Study shows disconnect between what students and teachers think is happening in lessons
This past December, while exhibiting the Structured Practice Method at the Midwest Music Clinic in Chicago, I gave a talk about how to use the SPM to help your students get more out of their practice and lesson time.
As I was preparing for my presentation, I discovered an article from the Summer 2002 Journal of Research in Music Education. Written by Marilyn Kostka, Practice Expectations and Attitueds: A Survey of College-level Music Teachers and Students discusses the results of a study in which 127 college studio instructors and 134 college music students were surveyed on four subjects:
- Attitudes about specific music skills
- Expectations concerning use of practice time
- Expectations for routines and strategies for practicing
- Attitudes toward practice in general
The results of the study are fascinating:
- While teachers expected, on average, 14.5 hours of weekly practice from their students, the students reported actually practicing 9.93 hours
- 94% of teachers said they suggested a "regular practice routine" for their students, but only 45% of the students claimed to use one
- All of the teachers indicated that they discussed strategies for "good practicing" with their students, and yet 41% of the students had no memory of these discussions
The first point, regarding practice time, doesn't really surprise me. I would even go a step further and say that, for the most part, I doubt those numbers are even meaningfully correct, considering how haphazardly students in the real world keep track of their practice time. Time-tracking numbers can also be tricky to interpret because different individuals require different amounts of practice to achieve the same result. I'm personally far more interested in the quality of practice, and the depth of thought my students (and I) exhibit during practice.
The second point above is more surprising. Taken at face value, this means that 48% of students who are being taught regular practice routines are actually using them. I don't expect all of my students to do everything I recommend, but that's definitely a larger percentage than I would expect, and I certainly hope my studio does a better job with this.
The final point above is the most disturbing one to me. 41% of students have no memory of discussing good practicing with their teachers. That is surprising, especially in light of the 100% of teachers who say these discussions are taking place. It's one thing to fail to implement something the teacher is discussing, but to completely forget about arguably one of the most important aspects of learning an instrument! I'm left a little bit speechless by this.
It's important to note that in this survey, the students and teachers were not matched. In other words, the teachers who were surveyed were not the same teachers the students were studying with. The teachers and students were to entirely separate groups.
Because of this, it's possible that it was simply the case that while all of the teachers in the survey discuss practice techniques and strategies with their students, the students in the survey might study with teachers who do not teach those things. I would love to see a study done with matched students and teachers to compare the results!
My takeaway from reading this study is to redouble my efforts at helping my students consider practice strategies, and to be purposeful, mindful practicers on their instruments.
What are your thoughts? Do you teach your students about good practicing? If so, how do you do that, and do you think it's having an impact? Please leave your thoughts in the comments, below.