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My Musical Learning Journey

March 15, 2021

Recently, I decided to buy myself an electronic keyboard and teach myself to play the keyboard/piano. I can play a little bit of guitar but decided on a new challenge. I’ve narrowed the reasons for this down to:

  1. To give me something to do during lockdown
  2. To get me away from staring at a screen
  3. Midlife crisis driven dreams of being a musician

I thought this learning journey would be a great opportunity to reflect on the process of my learning, and how it relates to learning in a classroom, and maybe a bit about the similarities/differences in learning a musical instrument vs chemistry/science. Already I find myself sitting down at the keyboard and thinking about what my success criteria are for my lesson, how my prior knowledge impacts on my learning, what is the best way for me to learn, how to keep myself motivated, the balance between knowledge/skills, how I assess my progress etc. The blog posts won’t be very long, as everyone is busy and there are much, much better blogs out there worth reading.

This first post is about success criteria.

It only took me a few times of sitting at the keyboard and aimlessly hitting some keys, or trying to copy something from YouTube, to realise the importance of employing learning intentions and success criteria when I sit down to play. Without them, my time at the keyboard is completely unstructured and I don’t make much progress. Now, when I sit down to play, I decide what it is I want to learn, and I set myself some success criteria, e.g. “I’m learning to play an easy version of ‘Ode To Joy’, and my success criteria might be “I can play the fiddly wee bit in the middle that I always struggle with, at half the tempo but with no mistakes”. This totally focusses my learning and I practice, practice, practice that bit until I get it right. When I eventually get it (don’t worry – I won’t share any audio files), I know I’ve had a successful lesson which improves my motivation to learn more (but I’ll blether about success and motivation another day). If I don’t meet the success criteria, then I think about what I can do to scaffold my learning to help me improve, e.g. try it at a slower tempo, or concentrate on playing with only my right hand before trying with my left hand. Setting myself LI/SC really helps to focus my learning and is definitely making each time I sit down at the keyboard more enjoyable and successful (don’t worry – I don’t write the LI/SC down in a jotter so inspectors can see them).

Bruce Robertson has written a great blog post on writing learning intentions and success criteria.

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