In fact, the above questions should assist in focusing our thinking, preparation and forward planning, which, in turn should provide the rationale validating the educational purpose for instrumental music education.
One needs to have a clear understanding of how people learn, what motivates learning and personal engagement within the learning environment. Remember: human beings generally acquire most of their knowledge and skill bases through the process of mindful repetition, and because they become convinced that they want a particular knowledge and 'skill base' in direct relation to the ‘rewards’ to be gained from their on-going ‘investment’. I suggest that we will need to provide our students with personal, observable and recognisable aural and visible measurements for the targets we, and ultimately they, learn to choose. We will have to demonstrate how to set the targets and how to determine whether or not they have been achieved.
However... There is more to good teaching than academic philosophy, rhetorical questions and lofty ideals. What are the specific teaching skills and knowledge we will need that will empower these beginners to succeed? "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you." John Lennon
"Teachers are the mediators who provide or fail to provide the essential experiences that permit students to release their awesome potential..." Acaro
Rehearsals must move forward or they will stall. To keep the pace of a rehearsal moving forward one needs to know what they wish to accomplish today, including at least two or three goals to successfully achieve. The rehearsal formula is often accompanied by stories, analogies and metaphors, which assist in clarifying, explaining and reinforcing the process of skill development, self motivated learning and music making. Each and every rehearsal needs to promote/use successful models in how to employ personal problem identification and problem solving, ultimately leading to rewarding home practice. The rehearsal needs to demonstrate how one can successfully use rewarding learning strategies, and experience successful outcomes in every rehearsal! This then promotes the kind of transferable learning, which can be used to solve tomorrow’s problem!
We need to project and plan for the correct responses we wish to fashion and form in our students, both musically and socially. Therefore regularly model the correct response you wish to introduce, or reinforce. Rehearsals should be more than exercises in 'director led' error detection and correction. They must lead to the personal recognition of both successful response and error, along with the application of effective problem-solving strategies, as demonstrated within each rehearsal.
Avoid the use of ‘mindless rote repetition’ in rehearsing study material and/or concert repertoire. Instead, consider the 'mindful repetition' strategy. ‘Mindful repetition’, or the 'process approach' to human learning works in this way. One begins with a model of the appropriate response you wish to introduce, or reinforce. The student then tries to reproduce the correct model. They then compare their attempt to reproduce the model, making adjustments and trying again. The process is repeated until they arrive at a satisfactory reproduction of the original model. The successful reproduction is then repeated at least three times to lock in the correct response, gradually increasing the speed to the correct tempo. There is no substitute in human learning for 'time on task'. Patience with the principle of focused attention and delayed gratification holds the key in obtaining effective, lasting results. In effect, each rehearsal becomes a lesson in demonstrating rewarding and successful individual practice routines.
However, it is important to recognise when we have pushed our students ‘over the edge’, or when have we followed a wrong lead. Learn to read your ensemble's ‘body and sound' feedback for the visible and aural cues, without becoming fixated with our preloaded agenda of perfection at too early a stage. Keep your initial goals achievable, and learn to use the 5-minute goal.
More on this in the next installment!