Piano teachers teaching in localities where interest in piano lessons is just developing often encounter a lot of students who have an examination mindset. With many, this mindset can be so fixed, that these students will not practise anything unless it is clearly evident that it is part of an examination syllabus.
Many piano teachers here in Navi Mumbai work with students where examination goals are the only motivating factor for learning. Until achievement changes things and makes the student start to love practising. Students here in India LOVE examinations, so it works really well with most. Unless there’s a goal mismatch.
A goal mismatch is when the examination oriented student wants to achieve high goals, but doesn’t enjoy the learning process that is needed for this to happen.
A goal mismatch can lead to a lot of student-teacher discord, because the students feelings are in conflict with his/her goals.
The teachers difficulty
Students in this situation often get quite upset, and even angry with piano teachers, for teaching exactly what the student has said he/she wants to learn! When teachers realise what’s going on, they might talk to the student about modifying their targets or expectations and working within their limits.
But it doesn’t work, because this student isn’t willing to revise expectations or reset goals.
Exam oriented students who commit to working towards their goals, and follow through with their commitment do fine. It’s those who don’t that struggle.
I realised that the things which often make some of my adult piano students struggle to follow through on their commitment to work towards music examination goals of their choice, are the same steps needed to help them move forward.
So, here are 3 steps that have helped me help my students get out of that goal mismatch – the problem, which was also, the solution.
Step 1 : Listening to music
Many examination oriented students here in Navi Mumbai don’t actually listen to music daily. As a result, they struggle with internalising music concepts and ideas. They tend to have difficulty assessing the quality of their practise at home, and often don’t understand when the teacher corrects them, thinking the teacher is just too fussy.
The issue is compounded if they’re practising on basic keyboards or poor quality digital pianos, because these instruments are limited in the kinds of playing touch and tonal nuances they support.
Get students attending concerts and workshops, and get them playing for each other. Even one concert or performance can make an impression and start the student listening to music. This is their turning point on the road to music comprehension.
Step 2 : Scheduling
Daily piano practise is a discipline, and it’s an effort for every student generation. This generation of adult students however, needs a lot more support with scheduling. The change in the pace of life during the early years of their careers, and the impact of social media has hit young adults the hardest.
The small size of the Indian home, can make scheduling regular piano practise even more challenging. Many students need to schedule with flexibility, so that changes in family routines don’t upset their practise routine.
Discussions on scheduling piano practise, are a part of piano class. Set aside class time for this once in a way and teach students that this is a part of piano teaching, so students know that can, and should discuss their practise scheduling difficulties before they become a stumbling block.
Step 3 : Experiential learning
Piano students who learn very fast and take on big challenges comfortably, often are open to experiential learning. These students are comfortable with following instructions or copying demonstrations. Practising small tasks at home, and understanding different practise methods after ‘doing’ them daily and seeing results.
They often find new practise techniques interesting, and even exciting. Because they see the benefits when it helps them get more done with less time.
These students are happy to practise differently, even when it takes them a little bit out of their comfort zone.
The student who struggles tends to be the opposite of this.
Small assignments that are very clearly written in the homework book by the student. Emailed feedback on progress, so there’s a record to help the student when he/she can’t understand the cause of the struggle.
Moving beyond the examination focus
The student who used to struggle and has suddenly made a change at the last minute before the examination needs to be patient and have a little faith in him/herself.
To focus on the learning and enjoying the process. To make a decision to leave old habits and that examination focus behind, consciously. Because it’s not about marks, even though this student might have the capacity to do really well in the examination, despite the last minute work.
It’s about playing for joy and enjoying the whole examination experience. That comes first, and the marks will follow when they will.
Good luck dear piano student! Learn well and success will follow.