3. Chapter 4 & 5
Practise Motivational Program
The requirement to practise daily is fundamental to my teaching, to motivate learners to achieve this an accumulator challenge was created.
After 100 hours were undertaken on the ‘Practice Record Card’ (figure 5 & 6) an appropriate rosette is awarded. Each 100 hours has a different colour, a full spectrum of 10 colours was completed after 1000 hours practise when a sew-on badge was awarded.
We discovered that one adult learner revealed that, to her, such a system of extrinsic rewards helped her to organise and regulate her daily practice as she had a personal goal that she could see herself achieving. Following this experience we always offer this reward structure to adult and teenage learners, it is detrimental to assume that individual learners would be demotivated by this system, however it must be considered in the light of the individual learners' evident external motivational factors.
Jane has been having piano lessons with our program for a year and has proven very motivated in achieving and maintaining her practise. She was using the “Practice Record Card” and the “Beads to Party” program when her father read on the card about the 1000 hours challenge. Given sufficient motivation to attain a standard rarely achieved Jane practised every day until she had achieved her target. Having achieved this standard she has continued to maintain her practise time and is achieving great success as this motivational factor was accurately matched to this goal-driven student. At our September event she received a 1000 hours practice badge.
Isabel achieved a Grade 1 Distinction in her last examination. During the pre-examination preparations she challenged herself to achieve one more bead everyday, this equated to a considerable amount of practice. After every lesson she insists on counting the minutes out finding every sparkly bead in the jar.
In the “Beads to Party” program learners add beads to a large jar according to the amount of practice time they have accrued. When it is full we have a party for all the primary age learners, with games and free pizza & cake!
The sister program to the Practice Challenge is the “Most Holiday Practice” rosette. This is a short-term target which originated from a joke with a pupil who was about to go on holiday overseas. It was commented that he should not forget to practise as an examination was pending on his return. Unbeknownst to me they arranged for him to practise on the hotel piano everyday. Using the same challenge I have a pupil who annually goes on an entire 6 weeks summer holiday to India, after accepting the challenge arranged to practise on a keyboard which they purchased over there to enable her to participate in the challenge and teach her cousins.
These challenges have no winners or losers and are designed for enjoyment and personal improvement.
“Through pleasure and humour and happy experiences such as fear of failure, competition discrimination and frustration about losing can be avoided.”
Rosettes are used to reward the highest distinction, merit and pass marks. The theory exams and practical exams are awarded using different colours, the categories of marks, and therefore ability, give everyone an equal opportunity in achieving the reward.
The choice of this external motivational device has achieved great success when the learners are selected according to their personal requirements. An adult pupil had repeatedly aimed for full marks to attain a trophy and succeeded in the three consecutive theory exams and achieved the highest mark of 98% for the fourth. Following his time with our teaching programs he entered the RNCM.
An alternate award structure was found to be beneficial in those families who had a sporting individual. In addition to the sport trophies lined up on the windowsill, our achievement trophies provided a viable alternative for the musical sibling; a piano has ample display room trophies alongside the metronome.
“the benefits for both a lifetime of musical foundation and increased spatial-temporal IQ scores are available without undue pressure, so any lessons at this age should emphasise enjoyment... not simply performance and competition”
I have discovered through reflection on my teaching practice that irrespective of the rewards offered, whether material, mental or spiritual, the core that is central to them all offers enjoyment and the love of music making.
One of the places relatively new learners suffer a lack of motivation is on the approach to grade one practical. Whilst the new pre-preparatory program, and step one and two examinations assist, some parents do not understand the requirement for small achievable goals and still push for the grade one before the learner is sufficiently practised to achieve.
The lack of a clear indicator as to the technical skills and requirements used in the pieces for grade one practical, and the playground politics at school, ensure that the pressure applied by some parents actually, and unfortunately, dissuade the young learners from achieving and maintaining progression. To support and provide the learners with a positive and motivational alternative the Sycamore Preparatory Program was created, see figure 1 & 2.
This program is based on extrinsic motivational rewards alongside quantifiable and achievable stepping stones. These micro stages act as visible and attainable goals for the learners irrespective of whether the parents have musical knowledge. Four stepping stones require completion before the examination music is considered. Each of the steps provides a developing level of abilities predisposing the learner to approach the grade examination standard often without the learner's awareness that they are achieving targets required by the grading syllabus. These short term goals allow for a feeling of progression through assessment.
The first version of this program was published in 1997 in book form. A sample of the completed pages below. Following this publication I retired from full time teaching to raise my family. The program was updated in 2019, see figure 3, and is being expanded to cover the syllabus up to diploma level.
Lisa, after one year of lessons, was a little way from a grade 1 exam. One week she attended her lesson with her parents who were concerned that her best friend had achieved grade three flute and Lisa had not yet taken grade one piano and she was beginning to not want to practise. After a long discussion about the comparative standards and requirements of the examination system they expressed the desire for a written pathway from the current position to grade one ability. They believed, correctly, that this would help Lisa's progress and rekindle her enthusiasm. I set to work and offered the first draught of the pathway at the next lesson. The steps on the written pathway allowed her to hone her practice and progress was made, the results increased as her focus level improved, she maintained it week to week. In the next examination period a grade one distinction was achieved.
Chris Caton-Greasley LLCM(TD) MA (Mus)(Open)
Ethnographic Musicologist, Teacher, Researcher