Saturday, June 5, 2010

No More Practice Log!

Photo by laffy4k.

Remember way back at the beginning of the school year when I announced that I was throwing out the practice log requirement for my students? I'm happy to report that it has made no measurable difference in how much my students practice. The ones who are good practicers are still good practicers. The ones who are moderate are still moderate. The ones who are slackers are still slackers. They're just not being dishonest creative about it on a practice log.

I don't think I can go back to the old way of rewarding students for the number of minutes spent practicing. When students are using good practice techniques, they can usually master their assignments more quickly. It feels counterproductive to teach those more efficient techniques and then reward them for longer time on the bench. It's also true that some students spend lots of time "practicing" while achieving no real results because they're not actually fixing the mistakes. I don't want to hand out points for sloppy, mindless practicing. Of course, I DO reward for doing independent work beyond what was assigned, or for learning pieces to a high degree of excellence, so there is incentive to spend more time doing good work. The more time you spend doing good work, the better you'll become. But, I've discovered that it works much better in my studio to reward for progress and results than for mere time.

If you are successfully using practice logs in your studio, I don't mean to throw water on that! I'm curious to know how you make it work! How do you get students to keep an honest record instead of generously guestimating and marking it down in the car on the way to the lesson? What do you do when their practice log indicates lots of time spent, but their playing sounds like bad sight-reading or worse than it did at the last lesson? What about using a practice journal as opposed to a practice log? What works for you?


Jenny Bay said...

Great post! I am in the process of relocating to a different state/city, so I have the opportunity to have a fresh start with my studio, and I am seriously considering doing something like this. I definitely agree that it is MUCH more effective to teach students to practice correctly and efficiently and to reward them for assignments completed than to reward them for time spent.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you... basing rewards on the amount of time spent practicing is not effective. In my studio, rewards are based on practicing 5 days a week and achieving practice goals. It doesn't matter how long students practice each day as long as they meat those goals. Students have to practice consistently throughout the week and meet their practice goals in order to be rewarded.

Ann in Paradise said...

I am a singing teacher, not a piano teacher but the same problems occur. I try to ask my students to practice in defined chunks of the song, and if that does not work I use the tier method. ie sing 2 bars and don't move on to the next 2 bars until that is memorised. I realise that as singers we must always work from memory, but practicing is still much the same!
Great blog!