By the Numbers

Consider the Benefits of Teaching in Groups

By Serena Mackey


“If you are a successful teacher…the goals you set for your students are not determined by whether you teach private lessons or group lessons or both. They are determined by what you believe a student should learn.” Richard Chronister

Recent statistics reaffirm what we already know: our music students are busy, social, and easily distracted. The culture they were born into continues to race forward with technology, social networking, and the competition fostered by a gaming generation. Wise teachers will harness this energy to keep students on the bench and in our studios.

It’s not surprising that 66% of youth prefer to spend time with larger groups of friends and the majority would rather be active with friends than creative alone. In Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, Neil Howe and William Strauss detail the learning styles of our students, based on their culture. Born into a generation largely raised and educated in early learning centers and interactive technology, we teach students with an insatiable appetite for information and an uncanny ability to work with others, applying knowledge and skills more rapidly than they ever could alone.

As a response to the generation we are teaching, our educational model should shift. According to research, students learn best when they are actively involved in learning with a group of their peers (Howe and Strauss). Although music lessons have been most popular as individual lessons, our traditional model of the “master class” is a reminder that the classical masters learned in groups, absorbing from direct instruction and from observing the learning process. Our students themselves provide a valuable resource for effective instruction.

Consider the benefits of teaching in groups:

  • Takes advantage of positive peer reinforcement and motivation
  • Encourages quality lessons by requiring advanced planning
  • Develops a re-useable curriculum by age and level
  • Reinforces CONCEPTS in addition to theory, technique and repertory
  • Increases retention, particularly among middle/high school students
  • Stimulates ease of performance
  • Provides a built-in ensemble for duets and multiple part music
  • Allows time for guided practice and repetition
  • Economically beneficial

“Students learn as a result of what and how they are taught, not as a result of how many people are in the room.” Richard Chronister

In the next newsletter, watch for specific strategies for organizing group and class lessons, including scheduling, communicating, and lesson planning. Tune in!

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