Are adult learners notoriously difficult to teach?

Questions on learning to play the piano, and piano music.

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Colin Nicholson
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Are adult learners notoriously difficult to teach?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 15 Apr 2014, 15:48

Hi Guys....

"Adults are notoriously difficult to teach piano" .... was a phrase used by one of my late piano teachers back in the 70s.

In my 32 years of teaching piano, there are moments when I have thought of that phrase.... but we have to be careful no to offend!

I am in the process of writing a small book about teaching strategies/ adult learners/ comparisons with children learners.... and all the pros and cons about teaching piano at all levels. It also includes various anecdotes, "adult thinking" / adult mindedness.... an delves deep into the psychological profiles of some past and present (un-named) adult learners. If anyone wants a copy when it's finished, let me know. It will hopefully unfold a new meaning to "who is the expert?" .... the teacher or pupil??

thanks

Colin
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Re: Are adult learners notoriously difficult to teach?

Post by Gill the Piano » 15 Apr 2014, 18:03

Amongst my customers I have teachers who hate teaching adults, teachers who will ONLY teach adults, adults who are learning slowly patiently and methodically and adults who gave up after three lessons because they still couldn't play Rach 3 with one hand. I suppose you shouldn't generalise, just as you shouldn't with kids. I just recall one piano teacher saying 'The wonderful thing about adult learners is that you know they WANT to be there, not because Mummy sent them!'
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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Re: Are adult learners notoriously difficult to teach?

Post by markymark » 12 May 2014, 20:53

I think adults would be more difficult to teach.
- as people "mature" they tend to be experts at carrying out skills or applying knowledge gleaned many years prior, they can have the inability to apply or get back into the position of "learning", almost forgetting how to learn;
- learning in adulthood is almost a contradiction in terms for some. Children learn but should learning stop at adulthood - of course the answer is no but that is not always the way adult learners view themselves;
- adults within certain job sectors - management, teaching - which require lots of leadership and ownership can often be problematic, probably due to a mixture of the first two points;
- adult learners with prior musical experience or self-taught can also provide a tangle of issues for the teacher.

Just some thoughts!

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Re: Are adult learners notoriously difficult to teach?

Post by Isa23lewis » 17 Jun 2014, 04:39

markymark wrote:I think adults would be more difficult to teach.
- as people "mature" they tend to be experts at carrying out skills or applying knowledge gleaned many years prior, they can have the inability to apply or get back into the position of "learning", almost forgetting how to learn;
- learning in adulthood is almost a contradiction in terms for some. Children learn but should learning stop at adulthood - of course the answer is no but that is not always the way adult learners view themselves;
- adults within certain job sectors - management, teaching - which require lots of leadership and ownership can often be problematic, probably due to a mixture of the first two points;
- adult learners with prior musical experience or self-taught can also provide a tangle of issues for the teacher.

Just some thoughts!
I totally agree with Mark. However, nowadays playing piano is considered to be one of the most recommended home remedies for adults who have history of cardiac problems, stroke, language problems, etc. because learning piano on a regular basis has a therapeutic effects especially among adults. So, because of this awareness, many adults or non musicians are turning into learning piano lessons, which makes it very difficult for a teacher to teach.

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ADULTS!

Post by Colin Nicholson » 24 Jun 2014, 00:27

an example......

I have an adult student, being learning for about 10 months.... and decided overnight to stop reading music!
Last week, sent me an email 'warning' me done no practise (why bother, when I know anyway!).... then one hour before the lesson, cancels due to an illness! ,,,, of course, its an ADULT, so you have to believe them, even when you see them in town the day after!!! .... and lesson not rescheduled! Usually last about another 4 weeks (as they are the expert now!) .... then I simply SACK them! .... some a great, some are time wasters. Why bother!
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Re: Are adult learners notoriously difficult to teach?

Post by gizzy » 27 Jun 2014, 22:13

Colin Nicholson wrote: If anyone wants a copy when it's finished, let me know.
Oh yes, put me down for one!

I think it depends what they're playing - I used to teach singing, and at one stage almost half my pupils were adults, but on the piano at present I have only two.

Most adult beginners don't last long because of unrealistic expectations - not about how good they're going to be after six weeks, but about how much work they're going to be able to put in. First week, maybe two weeks, they will have practised like mad, the they've had a lot to do and hardly touched it. The lovely Mister Brum is a shining exception to this - he may have a few hang-ups about his progress but as long as he's working with a teacher, they can be sure he will practise.

I do quite like the fact that they come along knowing what they want to do - in fact it's a nice stage when a child or teenager get to that point. I remember when I was studying as a singer, and my teacher never told me what I had to work on - made the odd suggestion, but never prescribed, so every lesson would start "what have you brought to work on today?". I did this occasionally with my own teacher when I was about 16 or 17, though she recommended plenty of stuff as well.

With an adult you have a very different agenda, sort of "we're both in this together". You may be needed to help to make things possible, but they will often tell you what they want to do. I haven't had anyone for a while who wants to do something that's beyond them (unlike the just-passed-grade-1 kids who inevitably want to play Fur Elise, or worse still the Moonlight Sonata). It's quite nice when they bring something you didn't previously know, as it's very useful for them to watch you learning it, as they will have to.

One of the reasons I love teaching beginners is that there's always a new way to get it wrong. And that doesn't mean a new thing that I can laugh at behind their backs, I mean a new way of interpreting the information that you hadn't previously thought of, something which you assume is a given until someone gets it differently - it's only been a few years since I realised that some people have a problem with music always being read from left to right, even though a downward scale runs right to left along the piano. Kids are interesting enough, but adults come along with so much more "baggage" like the man I started who knew there was a note called middle C, but had thought it was the note that every piece HAD to start on.

What I find hard about teaching adults is that even though every kid is different, up to a point you can vary your approach for each of them, but it comes from the same place. I can't quite adapt a child-oriented approach for an adult, and often the material will have to be different.

Gizzy

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