The term student-centered pedagogy alludes to the student being the teacher’s main priority, rather than the music that is being taught. It’s main objective is for teachers to become increasingly dispensable to students by developing them as independent learners. So what can teachers do to achieve this?

Allow students to become active participants of their musical education

The philosophy behind student-centered pedagogy is that students learn through three stages:

* First by hearing
* Then by doing
* Lastly by conceptual understanding – seeing the music, knowing the name, and understanding the theory

Rather than telling a student what you want them to know, allow them to experience it first. This could be through movement, playing on the piano, creative activities or singing. The student’s and your imagination are the only limitations.

Understand that new knowledge is built upon that which already exists within the students

Rather than telling the student a new concept by its name straight away, allow the student time to come up with their own metaphor that is relevant to them. A great example of this is ’staccato’. The student may call it ‘bouncy’ or ’short’ or anything else that makes sense to them. This gives them links to their prior knowledge and makes sense of this new concept in their own minds.

Knowing how something is put together is worth a thousand facts about it

Takes scales for example. If we teach each scale as a new sequence of notes, then each scale becomes something to memorise and learn. If we teach the patterns behind the scale though, the student is then able to discover the notes of any scale using its pattern. This leads to independence from the teacher, which is what student-centered pedagogy is all about!

This also allows students to problem-solve to further their own knowledge. For example, if students know and understand Binary form, and you would like to introduce Ternary form, they could work out the structure based on what they already know about form.

Creativity is highly motivating

Let’s face it, if students are not motivated, they are not going to stay for the long haul. If they are not motivated, it doesn’t matter how independent they become, they still won’t use what they know. Being active, as mentioned above, is one way to increase motivation. Another way is creativity.

As well as students enjoying the composition/improvisation/movement tasks, etc, it also gives students the opportunity to apply learned concepts on their own. This gives teachers a great indication of how much the student has grasped.

The teacher as facilitator

Student-centered pedagogy aims to change the role of the teacher to that of facilitator. Their role is to discover and build on students’ experiences and prior knowledge, and to help them develop their own understanding. This quote, taken from Rhodes and Bellamy (1999, p. 21) sums it up nicely:

“A teacher tells, a facilitator asks; a teacher lectures from the front, a facilitator supports fromt he back; a teacher gives answers according to a set curriculum, a facilitator provides guidelines and creates the environment for the learner to arrive at his or her own conclusions; a teacher mostly gives a monologue, a facilitator is in continuous dialogue with the learners.”

Thus, facilitators ask questions

Not just any type of question though. If a teacher asks a question that only has one answer, then the student is being asked to recall a fact. The student could learn answers by rote quite easily without actually understanding what it is that they are saying. Asking questions that require comprehension, application, or analysis to produce an answer promotes critical thinking and helps students to apply concepts learned to answers given.

Getting out of the seat

Another thing to remember is that even though we may teach specific instruments, we are all also responsible for teaching music as a language as well. Don’t feel the student needs to remain glude to their chair, or even their instrument over the cours of the lesson. By moving and changing focus regularly, the student is more likely to stay alert, have fun, and remain active music-makers in the long-run.

I hope there have been some useful tips here for you. Please share any others that spring to mind.

Look out for future blogs on students as individuals, catering to different personality types, and ways to find out who your students actually are!

Student-centered pedagogy
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