What are the benefits of learning in a group? How does it work?

Have you heard about learning to play the piano in a group?

What are group piano lessons?

I believe all children should have an opportunity to learn to play the piano. By learning to read music on a grand stave using 2 hands it lays the foundations of all other instrumental and vocal music and offers an opening to their development that is second to none.  By offering group lessons this until now often seen as privilege becomes available to all.

Why teach in groups?

There are many reasons- including some interesting (unfortunately unpublished) research from USA shows that there are many benefits for children and young people. Some examples are:
higher achievement and increased retention
greater use of higher level reasoning strategies
greater ability to view situations from others' perspectives
more positive accepting and supportive relationships with peers regardless of ethnic, sex, ability or class differences
more positive attitudes towards teachers
more positive attitudes towards subject areas, learning and school
higher self esteem
greater social support
more positive psychological adjustment and health
less disruptive and more on task behaviour
greater collaborative skills

Joseph Goliger Implementation of a program of cooperative learning in an urban secondary piano laboratory (1995)

In fact, we know much of this as learning an instrument can provide the same sense of worth, and concentration as for example, learning a new sport, being involved in drama, dance or other art forms: An example of this was demonstrated in the series of programmes on the BBC recently about teenagers being involved in a Glyndbourne production.

The difference of course is that by learning the piano, the student has a whole new world opened up- the variety of styles of piano music, including classical music, of which many children (and adults) have very little knowledge, the ability to accompany songs and other instruments, the development of kinaesthetic skills as well as intellectual ones.

By learning in a group the student has the peer support (and pressure!) to continue, to enjoy the instrument in a social environment- and the research shows that for all children and adults, the group learning environment, for most people, is a much more successful way of learning.

And of course, for the parent/ carer it becomes an affordable instrument to learn whereas usually it is offered as solo lessons only which can be prohibitively expensive.

The concept is not at all new- in the USA piano has been taught by this method for over 20 years in schools, studios (what we would term private teaching) and even at university. (Beginner pianists can study piano as part of their degree.)

So when can my child start?

Generally I find 6 years old is the youngest age most suitable for this type of group lesson as the children need to already have the skills to respect and listen to each other, take turns and work cooperatively.  There may be as many as 3 children using the piano at a time to begin with, although this will reduce to 2 at a time after a few weeks- while a child plays, the others will provide peer assessment and support, carry out individual and group activities and music games.

How about group lessons for older people?

For older learners the benefits of learning the piano in a nurturing and enjoyable social environment include:

stimulates brain activity and engages the mind
maintains healthy, optimal brain functioning
generates a heightened sense of quality of life
promotes stress reduction, relaxation and decreased anxiety
provides a social network and outlet, which may combat loneliness
facilitates opportunity for continued learning and participation in life
develops concentration
fosters a sense of confidence and pride from achievement

Frederick Timms Scientific study indicates the music making makes the elderly healthier (unpublished manuscript Michigan State University 1999)

I want to start offering group piano lessons in sheltered accommodation and old age homes, so if you know of anyone who might be interested, please contact me. Of course I am happy to teach groups as well as one to one, older people, at home, as well. And of course any age adult can enjoy and reap the benefits of group lessons.

How long are lessons?

I recommend for beginners a lesson lasting 30 minutes for up to 4 students at a time. Once they have been learning for about a year- 18 months, it is usually advisable to extend this time to 40-45 minutes to fit in more individual time within the lesson.

So how do I book group lessons?

At present you will need to find one or two other potential students who would like to join you/your child and together, contact me to arrange lessons.  I have vacancies during the day for eg mothers wanting to learn together (think how sociable and fun that would be!) retired and part time and non working people. I have a few vacancies specifically reserved for children at school and in the evenings, some vacancies for teenagers and adults who are unable to attend any other time.

Please contact me about prices as it will vary depending on the number of people attending the group, starting at £30/hour to be shared between you.


Resources > Learning in groups
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