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Teaching Skills Teaching Skills > How to Teach > Theory of Learning Series > Part 2 Motivation moves mountains
Summary: Is your pupil feeling bogged down? - Knowing what motivates your student is essential to good tutoring.

Motivation moves mountains

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Motivation is driven by Need or Desire.

As a Guitar Teacher it is vital that you understand what is motivating the student in front of you to learn the guitar. You can then align your approach accordingly.

For example supposing you have a teenage male student come for lessons. He seems to you to be very casual about the whole thing, to the point where you really wonder why he bothers. So you take a very gradual approach - you suspect he's hardly going to bother to practice so you don't give him much to work on and you're not surprised when he makes indifferent progress. After a few weeks he misses a lesson - you don't bother to chase him and he disappears out of site.

Supposing though, that in lesson one, you had asked him:

"Why do you want to play guitar?"

And he says: "Well I'm useless at schoolwork - the only hope there is for me in the future is to become a superstar guitarist! The only thing I like is music and I spend all my time listening to guitar music - I really want to play like the guys I listen to."

You would then realize that the laid-back casual approach was just typical teenager 'coolness' and that beneath the surface lies a driving ambition based both on Need (...the only hope there is for me...) and Desire (...I really want to play like the guys I listen to...)

Realizing that you have this level of motivation to work with you set the guy a much tougher course.You tell him that you will help him achieve a 'professional' level of expertise if he promises to practice no less than 10 hours a week. You also take the trouble to find out just who his guitar heroes are and tailor your lessons towards his developing to play in a style similar to them. That way you feed the motivation.

You can also get this wrong in the opposite direction. You get a student who really just wants to strum a few chords along with five or six other guitarists at his church youth club. Not realizing this you set out teaching the finer points of guitar music theory, scales, modes and advanced chord substitution. You're going to lose that student fast, because what you're teaching does not align with their perceived needs and desires.

It must be appreciated that motivation is a dynamic quality. That means that it changes and that it can be caused to change. My students have often started out with a fairly narrow motivational focus - eg. 'Playing a few songs with my kids...' As they've progressed and the subject itself has opened up to them, their motivation expands:

"Hey! I never realized that I could play rhythm on electric guitar using the same chords as those nursery rhymes you taught me - I'm gonna join my mate's band now. Perhaps you can help me get to grips with these barre chords!..."

So it's vital to keep in touch with your student. Every few weeks run a motivation check on them ask:

  • How are you getting on?
  • Are you enjoying playing?
  • Have you had a chance to play with other musicians yet?
  • Is playing guitar living up to your expectations?
  • Where would you like to see your musical development going?
  • Ever considered writing your own songs?

These are a guide to the sort of questions to ask. Their answers will often surprise you. Many people do not openly communicate these things without first being asked.

Monitor your students' motivation and do all you can to build on it. That way you will build a strong client base made up of people who come back week after week, for years. As the pleasure they get from playing makes it an increasingly important part of their lives.

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Related Pages
.   How learning got a bad name for itself
.   Contact with the Subject
.   Mental Processing
.   Assimilating
.   Relative Importance
.   Information Overwhelm
.   Information Retention
.   Making and Breaking habits
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