Developing the Students' Thinking and Learning Skills in the Instrumental Lesson

Developing the Students' Thinking and Learning Skills in the Instrumental Lesson

Rossella Marisi (Accademia di Belle Arti - Bologna, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7853-6.ch003
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Developing the learners' thinking and learning skills can be defined as helping the latter not only to acquire a deeper understanding of the content they have to learn, but also to master a method enabling them to become independent learners. Learners should be guided to reflect on their learning, in order to be aware of their own learning strategies, to understand which advantages and drawbacks characterize each strategy, to distinguish how and when to use the different strategies, to identify the most suitable one on a case-by-case basis, and to be able to apply it to further their learning. After a reflection on the pedagogical issues raised in particular by the instrumental lessons, the study puts forward a proposal of how to develop the students' thinking and learning skills, focusing on a masterpiece of the flute literature: Johann Sebastian Bach's “Allemande” from the Partita in A minor, BWV 1013.
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In musical performance the performer interprets what is notated in the musical score, which is often a task of overwhelming complexity due to the high number of interacting aspects that shall be taken into consideration (Seashore, 1967), and translates it into a sequence of tones. Fidelity to the score is necessary, but not sufficient: a living performance requires identifying the underlying structure of the piece in order to assign to it the appropriate tempo, and to the single tones forming a specific sequence the appropriate loudness, temporal value, and timbre. All these features may present microvariations within the single tones (Clynes, 1983), which can be performed by means of specific motor behaviour (Schaffer, 1980).

Traditional methods of teaching are successful in developing what the Greeks termed tekne (Fisher, 2013), which makes students able to perform a piece according to the suggestions of the teacher. Yet are these methods also successful in developing the higher-order thinking, what the Greeks called phronesis (Fisher, 2013), which makes students able to carry out an autonomous analysis of a piece’s structure, in order to choose the appropriate motor behaviour obtaining the desired musical features?

Building on the works of these renowned scholars, the present article aims at a more limited objective: to make some suggestions on how students can be guided in the analysis of Bach’s Allemande, in order to promote the development of their thinking and learning skills, promoting a more mature performance.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Learning Strategies: Specific actions, steps, or techniques used by students to enhance their own learning.

Musical Performance: “Translation” of the signs written in the musical score into a sequence of tones.

Modelling: Observational learning happening indirectly through a process of watching others and then imitating their behavior.

Cognitive Strategies: Sets of mental processes consciously implemented to regulate thought processes and content in order to achieve goals or solve problems.

Scaffolding: Instructional technique aiming at moving students progressively toward stronger understanding and greater independence in the learning process.

Elaboration Strategies: Strategies designed to draw from and integrate with one’s own existing knowledge in order to retain additional information.

Metacognition: Awareness and understanding of one's own thought processes.

Partita: Instrumental piece of music formed by a collection of dance music, popular in the Baroque era.

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