Ages and Stages: What Do You See? Adolescents and College Students. (Pedagogy Saturday VI)

American Music Teacher, October-November 2002 | Go to article overview

Ages and Stages: What Do You See? Adolescents and College Students. (Pedagogy Saturday VI)


Edward Adelson, moderator

A distinguished panel of three music educators and two child development experts were brought together during an afternoon panel discussion to react to a series of video clips of studio teachers interacting with adolescent and college-aged students.

The child development specialists--Judith Piercy from Ohio University and Kim Dolgin from Ohio Wesleyan University--had been asked to view the clips in advance. The music specialists--professors Gerald Fischbach from the University of Maryland, Barbara Honn from the University of Cincinnati and Sylvia Wang from Northwestern University--were viewing the taped examples of teaching for the first time. Taped examples were solicited from among the MTNA membership during the autumn that preceded Pedagogy Saturday, with a subset of these tapes forwarded to Piercy and Dolgin for their review. Input from these two developmental psychology experts led to a final list of four examples, or about twenty minutes of teaching on tape, for use during the panel discussion. The taped examples viewed during the session included group and individual teaching at the college and high school levels. The panel and the capacity audience examined the relationships exhibited on the tapes between the teacher and young adult student, and participated in a lively exchange of ideas.

What can teachers do to effectively connect with their adolescent students? The taped examples, the insightful comments of the panelists, and the helpful questions and thoughts of audience members suggested that there are some over-arching principles that can help guide teachers of young adults:

* Adolescents and young adults appear to thrive when they can have some ownership of the learning process. Effective teaching as viewed on the tapes seemed to empower the students to be active participants to arrive at conclusions about musical issues. Effective teaching of this age group often involves the kind of guidance that allows students to take ownership of questions and develop a personal understanding of issues.

* Students in this age group are extremely curious and seem to be most actively engaged when confronted with a large number of interesting possibilities for solving a musical or technical problem. Being overly restrictive about possible solutions to technical issues or musical interpretations can be perceived by the adolescent as stifling.

* Creative energy is born out of the attempts to get a passage right, working through, celebrating, and not on avoiding frustration, but rather using the passion and energy the student brings to his or her work as an opportunity for intense explorations of artistic issues. The heightened and intensified emotions associated with adolescence can in fact be channeled into productive, energetic learning when the teacher provides the space, encouragement and patience needed for the student to explore new challenges.

* Physical activities can, for this age group, really assist in bringing to the student a heightened awareness of musical and technical possibilities. Thus, moving to the music or gesturing can translate into a technically more proficient performance.

* Overly didactic or dogmatic teaching can frustrate the adolescent/young adult, resulting in a withdrawal from the task at hand, and thus an apparent loss of interest in the artistic product. Life, for the young adult, is a grand adventure to be shared with the teacher. Resentment often builds up as the student feels "taught at" rather than encouraged to become his or her own person.

The vivid musical examples viewed by the panelists and audience, the ability of the panelists to focus on the issues presented in the taped examples of motivating and assisting young adult students, and the very insightful audience commentary, all made for a session that productively glimpsed some of the ways teachers can take advantage of the remarkable energy and passion they confront when in the presence of their adolescent/young adult students. …

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