So in my last two posts, we’ve discussed some ideas for becoming a better music teacher.
Today, we’ll talk about evaluating the structure and quality of a curriculum.
Remember, we defined the curriculum as your plan of teaching.
These days, if you can’t figure something out, you just go and “YouTube it.” There’s so much free content out in the world that you can learn to do pretty much anything.
- How to tie a necktie.
- Create a new look with makeup.
- Speak with a Bronx, Brooklyn or Jersey accent.
- Change a fuse.
(I’ve used all of those, except the makeup one – that was interesting though!)
It’s incredible. It’s all free, and it’s right at your fingertips.
The same goes for learning music. You can learn how to play just about any song on any instrument, right now. For free.
But this freedom has its own cost.
There’s no guarantee that the content is going to be accurate, useful or relevant to your current level of awareness, technique, and musicianship. There’s no path through this jungle of information. You have to click, poke, and pick your way through it all to get to some level of mastery.
In other words, there’s no structured learning.
There’s no organized path through the information. As we discussed in the previous post, there’s no curriculum.
You would have thought that the explosion of YouTube videos would have decimated the teaching profession. Still, however, there are colleges, conservatories, and workshops all charging for their information. Why? It’s because we need that structure to truly learn anything well. Sure, learning how to tie a bowline knot for your canoe is very simple and you can learn it in 5 minutes from this video.
But getting better and better at any skill requires a path of increasing complexity at just the right level each time. Simple things like a one-off tricky knot are great with YouTube. Becoming a great guitarist? Not so easy.
And this is what a teacher can do with a great curriculum. So, now that we know we need a curriculum, we can either design it ourselves or look to the internet to find one. Regardless of which you choose, you should always have a structured plan for how to evaluate that curriculum based on your needs and the needs of your students.
A thorough tip to evaluating curriculum is to always ask these six questions:
6 Key Questions For Evaluating A Curriculum
Does this curriculum…
…have a clearly defined purpose and scope within a defined framework and philosophy?
…structure, organization, and an appropriate amount of flexibility?
…aligned with natural learning processes?
…target the appropriate age group? Does it value, understand, and empathize with the student population you are teaching?
…encourage clear expectations and measurable goals for students?
…provide comprehensive training for teachers?
A Clearly Defined Purpose and Scope
The curriculum you use to teach your students needs to have a defined purpose and scope. The scope is how much you are planning to accomplish, and the purpose needs to match the scope.
For example, the first part of the Musicolor Method™ curriculum has a purpose to teach young children to play single note, two hand unison piano with basic technical skills while learning about basic music concepts and having fun. The scope is 12 to 18 weeks. Concepts of rhythm, pitch, and intervals are introduced during this period.
Structure, Organization, and Flexibility
Organization is key to learning and the transfer of knowledge. Presenting material in a structured way allows students to put these to relevant use and store it in the right place for later recall.
Alignment with Natural Learning Processes
There is a natural way and order in which we learn. We need the basics before we can combine them to create complexity. You can’t teach grammar without first knowing the alphabet, then words, then sentences. The same is true in music. You can’t teach harmony when you haven’t learned single pitches.
There should be a clear expectation of what is required from the student, the teacher, and other stakeholders (parents, grandparents, etc.). If you teach children, your clients are usually the parents, and those parents need to have a clear understanding of your expectations.
If the scope and purpose of the curriculum is clear, then you will know how to measure its success and set achievable goals.
We use these questions:
Is material appropriate for their age and development?
Can students play the lessons on their own at home?
Are students improving week to week?
Are students motivated and having fun with the entire learning process?
Framework and Philosophy
What is the underlying philosophy and framework of the curriculum you are using? A solid curriculum’s framework and philosophy should speak to and inspire you.
The Musicolor Method’s philosophy is all about teaching life skills through music. The framework is the growth spiral. This spiral is seen throughout the universe in organic forms like seashells, flowers, and the galaxies in the stars above. It’s an organic natural part of life.
Matching the Audience’s Interests, Age, and Skill
Teaching music to a 4 vs 6 vs 8 year old is going to be vastly different. The stages of cognitive, physical and social emotional developmental are completely different from year to year. Thus, the materials, lesson plans and approach need to be tuned to the stage of the student.
Training For Teachers
Does your curriculum provide adequate training for educators? Do you have a way of clarifying questions or asking for advice?
For hundreds of years, music method publishers have relied on music method books that try to do it all. The pages address three separate audiences: teacher, parent and then student. Not ideal.
Our program uses an online platform to deliver training on demand.
No matter what curriculum you use for your students, these questions can help clarify your objectives.
I hope this has been helpful.
P.S. We’re preparing for a new cohort to take our training in the next few weeks. Get an invite here.