Student-directed learning

which direction sign
People are by nature curious, especially children. I view my role as being more tour guide than ship’s captain. I walk alongside my students offering suggestions as to which path we might take next rather than insisting they stay on a specific charted course. As we walk the path, I observe with them the scenery and allow them to linger at places they find interesting.


question markJust as each child’s interests are different, so are their learning styles. One of my great joys is discovering and adapting to how each child learns best. In many ways all of my students receive the same music education – reading music, understanding musical structure, making aesthetic decisions and evaluations, mastering basic keyboard skills and repertoire. In other ways all of my students each receives a different music education – primarily by ear or from notation; what proportion of solo versus duet/ensemble literature; theory worksheets or integrated analysis; modeling others’ performances or starting from an empty slate.

People do not all move – or learn – at the same pace. My students typically fall into one these three categories: the “jetter,” the “cruiser,” and the “Sunday driver.”

jetter car

the “jetter”

The “jetters” move as quickly as possible through anything they are given. I can relate easily to them because I was (am) one, too. The upside to this pace is that these students move through repertoire and and devour new information quickly. The challenge is being certain that things are learned thoroughly, not just skimmed over.

the “cruiser”


The “cruisers” are the kids who move along at a fairly regular pace, not too fast, not too slow. They enjoy new music, but they also enjoy playing the pieces they’ve already learned. These students are ready for and open to new material, as long as they don’t feel like they have to abandon forever the pieces they have learned.


slow car

the “Sunday driver”


And [always] last but not least, the “Sunday drivers.” These are the kids who move much more slowly, not out of any deficiency but rather because they simply aren’t in a hurry. Want a new piece this week? Sure. Want to play the same piece you’ve played for a month? Sure. These are the ones who are still playing Halloween music in April and have performed the same piece(s) at the last three concerts. They simply move at their own pace, and in doing so they constantly remind me to move at the child’s pace rather than push them to progress on my timetable.