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Teachers Have Learning Styles Too! (Jewler & Gardner, 1993)

If you: Make decisions after finding out what others think /Are active, energetic, and like having others around / Prefer activities that include others / Like to meet new people / Communicate your inner thoughts and feelings freely

You just might be an Extravert!

If you: Make decisions without consulting others / Are quiet, thoughtful, and like time alone / Have inner thoughts and feelings that others generally don’t see / Are uncommunicative about your inner thoughts and feelings / Generally like to be alone or with one person

You just might be an Introvert!

If you: Prefer being called imaginative or intuitive / Prefer to think of new methods to accomplish tasks / Prefer the abstract or theoretical/ Generally like “ideas” / Like to design plans but don’t feel you have to be the one to carry them out

You just might be an Intuitive!

If you: Prefer being called factual and accurate / Use methods you know will get the job done / Prefer the concrete or real / Like facts / Are precise and lay out detailed plans of action

You just might be a Senser!

If you: Make decisions about other people based on available data and systematic analysis of situation / Draw conclusions based on unemotional and careful step-by-step analysis / Like to help others make logical decisions / Prefer verifiable conclusions based on facts / Prefer analytical situations where you can use your ability

You just might be a Thinker!

If you: Make decisions about others based on empathy, feelings, and understanding of their needs and values / Base conclusions about what you feel and believe on past experience / Like to help others explore their feelings / Prefer convictions based on personal thoughts / Prefer emotional situations, discussions, movies, etc.

You just might be a Feeler!

If you: Allow commitments to occur if others want to make them / Generally avoid making deadlines / Prefer to “wing it” at the last minute / Don’t use an appointment book or notes except when you must / Prefer to do things on the spur of the moment

You just might be a Perceiver!

If you: Push for definite commitments to ensure they are made / Generally set a schedule and keep to it / Plan ahead / Use appointment books and make notes to yourself as often as necessary / Like to know in advance what you are expected to do

You just might be a Judger!

It is very important to consider your own preferred styles when interviewing and working with students. If a student has a considerable balance toward a style characteristic that is one of your weakest how successful will you two be together in the long run? When meeting with prospective students it is also helpful to organize your interviews to test knowledge, skills, and readiness from several different style perspectives.

At times a student’s preferred style may not be immediately apparent. When you are unsure about a student’s preferred style try presenting two options to the student: i.e.: 1) We can listen to several performances of this piece and then you may choose the section you wish to begin with and create a plan for mastering it, or 2) We can divide the piece into sections, begin with the first, and then work through rhythm, notes, technique, style, and memory for each section. This technique allows students to choose the way they would like to approach the learning task and allows you to learn more about the student.

Method book pieces and activities can easily be custom fit to the student. The one-on-one, partner, or small group relationship of the piano lessons is an ideal situation for this. Order and manner of presentation can be customized. Students can be reminded about concepts and skills they have already experienced.

Activity and solo books are usually available (sometimes these are integrated into a core method book) which provide additional theory, improvisation, and composition material. Partners or group members can be selected so that there is balance and harmony where needed. Observation is the key here. By becoming familiar with the style characteristics you can begin to recognize them in your students.

The learning style characteristics we have been discussing are paired. Consequently, a person’s style is a combination of the dominant characteristics from each of the four style pairs. In teaching from the perspective of style preferences it is important to always present new material in the dominant style of the student first.  This is not as complicated as it might seem.

Before we get started, here is a caveat. Unless you have been hanging out on the planet Venus, you know how much I object to doing jail time. So, while there are no images from the books, I have listed the appropriate information for each piece so you can find each easily.

The piece, Rainforest (Piano Adventures: Lesson Book Level 1, Faber & Faber p.24), is an example of just how easy it can be to accommodate several learning styles within a single piece.

The learning objectives of Rain Forest are:

to present the interval of a fifth on the staff

to connect the sound and symbol with the keyboard geography

to integrate the above into a performance of Rain Forest

Rain Forest is presented on the page from the perspectives of thinking, detail, theory, and logic. Information about the fifth is presented first. The student is told that a fifth “spans 5 letter names.” Next, fifths are presented on the staff as line to line or space to space intervals and the student is instructed to, “play these 5ths separately and then together. Listen to the sound!”

The student is then instructed to find, play, and write 5ths off the staff, as well as to, “Try to memorize the sound of a 5th!”  Finally, the 5ths are integrated  into the piece, Rain Forest. The primary focus is on thinking, logic, detail, and theory, although attention is drawn to the sound. Any exploration of the feel of a fifth must be provided by the teacher.

It would seem upon first examination that the needs of a student who prefers to work from the perspective of the larger context are not being met. Certainly, a teacher can always change the order of presentation in order to adapt to such a student and so, solve the problem somewhat, but in addition, it is important to take prior lessons and experiences into account. Consider the following examples:

Bells of Great Britain (Piano Adventures: Lesson Book Primer Level, Faber & Faber p.59) was presented in the previous level. The Lonely Pine (Piano Adventures: Lesson Book Level 1, Faber & Faber p.15) was presented earlier in the same level. In these pieces, the student has already experienced fifths without needing to put a name to them, or to write them.

The general sound of all three pieces matches. All the pieces use pedal.A great opportunity is provided to compare and contrast the moods and discover how the sound of fifths contributes to each. Bells of Great Britain is to be played joyfully whereas the other two pieces are marked moving gently and slowly respectively.

Tying the experience of playing Bells of Great Britain and The Lonely Pine into the lesson that includes Rain Forest helps students to 1) interconnect fact and experience, 2) see the big picture, 3) experience hands on first, 4) take action, and 4) connect to feelings. By tying new pieces to those already learned, custom lessons can be developed to help any style learner be successful.

In order to teach from the student’s perspective, teachers should look for early elementary methods, activities, and supplementary materials which provide opportunities to:

Include time for reflection, thinking, and making connections

Allow students to explain things in their own words

Include some group activities

Allow students to create rubrics and frameworks for goals

Allow for variety of activities and learning tasks

Connect new material to prior knowledge and experience

Compare and contrast interpretation and style

Create musical maps and alternate notations

Explore the science of music

Encourage new levels of detail in listening

Work from details and hands on experience towards broader concepts

Work from the broader concept to details and hands on experience

Be specific when giving feedback

Structure learning so that it is logical and non-arbitrary

Discover the rules behind the facts

Value personal expression, feelings, and associations

Care deeply about what is being learned

Work in small steps using clear goals for accomplishing them

Use the “sloppy copy” technique

Create clear deadlines and exact specifications for judgers

Create clear deadlines and a wide range of choices for perceivers

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