7 surprising ways to improve your music students – Students lead (part 3 of 8)

One of the best conversations in the education world at the moment is whether teachers should lead student development or if students should lead. The US public education system had its last systemic overhaul during the reign of Horace Mann back in the 1840’s. Yep, almost 200 years ago.

Since then we have had thousands of incremental changes along the way, but the system looks more or less the same.

Teachers lead – students follow.

Teachers know – students wonder.

Teachers explain – students learn.

It makes sense. But it really doesn’t. For the first time in the history of the world, information is practically ubiquitous. No longer does the teacher know or always need to explain. And if teachers always lead then what happens to the students interested in topics deemed not important?

Right now, the biggest argument comes when talking about who leads and how important personalization is for students. I’m calling for a balanced effort and in our music studio that’s exactly what we do. I believe in the intellect and passions of my students and parents – but not blindly. I am an expert, but not autocratic in my decisions. As a teacher I see value in students making poor decisions, messing up and also in surprising me with something I couldn’t have imagined.

It’s incredibly humbling to see a student who is so passionate about a certain idea or music that they will fight for it. I did that with my teachers – usually to find out I was wrong. The best students in any discipline will do that. It is how their creative voice and opinion is developed.

I’ve already written a blog on how my students choose their music theory homework and set practice goals in their music. What is needed to improve your student’s experience? What would happen if they take the lead with you as their guide?

We know that giving students more choice increases their independence and increases motivation. But what is the right balance of students leading their learning in your studio?


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