Tuesday, January 20, 2015

We Value The Learning Process

At Let's Play Music, We Value the Learning Process.  We value the entire process of learning, including acknowledging mistakes, having courage to try, and embracing opportunities to increase confidence.

A Happy Musician
One reason you chose Let's Play Music for your child's first musical adventure is because you want him to come to love music; you know that love is going to motivate him for years to come!  Students (hey, and parents too) will inevitably hit a moment when you may hear yourself saying: "I'm not doing it right! I'm not good at this! I just can't get this right!" But here at LPM, we embrace that not doing it right and making mistakes are vital steps in the process of learning! The struggle is part of the process, and the process doesn't make us sad!  

Four Stages of Learning
Having an awareness of the stages of learning is one vital step in remaining happy even in the tough times.  When they hit you, you won't be surprised; you'll be able to get through it, maybe even with a smile!

1. Unconscious Incompetence: "I'm unaware that I don't know how to do this." This is the stage of Blissful Ignorance. Your youngster taps on the bells and doodles on the piano and he thinks he's awesome! And he is! (Don't' spoil it).

2. Conscious Incompetence: "I realize I don't know how to do this, yet." This is the hardest stage, so please use compassion.  Your child has now seen other pianists and realized he can't play like that.  Or his LPM teacher has introduced some new playing skills and he realizes, this is tricky!   This stage causes many musicians to give up- but not you! You'll say, "I knew that this would happen, and it's okay! I know we're normal for experiencing this. I know we can get through it." 

By the way, how are your recent New Year's resolutions coming!?  This phase of learning catches most folks by such surprise that they give up their resolutions!  "Be strong! Keep working at it and I know you can get it.  It's okay that you aren't good at this, yet.  You are being brave to try this- I know it's scary right now.  Everyone who IS good at this was once in your shoes and had just as much trouble.  You're on the right track, and this is part of the process…it's a hard part, but we just gotta take it slow and get through it!"  

Yes, Mom and Dad, this is my pep-talk for you and your resolutions (or perhaps your commitment to parenting through LPM), and it's the same type of pep-talk you'll want to deliver to your musician when they get stuck in this step of the learning process.

3. Conscious Competence: "I know that I know how to do this." By now your musician has improved at the skill he's working on, but he still has to think about it; it's still a little uncomfortable, it still takes awareness. Nevertheless, success!  Watch out, because many musicians are tempted to stop here.  "Yeah, I know I can learn to play songs with some effort…but should I learn another one already?"  The only way to get from competence to mastery is practice, practice, practice.  Don't stop learning.

4. Unconscious Competence: "Well of course I know how to do that."  Right now your Yellow Arrows child sweats bullets trying to get his left hand to make a Yellow chord.  Imagine when he's a graduate of Orange Roots: he'll be able to sight-read music composed of the 3 main chords with ease.  And imagine LPM grads in high school…well of course they can play those chords without a thought.  It has become automatic: that's mastery!  Now you can add this task in your next pep-talk, "Remember when you first learned to play chords? It was hard! But you stuck with it. Now as you're learning to (insert new task), you have to go through the process again. I've seen you do it before! You'll get it if you don't give up."

We value the learning process at every step along the pathway to mastery.

Modes of Learning
At Let's Play Music, we respect what educational psychology and neuropsychology have to tell us about how children experience the learning process.  The fact is, teaching with a multi-sensory approach stimulates and enhances the entire learning process. The four broad modes of learning are visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic.  Children often have a preferred learning mode, but can improve at learning via other modes with practice.  LPM gives them that opportunity with activities in each mode that complement each other.

In our classes, we'll use the magnetic staff, puppets, and hand signs (visual), singing, ear-training, echoing and listening (auditory), strumming, keyboarding, tapping, clapping and hand signs (tactile), and dancing, moving, skipping, jumping, stomping and conducting (kinesthetic) to teach!  

Research also tells us that play is the first form of learning, and enhances learning and motivates students. Watch for our next post all about play.

We value the learning process in every mode.

Product vs. Process
Observable change is a product of learning.  If learning were defined as nothing more than the product, our classrooms would operate very differently. We would ensure that every child could play a set of piano songs amazingly and perfectly. Period.  

At Let's Play Music, learning is a process. It is the act of acquiring new knowledge, skills, and values, building upon what we already know. Learning is more than just a collection of facts and songs mastered. 

Because each student enters with a different background knowledge and strengths, each child will have a unique experience. When we pass off songs in class, each student may have a different competency level- LPM is designed for that!  Assessment is for encouraging growth and improvement, not for comparing one student to another (this is particularly important to remember when siblings are in class together!).   Especially in composing, students are able to individually choose what they find meaningful and are interested in doing.

We value the learning process as an individual experience for each student.

A Three Year Process

We value meaningful learning: when a learned concept is fully understood to the extent that it relates to other knowledge.  Meaningful learning implies a comprehensive knowledge of the context of the facts learned. The LPM curriculum is intentionally sequential: skills move from simple to complex, building on what is already known, allowing students to construct the meaning.

I often say that experience precedes learning with musical concepts: students experience input, THEN form conclusions, THEN create a reference.  For example, students learn to audiate note patterns with mastery before learning the symbolic association (reading notes on the staff.) See our post on note-reading. 

Every concept is repeated and reinforced before we eventually label it. Much labeling (think about note naming, rhythm terminology, and chord numbering) comes in year three, after students have internalized the meaning and use of the concepts.  

It is important to complete the entire three-year program, so the experiences the child encountered can translate into solid musical understanding as he is guided in building connections.  The specific activities planned for each class over three years were carefully scheduled to provide a tidy conclusion to the basic concepts developed.

We value the time, repetition, and experience needed to allow for meaningful learning.

Stay tuned as we focus on one of our CORE VALUES each month. Our classes are patterned and structured differently from other programs; you'll understand why as we explain what we value.

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this great post, Gina! YES! We absolutely value the learning PROCESS, including the time, sensory experience, struggles and giggles that process will inevitably require. We can play and smile right through it because we see the bigger picture of the broad, deep foundation we are laying, not only for musical skills and concepts, but for the life skill of approaching new tasks with confidence and a "can-do" attitude! So valuable!