Standard #1: Learner Development
The teacher understands how learners grow and develop, recognizing that patterns of learning and development vary individually within and across the cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional, and physical areas, and designs and implements developmentally appropriate and challenging learning experiences.
A teacher in any discipline must understand how his students learn and develop. Furthermore, a teacher must know how to plan and process to help students learn and retain knowledge effectively. For a music teacher, this includes careful preparation and detailed procedures that fit within the zone of proximal development (ZPD) for his students.
Although many of my Music Education courses at BSU have taught me about how students learn and develop, my courses at the Teacher’s College have prepared me specifically for understanding cognitive development. In EDPS 390 we learned about various teaching strategies, philosophies, and theories. Vygotsky’s work is especially pertinent for teachers. A master teacher should understand the ZPD of a student and how he can use scaffolding to help the student achieve mastery within the Zone of Actual Development. During student teaching, I had to adapt to the varying developmental levels of my students. More specifically, each grade level required different approaches and strategies. For my beginning string and band classes I would do much more modeling and rote-to-note teaching due to their limited knowledge and playable range. I would model a simple melody featuring eighth notes, break it down into manageable parts for the students to demonstrate, and then finally put it all together. This provided my students opportunities to explore the content (eighth notes) prior to discussing and understanding the more technical aspects of eighth notes such as subdivision, notation, and identification. I would utilize similar strategies in terms of processing with the 7th grade band, but when sight-reading new material I would also have them analyze the melody or piece using the S.T.A.R.S. method to identify notes, rhythms, tempo and key changes, and any road map or expressive markings. These sight-reading guidelines would help them discover some of the content of their piece on their own as we listen and play, and students would share some of their discoveries with the class. Finally, 8th grade band builds on both of these approaches. In addition to modeling by singing, performing, or playing a recording and using the sight-reading guidelines, I would also ask students to come up with their own interpretations, guidelines, or suggestions for the music. Though each grade level incorporated similar strategies, the approaches I used in each grade level dove a little deeper as students developed over time.
Student teaching also gave me many opportunities to plan and process to ensure student learning across various domains. Each day at the start of class I would write the Daily Learning Objectives and the procedure or schedule for the day on the board and go over these with the students before we began. Then, I would summarize with the students what we had learned the previous day to recover and reinforce information. If the lesson that day featured sight-reading I would use the following process: model, sing pitches and finger, count and clap, and play in chunks. This process allows learners to take a piece and break it down into its fundamental components to understand and demonstrate it more effectively. Throughout a lesson my primary form of informal assessment would be question and answer, calling students by name to ensure everyone gets a chance to participate. At the end of a lesson we would summarize what we had learned that day, and finally I would inform the students what the focus would be the next day so that they knew what to look forward to.