning: 1) motive, 2) method, 3) time management, 4) behaviour, 5) physical environment, and 6) social factors.
Along with these long-term goals are the more immediate goals concerning performance on a musical instrument. Regardless of what style of music is studied, I believe that there are aspects of musicianship that are ‘global’ in nature and that all students should develop. These aspects include the ability to play expressively, with a beautiful tone, with a strong technical foundation, and the ability to practice ‘deliberately’. These are important because they form the bedrock of what successful musicians do - regardless of the instrument, genre or time-period being studied. How do music educators foster the development of these self-regulated and applied musical skills in their students, and what strategies and methods can be employed to achieve the development of these desired goals?
In order to respect an individual’s sense of identity I draw on their personal music ethnography; I try to get a sense of their cultural and musical background. These influences and preferences serve as a reference point for dialogue when deciding what musical repertoire should be taught. In order to foster the development of self-regulated learning skills in students I draw on the following strategies nested within each of the six previously identified dimensions of self-regulation.
Motivation: I allow students a voice in the choice of repertoire being studied. I also place a priority on the development of expressive gesture from the first lesson. In my experience, incorporating these two aspects into the teaching environment draws on the intrinsic motivation of students.
Method: I have students shadow me as I go through the processes of identifying problem areas in their playing and as we chose appropriate strategies to develop those areas. Over time, as the student gains understanding and skills, I gradually remove myself from the process; in this way students learn to become self-sufficient musical problem solvers.
Time Management: I require students to keep a practice journal and to use a stopwatch when practicing. I find that when students track their development and practice time, they begin to take ownership this aspect and become more self-regulated as a result.
Behaviour: I attempt to activate and develop students’ meta-cognitive skills, including self-monitoring, self-assessment and self-teaching. I do this through the Socratic method - I engage students by asking questions that require generative answers. I ask questions such as, “In the passage that you played are there any problem areas that need developing?” What methods might you use to correct these problem areas?” “Did your method produce the desired change in the problem area?” The goal in this area is to develop critical thinking skills within the student.
Physical Environment: I ask students to practice in a quiet well-lit space with an appropriate chair, footrest, music stand, pencil and note pad, and if possible a Smartphone for tuning the instrument, using as a metronome, video recording, and for accessing resources such as YouTube, blogs and tutorials. I encourage students to keep their guitar on a music stand - not in their guitar case - for ease of access.
Social Factors: As much as possible I have students participate in guitar orchestra programs. Students learn from their peers and from the opportunity to teach those peers. Within a supportive group setting students also learn to reach out to knowledgeable others when they lack understanding.
During private lessons I employ six core pedagogical strategies that have been shown to increase levels of expertise: 1) repertoire is chosen (in partnership with the student) that is within the students’ technical capability, 2) I work with students to develop and maintain a consistently beautiful sound quality, 3) I select proximal performance goals that are technically or musically important. These goals are positioned at a level that is close enough to the students’ current skill level so that targets are achievable in the short term and change is audible to the students in the moment, 4) I ask students to repeat target passages until they are consistent with the chosen target goal, 5) I address fundamental technical flaws immediately when they occur, 6) I give technical feedback in terms of creating an interpretive effect and also by describing the effect that physical motion creates in sound production. Students and teachers must be able to assess whether their goals are being successfully met. As an educator, how can I know that what I teach is what is being learned by my students? What types of assessments can be used to verify that these goals are being met?
The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning and to provide ongoing feedback that the student can use to improve their performance. I give feedback that is clear, pointed, frequent, and directed at very specific aspects of the students’ performance, especially the musical effect created. The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of the learning process by comparing it against some standard or benchmark. Summative assessments usually are conducted by an external expert through festivals, competitions, year-end juries and graded examinations. The information provided from summative assessments are then used to guide the efforts and activities of the student and myself for future development.
Musical engagement and activity can serve to enrich the quality of life at all ages. Having the ability to choose the type of musical expression one engages also contributes to a healthy personal identity. For musical agency and life-long learning to become a reality in an individual’s life they must possess strong self-regulated learning skills. Music educators can play a powerful role in fostering the acquisition of these skills by constructing environments that support these goals. These educators also have an integral role in the applied music learning process through formative assessment. During this phase, educators model and teach the core principles associated with a secure technical foundation and expressive music production. Over time, as the student becomes more independent in these areas, instructors can slowly remove themselves from the learning process so that the individual can emerge as an independent music practitioner, capable of determining their own musical path.
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