When you ask educators about what their ideal classroom conditions would be, one of their answers will very likely be related to pedagogic homogeneity. A classroom full of high achievers, for example, would certainly be nice, but we could say the same about a special needs classroom where all students just happen to share the same need and project the same personalities. If you are assigned to tutor just a couple of students, chances are that they will be differ from each other in terms of how they learn.
The diversity of modern classrooms is one of the aspects of teaching that keeps us motivated. Having to deal with various types of learners is exhausting, but it can also be extremely rewarding. As teachers, we know about the importance of recognizing the various types of learners we encounter in the classroom; we are able to detect them almost automatically, but there is a pressing need to remain aware of this diversity so that we can adjust our teaching strategies accordingly.
Potential Types of Music Learners
Pedagogic researchers believe that we could categorize dozens of different learners according to their personal styles of cognitive assimilation, but it is easier for music educators to whittle them down to the following:
- Musically inclined
- Visually inclined
- Literacy inclined
- Logically inclined
Before we list the next four types of learner with a very broad brushstroke, we should point out that the ones listed above tend to be the most appealing to music teachers, particularly the musically and visually inclined learners. Keep in mind that we are talking about early learners such as the ones the Prodigies Music curriculum has been designed for.
The next four learners may present a bit more of a challenge to the average teacher or parent who is filling the role of a homeschooling educator:
- Kinesthetic learner
- Social learner
- Lone wolf
- Adaptive learner
It should be noted that music teachers should be prepared to deliver lessons to all kinds of learners, but we may have our own personal preferences. Which of the learners above do you think would make the most ideal student? We could argue that musically inclined students are more appealing to music teachers, but some educators will prefer the lone wolf student, especially if they feel that this learning style reflects part of themselves. You may also find that some students embody more than one style of learning at once, and they may exhibit the styles at different stages of their lives. Jazz historians point out that Miles Davis was a social learner when he dropped out of Juilliard, but then he became a lone wolf. John Coltrane was very musically inclined as a young man, but then he became a major music nerd who was deeply into logic, math, and physics as the apply to composition and performance.
Engaging Various Music Learners
With musically inclined learners, there is a chance that they may develop an affinity for playing by ear as they grow. These are easy learners to engage with materials such as the video lessons of the Prodigies Music program, just make sure you notice the moment when they seem to grasp theory concepts because you will want to reinforce with explanations; they may not get what you are saying in the beginning, but there is a strong chance they will subconsciously remember.
Students who are more visual need a bit of “show-and-tell” activities such as pointing at the Prodigies Desk Bells and reminding them about the colors that correspond to notes. Learners who react to literacy will appreciate you reading out loud and writing on whiteboards; these students may be a bit more interested in learning about music history and the backgrounds of artists. To kill various birds with one stone, you can introduce new words to literacy inclined students for the purpose of increasing their vocabulary. Be ready to answer numerous questions from visual students; in some cases, they may not respond adequately to the visual materials you bring to the class, which means that you should evaluate other materials through trial and error.
Logically inclined learners tend to enjoy lessons that involve numbers and shapes; these are the kind of students who will not find math or geometry difficult in the future, and they tend to be pretty good at grasping music theory concepts. Keep in mind that these students can also be playful, particularly when learning activities feature numbers. If you find that your student is fond of counting, for example, you can give her plenty of beats per minute exercises to complete, and you can also throw in rhythm games so that she can become proficient at recognizing time signature. These students tend to show a greater affinity towards composing and producing; to this effect, introducing them to synthesizers and music creation apps can go a long way in terms of augmenting their learning experience.
More Challenging Learners
Students who are more kinesthetic can be a lot of fun to teach, but they can also demand more of your energy during lessons. With these students, effective teaching boils down to dancing and instrumental performance, preferably both. The difficulties you may encounter with physical learners is that they may not be particularly interested in music theory; to this effect, you should encourage them to move, play instruments, sing, dance, and sign concepts as much as possible.
Social learners are heavily targeted by music teaching curricula that focus on social aspects such as appreciation and singing along. The Prodigies Music program takes advantage of social learning, which comes natural, to introduce students to music theory. Similar to kinesthetic learners, overly social students will benefit more from learning in groups, but they may also get distracted easily by other activities.
Lone wolf students can make excellent and passionate music learners, but their introvert personalities can sometimes get in the way of assimilation in a classroom setting. You know what these students deserve? Respect. They enjoy privacy and independence, and they will appreciate feeling that others respect these personality traits. Many tutors who specialize in one-on-one teaching know how to get the most out of a lone wolf situation; they let their students know that they like them just the way they are. Some lone wolf student manage to exude charisma even if they are not the most approachable. The key here is to give them confidence and praise their learning progress in a way the lets them know that their personality in no way hinders their learning.
Adaptive Learners may have different or diminished physical abilities; in some cases, their special needs may be related to their cognitive or special development. We will not go into detail describing all the special needs you may encounter, but we should mention that few teachers are trained to deal with all needs. If you feel a calling or an affinity to work with students who are on the autism spectrum, for example, your first step will be to learn about the condition and how these students may respond to music instruction. Once you are skilled in this regard, you will have to determine which additional learning style your adaptive students fall into.
In the end, music teachers should not expect that their students will all fall into just one of the learning styles described herein. You may find that a lone wolf student in your classroom, for example, is gradually turning into a social learner, and it will be up to you to make the necessary adjustments. A logically inclined student may get tired of number games and decide to focus more on the musical side of learning. Being flexible is part of being an educator.