Keeping Students Motivated

Keeping Students Motivated

One of the big challenges music teachers will face is the challenge of keeping students motivated to practice and push themselves. We live in the 21st Century, an age of knowledge, technology and more relevant to this topic, instant gratification. The term instant gratification can explain why practise schedules, and the commitment to sticking to these, are not as strictly followed as they might have been in the past. In 2018, we can go on to the internet, type a few words and retrieve what we want in less than 15 seconds. But can we master an instrument at the same time? How do you encourage someone to work hard for a long-term goal that does not provide the same level of instant gratification?

As teachers, we can apply various practises and principles to give our students that extra visibility into the importance of them following a practise schedule.

I like to apply a logic that I can “Low Impact Learning”. I always try to instil the importance of little and often to create the biggest results. I also like to apply what I call the “10 Minute Mindset”. If you can convince a student that 10 minutes a day is all they need to practise, they are likely to play for more time of their own accord. The reasoning for this ties in with low impact learning. The impact of a 10-minute practise session is far less demanding than the impact of a 60-minute practise session, however, the student might pick up their instrument of choice for the 10-minute window and practise for 30 minutes without clock watching. If a student sees practise time as a detrimental impact and they are trying to think of ways to practise for 30-60 minutes, they may find they practise for less.

To use the old saying, less IS more. 10 minutes will turn into more time because the student is in control of how long they practise. They are practising for longer than 10 minutes because they CHOOSE to, not because they HAVE to.

Everyone will have different reasons why they struggle to fit practice into their daily lives. The teacher's job is to encourage the 10-minute mindset around students busy lifestyles:

* Younger students might have various other commitments each day such as extracurricular activities

* Teenage students have various social activities that often take priority over instrument practice. Let’s not forget the focus on their school work also

* Adult students will definitely have the more demanding schedules to fit practice into. You’ll regularly find adults that struggle to commit to practice due to work/family commitments.

Keeping students thinking of low impact ways to learn helps practice become part of a daily routine without it seeming to be overbearing.

Special Education Needs Students and Motivation

I’d also like to discuss the topic of motivation for SEN students. In my own guitar tuition business, I have had the pleasure of teaching a number of SEN students. I have taught students with Autism and Asperger’s, I have not had the opportunity to work with any students facing other conditions so my methods on motivation are only based on my experience. This certainly frames the lessons and approach to teaching a little, but these conditions are no way inhibitory of the students. In fact, the extrasensory attachments that come with these conditions often mean that students with Autism of Asperger’s can excel at an instrument very rapidly. One of my favourite teaching memories was a student with Autism working on some graded curriculum with me, I played a melody as part of a listening and harmony test and he repeated it back to me instantly without even looking, SEN students can have fantastic memories and the part of their brain that converts one piece of information to another can often be working very fast. SEN students can be incredibly creative in their minds, as teachers we need to help find a way to channel this.

When I teach SEN students, I like to get to know the student and find out what they like. Some SEN students may have communication trouble and I find it useful to become a friendly face for that student, so they feel less anxious about speaking with me. I always strive to keep the sessions fun and engaging and often, the student is very happy to open up a little more than they would in a typical situation such as a lesson.

One useful approach that I think a lot of teachers working with SEN students could take on board would be to take any exercises or songs and encourage the student to see it like a game. They can have a number of turns to play the piece in question with the aim of reproducing the said piece. I often like to utilize performance charts too. Many SEN students are very visual in their learning so a chart where they can see how well they do is often useful. Parents also play a big part in the students learning outside of lessons so I actively encourage parents to get involved, if not to learn the instrument themselves, at least to sit in on the sessions and gain an understanding of what is happening and what we’re looking to achieve so that outside of lessons the parent can also join in the activities.


About the Author

Leigh Fuge is a professional musician and guitar teacher from the UK. He has taught hundreds of students from complete beginners to advanced players. He has been providing guitar lessons locally and online, sharing his practise tips, motivation topics and exercises with students far and wide. He has built up a strong online following from his other passion, performing in touring bands and writing original music.

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