Learning behaviours

Post forty-three in our (re)learning to teach music series. This is week nine of the collaborative blogging and we begin chapter seven. 

Vaughan Fleischfresser @VFleischfresser

When asked to consider the learning behaviours of two pupils whom I currently teach, two immediately sprung to mind. Both took an equal length of time to form the learning behaviours required, expected, and communicated in my classroom. While they presented at opposite ends of the social and emotional well-being continuum, once I dug a little deeper with both, they really shared the same needs that required meeting before the appropriate learning behaviours could be instilled.

Pupil A was confident, boisterous, and often disruptive at the drop of a hat. Pupil B was shy, timid, and quiet to the point of concern. Each stated that they loved and enjoyed music, yet it didn’t show, nor was this love able to manifest itself through the broad range of activities being offered. Upon further discussion with the relevant teachers, it became apparent that both pupils were working through issues related to their social and emotional well-being. Both had fears of acceptance and inadequacy within their peer groups, and both had varying levels of family unrest. Once I had gained a deeper understanding of these wider factors, I was able to address the individual learning behaviours of each pupil more sensitively and patiently.

Over time, the way Pupil A engaged with their music lessons became calmer, more measured, and more open, which led to an increase in their cognitive well-being. With Pupil B, as their self and social confidence increased, so too did their cognitive well-being. In fact, for both, it really started to flourish and saw an increase in their social and emotional well-being, as those around them discovered commonalities which grew into deeper relationships and understandings.

As the saying goes, “You can’t do the Bloom stuff until you take care of the Maslow stuff”. That was certainly the case for these two pupils.

David House @House_dg

Student A – Uncertain in the extreme, frequently asking for confirmation of a task, in ensemble playing will always play “pp”, never offers to illustrate ideas, yet clearly interested and appreciative of work, will answer direct questions intelligently although with limited detail. This student has been “work in progress” for many months: all areas, emotional, social and cognitive, are in need of treatment. The main strategy which has been employed is of encouragement, praise, clear guidelines given and integration on projects with friends in the group, alongside work with the student’s piano teacher to build on areas which are perceived as confident and successful from the student point of view.

Student B – An open and engaging individual, easy to converse with and often smiling, very specific interests in Music Theatre and has a strong voice, part of a lively GCSE group, reluctant to engage with musical vocabulary and to present more than cursory responses to descriptive answers in listening work. Here the approach has been to channel the gregarious nature of the student and encourage their peers to stimulate discussion within group work. The needs of this student have led to increased retrieval work at the start of lessons, with quickfire questions and the expectation of the whole group responding to and learning short definitions and terms.

Ewan McIntosh @ETMcINTOSH

I think that the issues raised are important ones. Some fo the young people that I teach definately find that music can improve their own cognitive and social and emotional wellbeing. Sometime these are children who have a strict religious background at home and are therefore not allowed to make or listen to any music. The opportunity of music making in school helps their well-being immensely and they are keen and happy to take part in choir and other extra-curricular activities. By planning for open ended activities that pupils get choice in also allows ownership of their learning and behaviours and engagement and progress in developing musicianship is more advanced. Having that relationship with every students and respecting their views and the styles of music that they enjoy is also key to helping them progress and boosting their wellbeing and sense of belonging in a classroom.

With group work, this can be sometimes a challenge as you want groups to work well as a team, not as can happen, one student to do all the work whilst the others do little. By setting clear goals for the group and even helping each student develop their own role in the music making process as well as monitoring them closely can help students who are maybe not learning as effectively as they could improve their own leaning behaviours. Having a flexible learning environment is a must to accommodate the wide variety of activities that music classroom encompass. I like to make the students responsible and accountable for the learning space. I may put a diagram on the board of how the room needs to be set out so that when students enter, they can start to take ownership of the space to facilitate their group work.

Steven Berryman @steven_berryman

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