In our ever-changing world, there are many new skills that students need to learn in addition to the standard, “reading, writing, and arithmetic.” It is now also vital that students (and adults) learn how to learn. No longer should students wait to get knowledge only from their teachers. The ability to learn is at our fingertips. As Katie Martin says, “Shouldn’t we emphasize with our students that learning is for life, not just for schools?” The key is finding the motivation to learn. Daniel Pink, in his book “Drive” defines the foundation of motivation as Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. It is easy to believe that if adults can be motivated by these things, students will be as well.
This year I have been working to help my students learn how to learn. I have written several posts about my adventures in personalized learning with my 5th-grade band and orchestra students. The students are working at their own pace on a given set of learning targets. They set their own goals each quarter and can show mastery of each target however they would like. While students are “on their own,” I have provided several resources to help them through the process.
- Method Book – all students are provided with a method book (Essential Elements) and instructed how to find and read the included fingering chart.
- Interactive App – all students also have access to an interactive app that corresponds to the method book, Essential Elements Interactive. Within the app, students have access to additional fingering charts, can hear recordings of all songs, adjust the tempo of the songs, and change the accompaniment music.
- Videos – percussion students are provided with a symbaloo link, containing numerous videos to help with specific percussion techniques.
- Hyperdoc – a Hyperdoc about dynamics is provided to help students understand the concepts and skills surrounding dynamics and dynamic changes in music.
What I have noticed is that students only use a fraction of the provided resources! And the reason is purpose. Students use the resources when they are personally invested in the purpose. But when their purpose is learning a skill that I have mandated, such as mastering eighth notes, they are much less motivated to use the given tools to actually master the skill. On the other hand, when students are working on something they are interested in, they quickly will turn to a fingering chart or recording for help. For some reason “The Banana Boat Song” has been popular recently, and many students have been practicing that along with the various recording accompaniments.
Another time this year I have seen increased student motivation to learn on their own was during two video projects using Flipgrid. In both cases, students were given supplemental music, one set for Halloween and another for Christmas. Each time the students were encouraged to add a song of their choosing to the Flipgrid. Most students played the first (and easiest) song, “Jingle Bells.” Until we began sharing the grid with other schools around the country. As soon as my students heard other songs being played, they immediately wanted to play them too! There was a sudden sense of urgency to learn the other songs – not because I told them to, but because they wanted to. The students had found their sense of purpose.
So what does this mean? Students need to be personally invested in their learning, and part of my job is to help them find that purpose. I can (and will) continue to provide tools to help them learn, but the students must see the purpose, or at least how the purpose relates to them. This definitely adds a new layer to things, but I think it puts us all closer to the right path.