Scholarly article on topic 'How (not) to Discourage Youngsters from Playing the Piano. On Bad and Good Piano Teaching'

How (not) to Discourage Youngsters from Playing the Piano. On Bad and Good Piano Teaching Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Malgorzata Chmurzynska

Abstract Analysis of pedagogical and psychological literature has provided some data about modern form of teaching connected with the recognition of pupils’ subjectivity, with the support of their cognitive self-reliance by teachers, and with attention to develop of pupils’ motivation. Many years ago the outstanding musicians: master-teachers (Varro, Neuhaus, Flesch) called for applying those principles in the professional music education. Building on the observation of 35 piano lessons, each conducted by one of 15 piano teachers from primary professional music schools, the study aims to investigate whether and how the piano teachers apply these rules currently.

Academic research paper on topic "How (not) to Discourage Youngsters from Playing the Piano. On Bad and Good Piano Teaching"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 45 (2012) 306 - 317

The 5th Intercultural Arts Education Conference: Design Learning

How (not) to discourage youngsters from playing the piano. On bad and good piano teaching

Malgorzata Chmurzynskaa*

a The Fryderyk Chopin Univerity of Music, ul. Okolnik 2, 00-368-Warsaw, Poland


Analysis of pedagogical and psychological literature has provided some data about modern form of teaching connected with the recognition of pupils' subjectivity, with the support of their cognitive self-reliance by teachers, and with attention to develop of pupils' motivation. Many years ago the outstanding musicians: master-teachers (Varro, Neuhaus, Flesch) called for applying those principles in the professional music education. Building on the observation of 35 piano lessons, each conducted by one of 15 piano teachers from primary professional music schools, the study aims to investigate whether and how the piano teachers apply these rules currently.

© 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer re view under re sponsibility ofProfessorHeikki Ruismaki and Adjunct Pro fessor Inkeri Ruokonen

Keywords: professional music school; piano teaching; pedagogical strategies

1. Introduction

The question of the traits and characteristics of a good teacher has long attracted attention of educators, psychologists, and pedeutologists. In the past centuries they described a model teacher, emphasizing these characteristics and requirements which in a given historical period were considered most important from the standpoint of the functions and tasks attributed to the teacher. Along with the cultural and social changes these tasks also changed, consequently changing the indicators of a good teacher.

1.1. Teacher's desired aptitudes

In recent years a mechanical point of view on education as a transmission of knowledge has been questioned. The concept of a teacher who develops the pupils, which resulted in the attempts to accelerate

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +48 602 33 44 83. E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer review under responsibility of Professor Heikki Ruismaki and Adjunct Professor Inkeri Ruokonen


their development and forced their over-stimulation, has been replaced by the concept of a teacher who supports the development of the pupils. The teacher, respecting the pupils' autonomy, assists in their information processing and helps them understand the reality, creates the conditions in which they can develop their potential, and above all, teaches them to learn on their own (Gas, 2001). In this context the education becomes a mutual relationship of two equivalent subjects: the pupil and the teacher. The lesson becomes a place of encounter and not the transmission of knowledge (Kwiatkowska, 2008). No wonder, then, that the point of reference for all the reflection on the teacher is his/her relationship with the pupil. Recently, pedeutologists focus their attention less on the teacher's strictly professional competences and more on his/her personality competences which determine the affective dimension of this relationship and its quality. This line of thinking points to a whole range of competences that were previously unnoticed.

The value of the relationship with the pupil is determined to a large extent by the teacher's level of self-consciousness. Its role is particularly well visible in the teacher's expectations (Czykwin, 1995). These expectations are the emanation of the teacher's professional self-image and at the same time are the projection of his/her self onto the pupil. The teacher's expectations translate into his/her behaviour, and these, in turn, into the behaviour of the pupil. They indicate to the pupil what the teachers' demands are. They act, therefore, as self-fulfilling prophecies. The substantial role of the teacher's expectations in determining the pupil's achievements has been demonstrated in a number of empirical studies including the work by Rosenthal in 1968 (Czykwin, 1995, 2000; Konaszkiewicz, 2001; Necka, 2001; Wojciszke, 2001). From these studies the following conclusion has been drawn: The pupils achieve the results (positive or negative) they are expected to achieve by their teachers. In this context it can be maintained that the pessimistic expectations on the part of the teacher and even his/her overly realistic image of the student, disturb the pupil's development and disrupt the process of education.

The contemporary teacher is required to respect the pupil's subjectivity. This is one of the fundamental principles the teacher of the 21th century should follow (Kolodziejska, 2002). It is manifested in the teacher's behaviour by the respect for the pupil's dignity and individuality, and by creating an ambiance of security. The respect for the pupil's subjectivity changes the model of the relationship with the teacher and the educational strategies: a monologue is being replaced by a dialogue. The respect for the pupil's subjectivity means also providing the pupil with increasing freedom in decision making. The more frequently the pupil is allowed to choose his/her own actions, the greater will be his/her sense of responsibility for these actions (Seul-Michalowska, 1998).

Another important teacher's competence is the ability to develop the pupil's cognitive independence, to inspire his/her self-reflection and research activity. The point is that the pupil should become a conscious self-educator. It is the teacher's emotional commitment that is particularly effective in triggering the pupil's need for cognitive activity. Let's quote Maria Ledzinska, a psychologist-lecturer at the University of Warsaw: 'Showing our own passion, even if in fact it is a tiny bit less strong, is a very effective way to fascinate the student with our subject' (Manturzewska & Chmurzynska, 2001, 128).

1.2. The role of the instrumental teachers in intensive musical training

In musical schooling, the teacher's aptitudes, conditioning the quality of the teacher/pupil relationship, are crucial. Evidence suggests that in the music learning process, the position of the teacher is stronger and more powerful than in general teaching (Konaszkiewicz, 2001). First of all, instrumental teaching is carried out through individual lessons, face to face, behind closed doors. Individual instrumental teaching can create an intimacy between the teacher and the pupil, and moreover can cause the pupil to become dependent on his/her teacher to a considerable degree. Secondly, the subject matter, i.e. music, makes the relationships between the teacher and the pupil very emotional (Konaszkiewicz, 1998).

Sloboda and Howe suggest that instrumental teachers can be extremely important, especially in the early years of instruction (1995), whilst a number of other studies have suggested that the instrumental teacher is one of the most important persons in the lives of professional musicians (Manturzewska, 1990; Sosniak, 1985, 1989). Therefore, it appears that the instrumental teacher can influence the general and musical development of their pupils, make an impact on their development and ultimately their musical achievements, their performance skills and their attitudes towards music and the music profession. Instrumental teachers appear to be responsible for shaping the intrinsic motivation, the first musical experiences, the musical interests and preferences of their pupils, as well as contributing to the development of their personality and building up their self-confidence (Gliniecka-Rekawik, 2007).

The specific nature of musical education means that incorrect relations with their teacher can prevent even the most gifted pupils from fully realising their potential. For this reason, very high demands are placed on teachers of an instrument, with regard to both their specialisation and their psychological and pedagogical aptitudes.

1.3. Great masters on what is expected of a musician-teacher

The significance of psychological and pedagogical aptitudes was raised in earlier works by outstanding artists who were also endowed with a talent for teaching. Among the classic works of this type are books by the pianists Margit Varro and Harry Neuhaus and the violinist Carl Flesch.

M. Varro displayed what for a musician-teacher was extraordinary perspicacity in penetrating the inner world of children learning to play the piano. In her book The Living Piano Teaching (Der Lebendige Klavierunterricht published by Simrock Co., Leipzig in 1929) Varro formulated rules on dealing with pupils which not only have lost none of their currency but constitute a canon of the principles of pedagogy in general. For example (after: Chmielowska, 1962, 105-106), 'Don't explain to a pupil what you can help him to discover for himself, 'Try to ensure that a pupil feels satisfaction as quickly as possible from some knowledge or skill he has acquired', 'The conviction of having made progress sustains interest in the subject'. The author propagated the development of what pedeutologists now call cognitive independence in pupils, which she highlighted in one of her rules. In her daily contact with her pupils, she herself employed the method of asking questions rather than delivering a lecture or instructions. By putting numerous questions to pupils, she led them to resolve the problems at hand, and the pupils could acquire the conviction of having arrived at it themselves. Varro's ideas and reflections, familiar to only a limited readership with an interest in the subject, are surprising for their innovation, and the demands on teachers that she highlights correspond perfectly to the aptitudes of the twenty-first-century teacher discussed by us

Equally innovative, still current and also dating from the 1920s are the views of C. Flesch, set out in his The Art of Violin Playing (Die Kunst des Violinspiels, 1923-28, Pol. ed. 1964). According to Flesch, an instrument teacher should possess 'the ability to transmit his own knowledge', and also 'sufficient knowledge of psychology to be able to recognise and satisfy the technical, musical and spiritual needs of the pupil entrusted to him' (after: Markiewicz, 1998, 6). The author attaches great weight to the quality of the relationship between the teacher and the pupil, which should be based on trust and mutual friendship: the teacher 'must seek to gain the pupil's trust to such an extent that the latter sees in him his best friend' (ibid., 7). The teacher should create an atmosphere in which the pupil feels sufficiently secure to be able to voice his doubts about the teacher's remarks.

^ QuotatioiisiTamthese authors' works are translated here from the Polish.

There is huge value in what Harry Neuhaus writes about the work of the teacher in his The Art of Piano Playing (Pol. ed. 1970). His ideal of the good piano teacher is a teacher of music who is something more than a teacher of piano: he is a teacher who employs a complex method of teaching and is at once a music historian, theorist and teacher of solmization and harmony. Just such a teacher, 'elucidating and explaining music', was Neuhaus's own master, Leopold Godowski. The overriding aim of pedagogic work, which ought to guide every teacher, was 'to give the pupil as soon as possible such a thorough training that he no longer needs the pedagogue' (Neuhaus, 1970, 205). And so the teacher should teach the pupil how to learn. According to Neuhaus, a teacher should not demand the continual improvement of a work, which involves the constant repetition of the same thing, but limit his interventions to the minimum, so that the pupil's talent and his own ideas might manifest themselves fully.

2. The current study

2.1. Aims

The above-described views and expectations with regard to instrument teachers were held by esteemed artists to be authoritative in the domain of music performance and pedagogy. But did they come to be reflected in the realities of the classroom? To what extent do instrument teachers in professional music schools meet the new requirements concerning the essence of 'being a teacher' that are formulated in contemporary pedeutological works? Do they motivate and stimulate musical interest among pupils, develop their cognitive independence and take care to create a friendly atmosphere?

2.2. Methods

In order to answer these and other questions, observations were made of piano lessons in state primary schools of music.

In Poland there are almost 300 free, state professional, primary and secondary music schools with the 63,500 selected pupils. Few of them, the most gifted, enter the higher level of music education and prepare to be professional musicians. But for the majority of pupils the professional primary music schools are supposed to be the place where they are provided with positive experiences and emotions associated with music so that artistic music can be relevant part of their life. However, after finishing primary music education they lose an interest in classical music. According to the experts the reason for this is their having been discouraged by their musician teachers and the way they were taught (Manturzewska & Chmurzynska, 1999).

35 piano lessons, each conducted by one of 15 piano teachers (regarded as good teachers) from primary professional music schools were observed, recorded and then transcribed. The age of the observed ranged between 24 and 75. All of them were graduates of higher musical education: 7 full time instrumental playing, 5 part-trne instrumental playing, 3 musical education. The lessons involved pupils' aged 6-14 years, from state primary music schools in different Polish cities.

Lessons were analysed from the point of view of various aspects of teaching and the teacher's musical, pedagogic and psychological competence. For each of these categories, a grading scale was prepared, enabling teachers to be ranked according to how strongly they displayed particular qualities. An integral analysis of the data gathered from the observations allowed three groups of teachers with different levels of competence to be distinguished: the first group comprises teachers with the highest level of competence (hereafter designated with T-1a, T-1b, T-1c, T-1d symbols); the second group is made up of teachers showing certain deficiencies (T-2a, T-2b, T-2c, T-2d, T-2e); the third group is composed of teachers with the lowest level of competence (T-3a, T-3b, T-3c, T-3d, T-3e, T-3f). The order of the teachers within the

particular groups, marked with successive letters of the alphabet, is not random; it reflects the level of their teaching. Out of necessity, we will confine our discussion of the results to some of the aspects discussed above.

3. Results

3.1. The way of demotivation

It goes without saying that one of a teacher's hardest tasks is to motivate pupils to work on an instrument and to arouse within them an interest in music. This has been confirmed by successive academic studies (Chmurzynska, 2009, 2011; Gliniecka-Rekawik, 2007; Hallam, 2009). Chmurzynska's research has shown that instrument teachers themselves (in this case of piano) are aware of their deficiencies in this respect. However, it was surprising that the majority of the observed teachers behaved in a way that showed a lack of awareness of the fact that there exists a relationship between their attitudes and the pupils' motivation. It was obvious that constant criticism, highlighting mistakes, and underestimating the pupils' effort did not encourage them to work harder. Yet the teachers continued to base their pedagogical strategies on pointing out mistakes, and the way in which they did it (with a raised voice, sometimes ironically) could have been a source of frustration and discouragement to pupils: 'This is A-flat and not A!', 'How are you playing!?, 'What are you tapping?!', 'This is not the right note!', 'Why aren't you able to play this fragment again?!', 'You are playing without any sense, 'NO WAY!!', 'Think a little bit!', 'You must think on your own too', 'It is hopeless! It cannot be like that', 'We have talked so many times about this F-sharp', 'As usual, you are making a mistake in the same place, 'It's been so many lessons and you still cannot get it', 'I can say it once again, but what for? - since you will forget it anyway.

The teachers' use of the phrases 'as usual', 'again', made it clear that they did not expect any positive results on the part of their pupils. However, as has been confirmed by numerous findings, positive expectations have causative power - they can bring out what is best in a pupil. A friendly and supportive attitude of the teacher releases the inner potential of the pupils (the Pygmalion effect). However, demonstrated lack of positive expectations on the part of the teacher discourages pupils from making an effort; they lose self-confidence and may achieve worse results than they are capable of (the Golem effect). An optimistic reception of a pupil, even a slight overrating of his/her possibilities has great educational value, because it builds up his/her self-confidence and trust in his/her potential. In a musical performance, self-confidence and perceived self-efficacy and self-competence have enormous importance for achieving the right results in the educational process. And teachers possess various means by which they can support these beliefs or destroy them. The observed teachers, unfortunately, underestimated the motivational role of positive strategies. Instead, they concentrated on making the pupils aware that they were playing badly.

Many negative comments were uttered in an ironic tone of voice, in the form of rhetorical questions: 'Who said you could slow down?', 'Why are you using the fourth finger here?', 'Why aren't you playing that D with the 1 eft hand?', 'Who told you to play legato?' Such comments were accompanied by the brusque interruption of pupils' playing. A teacher's violent reactions to minor errors increase anxiety, and a pupil can begin to feel scared of lessons (let us add that several pupils' hands were shaking before they started playing).

The unenviable record for negative reactions was noted in a lesson given by teacher T-3f. Although the pupil was not prepared for the lesson, T-3f did not halt the error-strewn playing, but 'moaned' under his breath: 'What are you doing?', 'It's all wrong!', 'Jesus, what are you playing?', 'Too many errors to count!', 'I can't listen to this any longer', 'How many times have we talked about that?' In this lesson, I

observed a vicious circle: the more the teacher moaned, the worse the pupil played, and her behaviour left us in no doubt that she had had enough of the lesson and the teacher.

Another demotivating feature of the observed teachers was their inability to praise. For praise to be effective, it should be sincere and adequate for the achievement. The majority of teachers did not have any difficulty in criticizing the pupils; however, they had a very big problem with expressing recognition sincerely, even in situations where the pupil evidently deserved it. One of these teachers (T-2c) scrupulously and in quite a severe voice pointed out all the pupils' mistakes; yet when one of the youngest pupils performed, correctly and from memory, a piece which she was only supposed to read with each hand separately, the teacher merely said: 'not bad'. Another pupil, who not only prepared a piece well but learnt it by heart, which was very difficult to do, heard the comment: 'You played badly here and here, and here. During a lesson with another pupil, the same teacher kept making new requirements over and over again. When the pupil played a section of a piece in accordance with the teacher's instructions, the teacher immediately found other faults in the performance.

The majority of these teachers focused on underlining all the shortcomings of playing, treating it as the basic task in their work, and they became extremely efficient at it. However, when it came to praising, they did it without conviction, very generally and hesitantly: 'I can see, you have been practicing', 'Oh, ok, 'I must compliment you on this', 'Not so bad', 'Let's assume it was not bad'.

3.2. The way of motivation

Teachers from the first group conducted their lessons in an entirely different way (especially T-1a, T-1b). Because they were concentrating on the artistic impression of a pupil's rendition, minor slips were not stressed. They allowed the pupils to play lengthy passages, evaluating primarily their musical shape. The praise they uttered was sincere, at times even enthusiastic: 'Very nice scherzando!', 'Well done, it's a difficult work to memorise!' (though not everything was remembered), 'I'm very glad, because the etude is beginning to mature' (though the rendition was not free of various 'impurities'), 'You have some very beautiful moments. At times I felt goosebumps!' These teachers tried not to interrupt the playing too zealously, and if they did so it was delicately, with tact. T-1a particularly excelled in this: 'Sorry to butt in...', 'I know I'm putting you off, but...', (jokingly) 'I know I'm a pain, but...' The comments were made in the form of requests or expectations: 'There were many lovely moments there, but I'd just like a bit more at the beginning', 'And now I'd like to hear...', 'I'd still change something', 'I'd like the left hand...', 'Now I know what was missing...', 'I think it would be better if...' The comments were clear, specific and on points of merit. These teachers reacted to pupils' slips with patience and understanding: 'Don't worry, let's carry on', 'That's great, and it would be even better with F sharp instead of F. They willingly expressed optimistic expectations regarding the future: 'That'll be fine', 'I think it'll be better next time'. They appreciated the pupils' musical suggestions: 'I like it. If that's how you feel it, you can play it like that'. Their behaviour manifested a strong desire to find the good points about every performance, regardless of any imperfections, and to stress even the smallest achievements: 'That bit is still a problem, but here you're already playing very well'.

In terms of musicality, the playing of these teachers' pupils was on a much higher level, and they were more focussed on the task in hand. In addition, they could feel secure when hearing such rational and predictable reactions from their teacher. It is very easy to point to a textual error, but getting a pupil to play sensibly in musical terms and to discern the deeper layer of the text is much more difficult. These teachers (especially T-1a) showed an excellent ability to encourage their pupils to achieve this.

3.3. Development of pupils' musical interests

The first years of music education should be devoted to arousing musical interests. During lessons with the teachers from the second and third group one could see that the majority of the pupils seemed to be - if not bored - then tired. Many factors were responsible for this: first of all, the lessons were monotonous. All of them were conducted according to the same scheme (scales, possible exercises, more pieces); Moreover, irrespective of the age of the pupil, the level of ability, the stage of education, repertoire, all the comments made by one teacher were formulated in the same way. They concerned the same problems: the movement of the hand, fingers, text. During the lessons nothing happened that could fascinate a pupil with the world of sounds. It is worth emphasizing that this way of teaching was also used while working with the youngest ones. They were taught in a similar manner, with similar comments. The teachers did not make any attempts to vary their classes with some form of musical games, or arousing the children's interest in the different possibilities of the instrument's sounds.

Another reason for the tiredness and decrease in pupils' concentration was the fact that the teachers spoke for too long. The pupils were not able to concentrate on what their teachers said; furthermore, they could not suppress yawning.

Another factor discouraging a pupil from piano lessons is too many remarks and tips voiced by teachers during lessons. Teachers' corrections were of varying significance: from the fundamental to trivial ones. In fact, they diverted the pupils' attention from what was really important. Besides, the pupils were not able to grasp all these things at the same time, which led to the teachers' dissatisfaction, expressed with conviction after a while in terms such as: 'But we have talked about it so many times'. With such a multitude of instructions the main aims of work on a piece became blurred and it became difficult to indicate which problem was the most important one.

3.4. Development of pupils' cognitive independence

During the observation I paid special attention to the way in which the teachers stimulated their pupils: did they put effort into making pupils have a sense of some control over the learning process which -referring to professional literature - may become an important source of intrinsic motivation. The simplest and most effective means of involving a pupil in the learning process is to initiate a verbal dialogue with them, i.e., by questions which encourage them to express their opinions on the subject of musical issues. During the majority of the lessons I did not observe any attempt to stimulate pupils in such a way. They were treated by teachers like objects, as passive recipients and executors of the teachers' instructions. No opportunities were provided for pupils to express their opinions about the performed pieces - hence the majority of pupils kept silent during all the lessons. The communication was entirely one way - from teacher to pupil.

I noted much more effective efforts to involve pupils in the progress of work during lessons given by teachers from the first group. They were more inclined to perceive the pupil as their partner and sought to strike up a dialogue on the subject of the works, their structure and character, and problems of performance. True mastery in developing pupils' cognitive independence was demonstrated by T-1a. During all the lessons she gave, this teacher focussed on making the pupil adopt an active approach to learning. After listening to a work, she usually entered into a dialogue with the pupil, asking questions of the followng type: 'What did you like best about your performance?', 'Did you like everything?' (the pupil usually replied 'not everything'), 'So what didn't you like?'. And here the pupils - clearly accustomed to such a procedure - listed all the shortcomings they had noticed. If anything was omitted, the teacher would continue: 'And do you think this part was smooth?', 'Do you remember what we talked about in the last lesson?'. Then came the most important moment: working together to find a way to put

things right. The teacher showed a genuine interest in what the pupil had to say, and that dialogue resembled a joint council entitled 'What to do to make it better'. And throughout all her lessons, this teacher uttered not a single critical remark. It was the pupil - skilfully led by the questions - who indicated the mistakes she/he had made and specified how to resolve particular problems. This way of conducting lessons meant that the pupils were focussed and willing to cooperate from the first minute to the last.

3.5. Emotional atmosphere

To a considerable extent, the emotional atmosphere created for a pupil by the teacher determines whether the pupil will display an active disposition during the lesson and will willingly speak. During the majority of the lessons the teachers' monologue dominated; it was full of directions which had to be followed by the pupils, and full of reprimands because a pupil was not supposed make mistakes. It was incomprehensible to the teachers that a pupil might have difficulties or problems, which she/he was not able to carry out the teacher's instruction: 'But it's so simple!'

The friendliest atmosphere was forged by T-1a and T-1c. They showed their pupils warmth and genuine interest in their opinions. Their lessons were very lively, engaging the pupils' attention. All the teachers from the first group had very good contact with their pupils. They spoke to the pupil and not to the instrument (like the rest); from behind their desk, they perceived the pupil with her/his preferences and sensitivities, and not just as the executor of his instructions.

The other teachers created an atmosphere that was neither friendly nor unfriendly, but rather indifferent. They were characterised by an impersonal attitude and a great distance towards the pupil (exemplified by their talking to the desk), as well as a monotonous way of conducting the lesson. Neither did they display a great fascination with music.

Making pupils derive pleasure from contact with music is one of the essential tasks of instrumental teachers. It is also a very difficult one. Teachers may arouse pupils' interests and evoke positive emotions through demonstrating to them their own enthusiasm, commitment and fascination with music. A pupil does not experience any positive feelings if a teacher 'torments' her/him with scales and exercises, bores them with theoretical speeches, disrupts repeatedly her/his piano-playing, criticizes and nags; a pupil feels under great pressure from the teacher to play correctly and faultlessly - that was the case with the pupils of the observed teachers from second and third group. Moreover the majority of the teachers who talked to pupils during lessons voiced the conviction that piano-playing is not cheerful playing, but hard and laborious work. And indeed the lessons were like this: tiring, arduous, devoid of any joy.

Again standing out against such a background are the teachers from the first group, and especially T-1a, who led her lessons with great emotional involvement and genuine enthusiasm, which she conveyed to her pupils. She used her voice in a deliberate and varied way: when she wanted to calm a pupil's playing, she spoke calmly and slowly; when she wanted to rouse it, she spoke excitedly. When she wanted to draw the pupil's attention to something in particular, she spoke in a forceful whisper and also made intense eye contact; there was a tangible sense that the teacher was saying something crucial. T-1a displayed a rich repertoire of behaviours and non-verbal reactions; expressing acceptance of a pupil's playing by conducting and other gestures, lively facial expressions, nodding and body movements. Such behaviours reinforced the pupils' conviction that they were moving in the right direction, and as a result they were able to play better than their preparation would have suggested. Let us add that in this way the teacher also moulded the rendition: by means of movement (and also voice, employing a kind of vocalising), she 'suggested' phrasing, breathing, dynamics and characterisation to the pupil. Such communication -provided that the teacher is sufficiently expressive - can be more effective than verbal instruction, and it is certainly more stimulating for the pupil, who can correct her/his performance as she/he goes along.

Moreover, when receiving positive messages from her/his teacher as she/he plays, she/he is able to play to the best of his ability. That may explain how all T-la's pupils, irrespective of their level, played very nicely in musical terms.

3.6. Between musical and technical aspect of teaching

To close, let us refer to a purely musical question. In the musical and psychological literature there frequently appears criticism concerning the excessive concentration on matters of technique and skill in instrumental pedagogy (this is contrary to the recommendations of the 'guru' of piano pedagogy, H. Neuhaus). The criticism of teachers concerns their overly focusing on purely technical issues, and professionalizing the instrumental education as early as the beginning of instrumental playing. It is not a new problem. In 1983, in an interview quoted by Sultz, Dalhaus talked about the strong orientation in musical pedagogy towards the technical aspects of teaching. I recall the words of Harnoncourt (1995, 26), to the effect that present-day music education should not rely only on acquiring adequate skills in instrumental playing: 'We cannot limit teaching to where they should put their finger to achieve specific sound, and how to achieve the fingers' technique. Excessive technically-oriented instruction creates not musicians but ordinary acrobats'. According to Neuhaus, every improvement of technique should serve to bring out the content and sense of a work. So questions linked to technique cannot be considered in isolation 'from music and artistic expression, and that applies to every stage of work, from beginners upwards' (Switlik, 2004, 28). Technique is commonly associated, however, with finger movements, hand placement and fluency. Concentrating on technique as understood in that way creates a danger of separating the forming of technique from the forming of the pupil's musical sensibility. Artistic expression stops being an aim, pupil and teacher strive to achieve technical proficiency, and music becomes a pretext to demonstrate the correct movements.

Among the observed teachers from the first group, the balance between the development of their pupils' musicality and the development of their technical proficiency was maintained. During all the lessons conducted by them, both with older and younger pupils, the starting point of all pedagogical activity was the artistic vision of a piece. The majority of remarks aimed to improve pupils' shortcomings in piano-playing clarity, musical expression through the right tone, phrasing, dynamics and technique. The teachers drew their pupils' attention to the mood of the piece, its artistic expression, the quality of the sound, dynamic nuances. Together they devised the culminations. And in this context the teachers proposed the right exercises and movement, demonstrating a relationship between the proper movement and a tone, phrase and breath in music. As a result, all the pupils of these teachers played musically, expressively, and showed the ability to verify the sounds. In addition, they gave the impression that they did not have any technical problems. Loose hands from the arms to fingertips, well-defined mid-hand, curved strong tips, loose wrists, relaxed posture at the piano, deep sound - all those things indicated that their teachers' competence in positioning the playing apparatus is high.

The other teachers clearly separated the technical and musical aspects of playing, drawing their pupils' attention to the movement and textual correctness, and leaving the other matters - perhaps - until a later time. What these teachers invariably demanded, and what constituted the essence of the lessons, was precise score reading, which in practice meant playing the proper notes, at the proper time, with the correct fingers and given articulation. This sort of work over a piece, deprived of the musical factor and any attempt to immerse oneself in the sense of the text, gave the impression of being somewhat superficial. In fact, pupils' performances relied on the accurate realization of the rudimentary parameters of the music score. They are obviously important and essential to acquire, but it is also very important to keep them in the right proportions. If throughout the lesson the teacher focuses the pupil's attention only on such aspects of performance, then the pupil receives the message that the most important thing in the

piece is to maintain the half note in or to complete the rest in the 7th. Thus he/she loses track of

what is really significant, and it is difficult to expect the performance to have any artistic value. In fact the pupils played listlessly without any attempt to introduce nuance to the tones, although with textual accuracy.

4. Conclusions

The aim of the observations was to verify whether the ways in which instrument teachers conduct their lessons manifest the aptitudes to which contemporary pedeutology attaches so much importance, and the extent to which the postulates formulated many years ago by old masters of their instrument apply to everyday pedagogical work in a professional primary-level music school.

The lesson observations, besides the generally favourable approach of teachers to their pupils and didactic correctness, revealed a number of deficiencies in the strategies employed by teachers. Teachers neglect the development of their pupils' musicality (lessons are piano lessons and not music lessons, as Neuhaus postulated); they fail to stimulate a fascination with music, to make the joy of making music an integral part of the lesson; they conduct lessons in a schematic way, devoting too much time to scales and exercises, which clearly bore the pupils; they issue sharp criticism, and at the same time show a lack of sincere recognition; they overlook the development of the independence of the pupil, whom they reduce to the role of a passive executor of their instructions; they do not take care to ensure that a pupil acquires greater self-confidence. Data from earlier research (Chmurzynska, 2009, 2011) shows that teachers are aware of being unable to effectively influence their pupils' motivation. Yet at the same time they employ methods that bring the opposite results to what is intended. Most of the teachers we observed fail to awaken pupils to the values of music and are well on the way to discouraging pupils from playing. This does not result from their ill will, but is the effect of deficiencies in their psychological-pedagogic training.

However, the observations also brought examples of highly positive pedagogic behaviour, in the work of four teachers from the first group, especially the teacher whom we designated as T-1a. The lessons she gave could serve as an object resource for the training of others. They are a model of how to develop a partnership with the pupil, fostering an effective process of learning and teaching.

The observations also brought one other very important factor to our attention, namely that proficiency in one particular area does not make a teacher a 'good' pedagogue. A deficiency in any one area had a dramatic effect on the standard of teaching. So it is not enough to be just a good musician or a warm, cheerful person with a friendly approach to one's pupils. The efficacy of teaching is determined by a configuration of different aptitudes and personal characteristics in the teacher.


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