If you have not read my blogs recently, I need to bring you up to date. In my last two postings, I talked about the orientation session for pedagogy students that was scheduled prior to the opening of the piano department. Now, I will explain how the piano program and teaching internship were organized. As I began my research on The New School, I had many questions to ask, but one question had to be answered first: “How do you manage the private lessons and classes of two-hundred fifty pupils as well as monitor the teaching of pedagogy students?” I was told that Frances Clark and Louise Goss had organized a structured program that fully integrated both departments.
When piano students registered for lessons, they enrolled in different study plans. Many elementary students had a private lesson and group lesson every week, whereas most intermediate and advanced students attended a weekly private lesson and performed in bi-weekly repertoire classes. Attending monthly repertoire classes was an option. All adult students could choose to receive a private lesson each week or every other week. Classes for adults were scheduled at least four times a year.
Faculty and graduate students shared teaching responsibilities. Graduate students were required to teach private lessons of elementary and intermediate students. They also assisted with elementary group lessons and prepared their intermediate students for class performances. Graduate students who had more experience could also teach adults and transfer students. In addition to giving private lessons, faculty advisors supervised elementary group instruction and taught the repertoire classes.
Individual conferences were held to plan lesson assignments for intermediate students and adults. An advisor helped first-year graduate students select exercises and new music. Teaching presentations were then rehearsed before a lesson plan was either approved or revised. Individual conferences were scheduled every week throughout the first several months of instruction, but they were scheduled less frequently as graduate students became better acquainted with assigned pupils. Second-year graduate students could write their own lesson plans without always having to consult a faculty advisor. Besides having more experience, they often continued to teach the same pupils, and fewer conferences had to be scheduled. Appointments could be made at any time if assistance was needed.
Group conferences were held to plan and rehearse activities for elementary classes. Teaching assignments at the beginning of the school year were allocated according to seniority; most often, new graduate students did not teach in the group lesson for at least one or two weeks, and initial assignments were given to second-year students. Those who were asked to teach had to come to the conference prepared to practice their teaching presentations. For thorough preparation, they wrote a concise lesson plan that outlined a list of steps they would follow in teaching their part of the class. By the end of one month’s time, all graduate students were teaching. Everyone came to the conference ready to teach and with a prepared plan.
Unlike individual conferences that were not scheduled every week during the year, group conferences were held after each class meeting to discuss the class as well as organize and practice teaching presentations for the next two sessions; class lesson plans were “finalized” two weeks in advance, and teaching presentations were practiced the week beforehand. Classes that were recorded on videotape were viewed at the conference to observe if teaching presentations were effective. After watching the tapes, the faculty advisor who supervised the class demonstrated alternative teaching techniques and offered advice on how to improve class performance. For example, assistants were instructed to pick up the pace when interest lagged. As the school year progressed and graduate students discovered practical techniques for teaching group lessons, they were given more responsibility. First-year students taught an entire class before the end of the year. Second-year students took turns teaching an entire class. They also assumed a primary role in decision making with regard to planning class assignments. Teaching was evaluated. Graduate students received a mid-term and final grade in the course, “Group Teaching Techniques.”
Despite the apparent differences in format, private teaching techniques are similar to methods that are used for teaching group lessons as a teacher’s main concern is promoting student self-discovery. Inexperienced teachers needed guidance in teaching the private lessons of young and impressionable beginners who must be taught how to learn. Because teaching students to think for themselves is so important, demonstration lessons with pupils from elementary classes were held. A lesson plan provided detailed instructions for each lesson activity. Graduate students referred to this plan when teaching the students’ private lessons, scheduled a few days after the class meeting. A study program in which private lessons followed class instruction allowed faculty members to monitor the teaching of elementary students more effectively. New teaching material was presented in class, and a piano student’s private lesson reinforced what was already learned in the group lesson (this plan conformed to Frances Clark’s conception of review and follow-through). In their second year, graduate students were given more freedom in assigning exercises and music that were not listed on the demonstration plan. They could also write the demonstration plan in consultation with the faculty advisor.
Private teaching was evaluated throughout the year. At least four times each semester, different members of the faculty observed graduate students teaching private lessons (novice teachers were observed more often). Ordinarily, graduate students taught the entire lesson, but the faculty member could step in and teach a portion of the lesson for demonstration purposes. Graduate students received a written critique of their teaching, and a conference typically followed. Some of the observations were graded. Pedagogy students received credit for teaching private lessons in the course, “Private Teaching Techniques.”
That’s all for the time being. In a few weeks, I will give additional information about the teaching internship, including criteria for assessment by faculty and other examples of how graduate students could appraise their teaching. I have stated that Frances Clark believed teachers should keep an open mind. As Miss Clark set forth, self-evaluation is an ongoing necessity because knowing what needs to be improved is the key to success.