Ancora Imparo - I am still learning

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Scaffolding (as in education, not construction work)

I love my college classes. They always have such interesting discussions going on. :^) This week, one of my discussion boards for my education class called for a success or failure story based upon the use of scaffolding in teaching. Scaffolding is, simply, teaching basics and building upon the basics. One of the other students posted about how scaffolding has been a successful technique employed by her son's piano teacher. That gave me an idea of how to present my argument. Here it is:

Shannon's post about scaffolding and piano lessons made me begin to think about my own music lessons - and the use of scaffolding, or lack thereof, by various music teachers. I remember when I was fourteen years old and began taking guitar lessons. My first guitar teacher (I say first, because there ended up being nine in all), asked my mom to by a level one guitar book. (I began in level one because I already had experience reading notes from playing the piano, so I skipped the primer level). I began playing note-by-note such songs as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." At my request, because I had taught myself a little about the guitar in the past year, he did begin showing me some open chords on the guitar as well. Things were going well. I quickly advanced to the level two book. Then my guitar teacher took a job in another city and I went to another teacher at the same store. She continued the scaffolding process where my first teacher had left off. More notes, moving string-by-string, with a few chords thrown in. After a month or so, she felt she was not spending enough time with her new baby, so she stopped teaching at this music store.

At this point, I moved to another music store and another teacher. I showed him the books I had been studying out of and asked if he could teach me using this (as this is what I was familiar with). He told me that he could, but he would like to teach me a little more about actual technique and theory. So he did. My first lesson there, I began actually playing the guitar. I was still learning the theory. I still knew the chords and notes. But I learned how to play the guitar - Johnny Cash style. I also learned how to "chicken pick" to add dimension to the songs I had been playing for the past few months. After a few months, he left, too. I went on to more and more guitar teachers; but, this time, I stayed with this music store. They still used scaffolding to a certain extent, but they went more with what I, as the individual musician, learned. I remember taking in cassette tapes to my guitar teachers and asking, "How do I play that lick?" I remember taking in my own songs and asking them what I should do at this or that part. In time, I learned not just notes and chords; but how to make my own chordal arrangements, how to improvise using modal theory, how to transcribe my own songs. Over the years, I would expand my musical interests to playing not only the guitar, but the banjo, the mandolin, and the bass. One of my favorite things was to record all of the instruments on a four-track recorder and mix them.

Perhaps the most ironic thing is that a few years later, after learning these stringed instruments, I decided to try my hand at the violin. I began taking lessons from a teacher at my favorite music store and loved it. Because he lived 90 miles away, he decided that it was not worth travelling back and forth to Salina. I was disappointed. He was an awesome "fiddle" player. At one point, he even travelled with his band to Nashville (I actually wrote their bio for them). So I talked with another teacher that I knew of that had taught in the public school system for several years and began taking lessons from him. He started me in on a more traditional approach, based more on scaffolding than my own interests and abilities. That did not last long. I only took from him for a few months and never have learned to play the violin.
I think what I mean by this scenario is that scaffolding is a useful technique. Of course, we have to learn the basics of something, oftentimes, before we can proceed to the next level. However, I believe, rather than sticking to a strict scaffolding approach; it is much more useful to follow the interests and abilities of each student.



TERI said...

How wonderful that you can play all these instruments! I am very musically challenged myself! I like to study the Bible in this manner....line upon line...precept upon precept.

unschoolermom said...

I still enjoy playing music. Taliesin and Nathanael also enjoy music days. Taliesin has fun with the madonlin - it's just his size.

It sounds like you would love my inductive Bible study class! It recommends studying the Bible in four steps - "grasping the text in their town," "measuring the width of the river," "understanding the theological principle," and "grasping the text in our town." I have really enjoyed studying the Bible with the concordance. It's a wonderful opportunity!


Rob said...

I was trained in education, but I agree with you--sometimes you have to toss the scaffolding and give a student something over their head. They have to be the right kind of student, but if they are, they'll often be inspired to really work hard and get all the help they can from you to reach their goal.

Incidentally, you might enjoy the Free Guitar Chords page on my site--it's got tons of songs.