Your opinions of group guitar teaching

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Adrian Allan
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Your opinions of group guitar teaching

Post by Adrian Allan » Sat Sep 02, 2017 3:32 pm

When I taught guitar in the 1990s for a few Local Education Authorities in the UK, much of the teaching was in small groups of learners. I did teach individuals as well, but mainly at private schools (where the parents have to pay fees), or schools in very rich suburbs.

I always found group tuition to be the least satisfactory form of teaching. For starters, there is the issue of different levels of playing. I know that somebody could argue that "beginners are beginners" etc, but in reality there were some kids who seemed naturally bright and always practised, and others who were at the extreme of being slower learners. The tactic in such cases was to find a common middle ground, or to teach each person in the groups individually for a few minutes and then rotate to the next person. Neither solution seemed that easy.

In addition, I felt a bit of a fraud, as I had always been taught on a one-to-one basis, and I'm not sure if I would have made the same progress in a group.

I know that people claim that there is "not enough money for individual lessons", but at least one LEA that I worked for, they charged pupils quite a high rate, even for a group lesson, and it all seemed to be about maximising profit.

I wonder if any world class players started off for the first few years bring taught in a group. Perhaps I was just an inflexible teacher. I would be interested to hear other people's thoughts on the issue of group tuition and what the norm is in other countries - and who picks up the bill; parents or the state?
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simonm
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Re: Your opinions of group guitar teaching

Post by simonm » Sun Sep 03, 2017 7:27 pm

I suspect that the bulk of people here only have experience of one to one teaching on the receiving end. Some of the teachers probably have group as well as one to one experience.

All the classes I have had were one to one. However, I believe that group learning has some advantages. One to one completely leaves out the social element of music: but music is fundamentally a social pursuit so this is a big mistake in my view. However, from a teaching perspective if certainly needs both different techniques and a lot of confidence/experience to get good results in a mixed group situation.

I have never taught music but in other teaching endeavours the trip has been to break up the participants into "self-help" groups (for want of a better expression) and to remove impediments to learning. The most able student in the group becomes the teacher/leader for the others. The key is to work on maintaining motivation and momentum. People are good at learning. We all learned out native languages informally and easily enough. Someone once said the mystery is why people fail to learn - not that they do learn. At some point many schools systems have changed from being educational establishments to being custodial facilities to keep young people off the streets and out of trouble (and out of the unemployment statistics).

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Adrian Allan
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Re: Your opinions of group guitar teaching

Post by Adrian Allan » Sun Sep 03, 2017 7:46 pm

simonm wrote:
Sun Sep 03, 2017 7:27 pm
I suspect that the bulk of people here only have experience of one to one teaching on the receiving end. Some of the teachers probably have group as well as one to one experience.

All the classes I have had were one to one. However, I believe that group learning has some advantages. One to one completely leaves out the social element of music: but music is fundamentally a social pursuit so this is a big mistake in my view. However, from a teaching perspective if certainly needs both different techniques and a lot of confidence/experience to get good results in a mixed group situation.

I have never taught music but in other teaching endeavours the trip has been to break up the participants into "self-help" groups (for want of a better expression) and to remove impediments to learning. The most able student in the group becomes the teacher/leader for the others. The key is to work on maintaining motivation and momentum. People are good at learning. We all learned out native languages informally and easily enough. Someone once said the mystery is why people fail to learn - not that they do learn. At some point many schools systems have changed from being educational establishments to being custodial facilities to keep young people off the streets and out of trouble (and out of the unemployment statistics).
In Germany, are guitar lessons within schools funded by the state, or do parents have to meet the costs?
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Your opinions of group guitar teaching

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Sun Sep 03, 2017 8:12 pm

I stopped doing any group lessons over a decade ago and find offering an ensemble is enough for those who like a sociable side.
Michael Lewin at the Royal Academy used to say (something to the effect) no player you've ever heard of started in group lessons.
While its true that most other instruments work well in groups, well the orchestral ones certainly and they can benefit from a kind of group spirit of competition (and the better players can drag up the lesser) I always tended to find that it was OK except when somebody really needed some kind of personal attention because you could never really give it. The lesser players can drag the better down by inhibiting the progress they are capable of. Swings and roundabouts.
About the only positive I can give to group lessons is it can give a try to some who might otherwise not, and if they take to it in a big way its cool - casting the net wide so to speak.
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Re: Your opinions of group guitar teaching

Post by malc laney » Sun Sep 03, 2017 8:18 pm

If the material being used is well thought out , most pupils can be catered for , especially in the beginning stages , and working in a group is very motivational.If possible , parents will see the enthusiasm of their child , and are then encouraged to get one to one , so everyboby is happy!

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Adrian Allan
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Re: Your opinions of group guitar teaching

Post by Adrian Allan » Sun Sep 03, 2017 8:23 pm

malc laney wrote:
Sun Sep 03, 2017 8:18 pm
If the material being used is well thought out , most pupils can be catered for , especially in the beginning stages , and working in a group is very motivational.If possible , parents will see the enthusiasm of their child , and are then encouraged to get one to one , so everyboby is happy!
In an ideal world, yes - but sadly there are teachers who also have to deal with behavioural issues that might arise from teaching groups of kids. And it is not always as easy as getting rid of the offenders - if there is money to be made by the music authorities who organise the lessons. I don't know what it is like in other countries, but teachers in the UK are no longer given automatic respect (far from it, in many cases).
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Your opinions of group guitar teaching

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Sun Sep 03, 2017 8:50 pm

Adrian Allan wrote:
Sun Sep 03, 2017 8:23 pm
... And it is not always as easy as getting rid of the offenders - if there is money to be made by the music authorities who organise the lessons....
Obviously there may be exceptions but I think you'll find that even when the lessons seem expensive and add up to more than the tutor's hourly, the school or authority is pretty much always still subsidising the lessons to a degree. Certainly is the case at my school.
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Adrian Allan
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Re: Your opinions of group guitar teaching

Post by Adrian Allan » Sun Sep 03, 2017 8:56 pm

Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Adrian Allan wrote:... And it is not always as easy as getting rid of the offenders - if there is money to be made by the music authorities who organise the lessons....
Obviously there may be exceptions but I think you'll find that even when the lessons seem expensive and add up to more than the tutor's hourly, the school or authority is pretty much always still subsidising the lessons to a degree. Certainly is the case at my school.
I think it varies massively, and there is no national standard for funding. Manchester LEA which was always very left wing provided group tuition fully funded for every school. Nearby Trafford LEA (Tory) sacked its peripateric teachers in the 1980s and schools either fund small groups from budgets (don't even go there) or parents have to pay - depending on the school. I will stop before I get political.
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lagartija
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Re: Your opinions of group guitar teaching

Post by lagartija » Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:08 pm

Having taken part in a group lesson of sorts (guitar workshop for all levels), my experience was that the lowest level player will take most of the instructor's time and effort unless the instructor is *very* experienced at handling such a group. This was a group of adults, but some of the beginners did not know how to read or if you said play A on the first string, would not know where to find it. Others were intermediate players.

Even if you were teaching an on-going group, there will always be a clueless student or two in the group who will suck up all the time unless you find a way to either bring them up to the same level as the others or keep them busy with the exercise they need while you attend to the others. For most people, one on one is probably the best way, but regrettably, it is expensive.

In our local school system, for orchestral instruments they provide a small group half hour lesson. Anything more and you need to find a private teacher for your child if you *really* want them to play an instrument. My sister lives in the Bay Area in California and if you want your child to play an instrument, you need to get private lessons. They can play in orchestra or band or sing in choir, but that is funded by parents and students doing the fund raising and you don't receive individual tutelage.
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Erik Zurcher
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Re: Your opinions of group guitar teaching

Post by Erik Zurcher » Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:31 pm

"Some people know the price of everything, but the value of nothing. Others know the value of everything, but the price of nothing!"

Group lessons are cheaper than private lessons, but what is the yield? I am against group lessons, it doesn't work. Convince me if I am wrong!
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Whiteagle
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Re: Your opinions of group guitar teaching

Post by Whiteagle » Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:38 pm

In Australia I don't know of anyone giving group classical guitar lessons except maybe in a few schools.

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Re: Your opinions of group guitar teaching

Post by DCGillrich » Mon Sep 04, 2017 1:43 am

In New Zealand, we have Music Centres, either unincorporated societies, or incorporated societies, attached to Intermediate Schools. The Centres cater for children usually between 7 and 12 years of age. Although using group teaching, classes are kept small, trying to cater for students at a similar level. Class sizes are usually capped to ensure the principle of small groups,allowing some personal tuition, can be met.

The Centres employ professional teachers, and usually a part-time administrator. A range of instruments is covered, including guitar. Teaching is usually done Saturday mornings. Otherwise, the Centres are led by a committee of elected parent volunteers who also assist with desk duties, etc. when the Centre is open. I was a Treasurer and then Chairman of such a Centre for many years, with maybe 20 tutors and some 300 students.

I think the system works well. The Centres fit between what Primary and Intermediate schools can offer, and private tuition. After 13 years of age, children move onto High School where they can get more dedicated teaching, or private tuition if they show real promise. Children get an opportunity to experience music and decide later if they want to go deeper with private tuition (if their parents can afford it). It gives better access to good music education to lower socio-economic children, some of who are very talented, who would otherwise miss out. Also, the Centres can hire out instruments, some of which are very expensive (e.g. piano, saxaphone, clarinet) - which allows parents to evaluate the commitment of their children before making a final commitment to buy. Parents are also encouraged to participate in some entry level classes with their children (e.g. recorder) to provide inspiration for practice between classes.

The current cost to parents is approximately NZ$140 per year (EUR 85) per child + instrument hire costs if applicable. The costs of the Centres and host school are subsidized by the Ministry of Education. In my opinion, it is a good model, better than teaching in large groups, providing an attractive option alongside private tuition.

Cheers... Richard

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Adrian Allan
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Re: Your opinions of group guitar teaching

Post by Adrian Allan » Mon Sep 04, 2017 5:59 am

Thanks for the responses so far.

I agree that group lessons are never ideal and a compromise, and for some people, a money-making opportunity.
I really wish that the UK had a more enlightened approach, but I firmly believe that we are living (with a few rare exceptions) in the cultural Dark Ages.
Glad I can teach my own kids for free.
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simonm
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Re: Your opinions of group guitar teaching

Post by simonm » Mon Sep 04, 2017 8:39 am

Adrian Allan wrote:
Sun Sep 03, 2017 7:46 pm
...

In Germany, are guitar lessons within schools funded by the state, or do parents have to meet the costs?
No clue. My assumption would be that if it takes place inside the school, it is included. Certainly there is a (long!) formal training scheme (Lehramt) for music and guitar teachers that qualifies them to teach in schools.
Adrian Allan wrote:
Mon Sep 04, 2017 5:59 am
I agree that group lessons are never ideal ...
No lessons are ideal. But I think some group lessons have their place. Part of the issue is teachers not having any experience in group environments. In a different context, I was able to do small group work in a class with 140 people. :-) No one teacher I knew was willing to risk it failing and them losing face. At that point in teaching history the buzz word for having groups interact was "actions groups" - no doubt the internet will yield some info. The biggest challenge I see for that kind of group work with guitars in a public (generic sense) school is lack of space and each group interfering with each other. On the other hand people get used to any situation.

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Re: Your opinions of group guitar teaching

Post by powderedtoastman » Wed Sep 06, 2017 8:26 pm

I think it depends on how it's done, and on the teacher. I have been participating in a sort of small group lesson (typically 8-10 students) for about a year and a half or almost two years now, which is called "performance workshop."
We have a 20 minute warm-up with either a right hand or left hand focused technical exercise, and then half the students will get a 20 minute lesson and the other half will have a 5 minute abridged lesson (play your piece and get a short comment) each week. We try to stick with about two repertoire pieces for each quarter and at the end of each quarter we have a recital for friends and family.

We have players spanning the entire range of experience and skill level, and if we pay attention to what the other players are doing and how the teacher approaches things, we can often pick up ideas to incorporate in our own playing. We usually get a lot of recurring themes, sometimes it's about technique and how to practice, sometimes it's interpretation and expression. It's a little like participating in and watching mini masterclasses each week except with the same students and same teacher over and over so we see each other also making progress.
I think if I just took private lessons with this teacher I would probably get a lot of the same benefits, but seeing what repertoire pieces the other players pick and seeing the teaching in action is definitely helpful if you take advantage!

So my vote is for positive, if done right.

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