Teaching Strategies in Instrumental Studios

Recent research has highlighted some of the teaching strategies employing in instrumental studios. Some of these strategies are modelling, teacher talk, reinforcement, questioning, and practising. 

So when it comes to teacher talk, what does this consist of and how is it being delivered in instrumental lessons? Are there differences in instrumental instruction according to student and teacher gender? What other communicative techniques are employed during instrumental lessons which affect student achievement?

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There is a difference between the style of teacher talk in private studio lessons when compared to lessons at the university level. Teacher directives, described as command-style strategies, were the most common teaching strategy employed at university level.

Teacher talk, including directives, is considered to be feedback. The type of feedback, whether positive or negative, can have an effect on student motivation. Additionally, the rate of tolerance and the level of specificity for negative feedback is different for young and older students. Teacher’s feedback was generally more positive for younger students. In terms of the quality of feedback a student receives, research suggests that general and insincere feedback has a negative effect on the students’ perception of their own achievement.

In addition, the use of praise can be general and the use of criticism is specific. Teacher negative statements are often associated with a student error, whereas praising is more general. Interestingly, the majority of negative statements were directed at male students.

Questioning is another important aspect of studio instrumental teaching. The type and level of questioning, such as rhetorical or low-level questions, is suggested to impact on student motivation in a negative manner, such as leading to passivity in students. Expert teachers ask less questions overall, however, their questioning was of a higher order and more specific than that of novice teachers.

Organisational skills and the teachers’ ability to set clear lesson objectives are a feature that can be missing in some instrumental tuition. The result is often confusion on the part of the student and a lack of progress from lesson to lesson. Teacher communication specifically related to organisation of student learning and progress, is  a vital part of instrumental tuition. Setting specific goals and tasks forms a sequential learning pattern where students can know what to expect from lesson to lesson. There is the possibility that such organisational strategies contribute to the development of the students’ own metacognitive strategies for practising and preparation for each lesson.

Interestingly, in the area of lesson organisation, female teachers tended to be more organised in their lessons than male teachers, and teachers generally were more organised with female students than they were with male students.

Teacher modelling, which is demonstration without verbal direction, has been found to be an effective teaching strategy for improving performance skills, particularly in piano lessons. In fact, a lack of teacher modelling has been found to be detrimental to student progress. In university lesson settings, modelling was found to be the most used teaching approach in instrumental lessons.

The results of the research undertaken has shown that for advanced students, teacher modelling is the most predominant teaching strategy. Research also shows that many teachers were using general questioning in their lessons for advanced students. It would seem that more specific questions befitting the advanced tasks required to accomplish in these lessons would be a more appropriate strategy.



Zhukov, K. (2012). Teaching strategies and gender in higher education instrumental studios. International Journal of Music Education, 30(1), 32-45.


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