“Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.”
I believe that students who want to pursue music education as a vocation need to invest the time and energy into becoming skilled and sensitive musicians themselves. In addition, they need to seek out many different types of performance and teaching opportunities as well as becoming knowledgeable in the academic studies within music. Knowledge of history, form, theory, and performance practice will not only enhance their skills as educators, but give them a greater appreciation of music as an art form. I also believe that students pursuing a career in music should invest themselves in all forms of art to provide a more enriched view of the world around them that they may imbue on their future students. Most importantly, I believe that future music educators should be inquisitive and dedicated to a life of learning and public service.
Whenever possible, I strive to construct my courses with Gestalt principles in mind; focusing on big picture concepts and relating the known to the unknown. In other words, starting with big picture ideas that allow students to create a conceptual framework based on past experiences, and then build the knowledge and skills to fit within that framework. American educational and cognitive psychologist, Jerome Bruner stated “…the curriculum of a subject should be determined by the most fundamental understanding that can be achieved of the underlying principles that give structure to that subject. Teaching specific topics or skills without making clear their context in the broader fundamental structure of a field of knowledge is uneconomical in several deep senses. In the first place, such teaching makes it exceedingly difficult for the student to generalize from what he has learned to what he will encounter later.” To that end, I strive to facilitate an environment where students construct knowledge and skills in a way that allows them to make connections to their other courses and future experiences within the profession.
Sounds good, right? The real question always is, though, “how do we do that?” The first thing is I believe students learn primarily from doing, rather than to “talking” about doing. I also believe that observations are important, but should be enhanced with strategies for critically evaluating within these observations. In other words, I try to structure classes where they are busy doing whatever the class is about. If the class is about music technology, I want students to be creating projects using music programs., ideally ones that will be similar to what they will use in the future. If the class is about instrumental music education, I want to structure the class to around teaching experiences. Teaching students and developing the skills to evaluate good teaching are critical for future growth, so I try and structure my courses with that in mind.