Focus On Coaching: Music Ensemble
"As a coach, I find myself in a delicate balance of how much to intervene, and how much to step back... It's a really fine, fine balance."
— Janice Hunton, music teacher
For arts teachers, coaching is one of the most important instructional approaches available.
Hallmarks of good coaching include the following:
- A focused aim for the intervention
A coach can target technical aspects of performance, or the coordination and balance between elements, between individuals, or between groups in the performance.
- A balance between praise and criticism
Successful coaches find ways to alternate between critical appraisals and encouragement.
- An appropriate amount of intervention
Too little intervention can leave learners floundering, or believing their performance is fine as is.
Too much intervention can shut down the learning process or make learners too self-conscious.
- Appropriate timing for interventions
Good coaches don't intervene until learners have had a chance to work their way into a performance, to get beyond errors of nervousness, for example.
Watch the teaching segment in the interactive, below. Decide for yourself whether and how the teacher provides appropriate coaching to students.
NOW: Write and Reflect
You've just observed a music teacher coaching a small ensemble rehearsing an original song. Now we'd like you to write about your own classroom practice. Read the following questions and answer one in light of the students and art form you teach.
Questions to write and reflect about:
- Janice coached students on their ensemble work. Choose an area in your own teaching in which students might work more independently or collaboratively than they currently do. How can you provide coaching in this area? Describe the activities students might undertake.
- In coaching you currently do, what artistic challenges do you tend to be most concerned with? Are they issues of technique? Coordination and communication? Interpretation? Originality of expression?
- How do you help students become more aware of the artistic challenges they need to address, without telling them exactly what to do?
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