Ask more questions – An effective teaching strategy

Did you know that simply asking your students more questions can be a really effective teaching strategy? 

Adopting a questioning approach has all kinds of benefits for your students – and for you.

Asking questions promotes active learning, since it encourages students to actively participate in the lesson.

It encourages curiosity and creativity in your learners.

It helps your students to move beyond surface learning, and to get deeper into the music.

It helps your students become more independent learners, and to take more ownership of their own learning.

It helps your students build valuable lifelong learning skills, for example, around measuring their own progress.

It helps them to become reflective practitioners.

It encourages YOU to move away – even occasionally – from a teacher-led approach to one that is more student- centred.

It gives you insights into what your students know and don’t know. And it gives you an opportunity to consider what they want and need to learn.

Ask the right questions

In order for this approach to be effective, it’s important that you ask the right questions.

Here’s an example of how you might bring a questioning approach into your lessons.

Have a student play a tune or set that they have been working on

Instead of YOU offering feedback and ‘fixing’ things for them, ask them these questions instead:

  • How would you rate that performance on a scale of 1-10 (where 10 is perfect)?
  • Why would you give it that mark?
  • What would you need to do to make it 1 mark (or 2 or 3 marks) higher?
  • Why is that?
  • How can you do that?
  • How will you know when you have done it?
  • After that, what else could you do to improve it?

The downside of this, for us as teachers, is that it can be a much slower way of helping our students make progress. Often it is quicker and easier for us to simply correct the students ourselves. We could point out, in a matter of minutes, what needs to be improved on, and how to do it.

But where’s the learning in that for the students?

By doing what we tell them, our students are engaging in surface learning only. By being asked the questions, and having to figure out for themselves what the problems are, they are immediately engaged more meaningfully in their own learning. In the long run, it offers a far more valuable learning experience to the student. And one that will benefit them in their lifelong musical journey – long after you are there in front of them every Monday, or Wednesday, or Friday evening.  

So, think about it. If you are looking for a traditional music teaching strategy that will encourage your students to engage more deeply in the learning process, try asking them more questions!

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