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Monday, April 20, 2009

Piano Progress Reports

Last fall, I made up some progress reports which I plan to give to parents at the end of the school year. I’ve mapped out lists of skills for 2 ability levels in the following categories: Sight-reading, Ear-training, Theory, Technique, Practice & Self-Motivation, and Performance. (I only did 2 ability levels because I currently only have 1st and 2nd year students.) It’s been very helpful to me all year to check my teaching against the plan and make sure that I’m covering all of the goals. I’ve tried very hard to keep my list of skills adaptable enough to accommodate varying degrees of ability while still requiring that students make an effort to achieve target goals appropriate to their level of study. I put up a poster in the studio for students to chart their progress, and they seem to have been highly motivated by it. I’m happy to say that most of my students are right on track and some are ahead of the game! I hope that positive reports to parents will motivate them to continue their good efforts!

My decision to issue progress reports has been a long time in coming. As a younger teacher, my standard phrase was, “Oh, I don’t mind if we’re progressing slowly as long as some kind of forward progress is being made and the student is enjoying piano.” I was reluctant to create a list of minimum standards that students would be required to meet. Now, I’ve come to realize a number of things. Without some definition of what reasonable forward progress actually consists of, some students will progress at the slowest speed they can get away with. Without a definition of reasonable progress, parents may not realize that most average beginners don’t require 2 full school years to complete a Primer level lesson book. With no definition of minimum standards of achievement for a particular year of study, parents have no way to evaluate whether or not the teacher is doing a good job. I believe that parents have a right to know whether or not their child is doing appropriate work for their number of years of study.

Now, on the other hand, I do believe that one of the great things about private instruction is that it can be individualized. I don't teach students younger than first grade, but if I did, I'd need a special progress report for the younger beginner. If I have a traditional student who is truly giving her best effort to piano study but is just not capable of meeting the requirements I’ve listed as my minimum standards, I’ll create a special progress report just for her that displays the many skills she has achieved and a small number of skills that are emerging that we should work at. Even so, I believe in complete transparency with the parent. I might say, “I’m using a special progress report that I’ve created just for Susie that reflects what I expect of her, based on her capabilities.” That’s really all that needs to be said, but it lets the parent know that perhaps Susie’s capabilities are different from the average student. I really feel that the parent has a right to hear an honest assessment from the musical expert that they are paying to teach their child, and the truth is that in most cases, the parent already knows that the child's capability is different. If I seem to be avoiding or hiding the situation, what message does that carry? I actually believe that being honest about the fact that I have individualized her progress report is a better tool for showing how much I value her as a student than is giving false impressions. On the other hand, if a capable student is not meeting my minimum standards because of lack of effort, that’s a different matter. I use my standard progress report and score it honestly, and it serves as a big help in showing the parents what’s not being done.

Providing progress reports is also a great means of educating parents about the value of piano study. I’ll write more about that tomorrow.

In the meantime, you can view my Level A and Level B progress reports here, or for that matter, print them off and use them yourself. I’d love to hear feedback from other teachers about them!

Piano Progress Reports

2 comments:

Rebecca said...

This is great! I'm stealing it from you and using it my lessons! Lol. I like that you will also adapt your progress reports for students who need it. This isn't school, so you don't have to give A's for great and F's for failure. Each student can and should progress at their own ability, and I think being willing to adapt a progress report is wise.

At the same time, there ARE certain requirements that students should most definitely be meeting, and your progress reports address those perfectly!

I would love to hear how parents respond to this!

Laura said...

Thanks, Rebecca! I hope they respond well. I know that I acquired 2 of my students because the parents felt that their former teacher had a rather haphazard and unfocused approach, and they'd heard that I was different. At least that family should be happy!

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