Instruct, Yes, But Let Them Explore Too

January 24, 2011

In music there are many kinds of teachers. There are many kinds of good teachers, even. The kind that is sure of everything, that dictates every detail of fingering, phrasing, stylistic and esthetic attitude — even if these are entirely defensible and “correct” — will have drawbacks:

Through two experiments with pre-schoolers, Bonawitz has found that teaching can be a “double-edge sword”. When teachers provided specific instructions about a new toy, children learned how to play with it more efficiently. But the lessons also curtailed their exploratory streak. They were less likely to play with the toy in new ways. Ultimately, they failed to find all of its secrets. …

Context clearly matters. When the apparently knowledgeable teachers in the experiments provide a seemingly complete lesson about the toy, the children deduce that there is no more to learn. If the lesson is interrupted, or if the instructor seems like a novice, the child deduces that there is more to discover. Bonawitz thinks that these abilities start from a very early age, when children are still in pre-school or kindergarten.

Ed Young, “When teaching restrains discovery”

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One Response to “Instruct, Yes, But Let Them Explore Too”

  1. Girly said

    “Let” them explore? It should be mandatory. I like the idea of having a child teach the instructor and then filling in the blanks.

    My singing teacher taught me basics no doubt but she was great about letting me find my own voice and then helping me to strenghten that.

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