Motivating Student Practice.

As important as Aristotle’s laws of motion are to the development of modern physics, somehow, they are humorous.  Newton’s first law of motion is merely a more precise restatement of Aristotle’s ideas: an object in a particular state of motion will continue in that state of motion unless an outside force influences it.  However, Aristotle called this altered status of motion “forced” or “violent;” moreover, he believed that all objects had inherent, measurable resistance to such forced motion.  Some of what Aristotle observed is now understood to be what is indeed called resistance, friction, and drag; but Aristotle’s language creates an amusing picture of inanimate objects with wills to remain inert, resisting motion until coerced.

We could say that this picture is a rather uncanny illustration of a type of student—the type that never seems to practice, despite their teacher’s best efforts.  These are unmotivated students who come to their lessons week after week, only prepared with excuses.  If we’re honest, however, we might admit that this metaphor could be used to describe anyone (including ourselves!) in a wide variety of situations.

Over the last year, I have spent some time seeking to better understand both the stimulation of self-motivation and the teacher-student relationship as it pertains to responsibility.  For now, I have concluded:

TEACHER’S RESPONSIBILITY: To guide the student into a cycle of work and achievement (related to attribution theory in psychology).
STUDENT’S RESPONSIBILITY: To implement the short-term goals assigned by the teacher.

My studies resulted in a “How to Practice” Workshop at the Community Music School of UNC School of the Arts (see the video below), as well as in a list of potential motivational methods that can be directly applied to practicing.

© 2016 Krisztina Dér.  All rights reserved.

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