2009 MTNA National Conference: Self-Efficacy for Music Students

presented by:
Alejandro Cremaschi, Emily Book McGree, and Maria Nieto-Pulido, all from the University of Colorado at Boulder

(Click here for all of my posts about the 2009 MTNA National Conference in Atlanta.)

(From the program book’s description of this seminar: Self-efficacy is a person’s belief that she is capable to succeed at a given task. Students with a strong sense of self-efficacy practice more effectively and succeed more often than other students. This session will introduce strategies that help develop self-efficacy in your students.)

When I saw the phrase “self-efficacy” in the title of this seminar, in an instant, it fused the various, vague bit and pieces of my teaching philosophy as they existed in my own head into a cohesive whole. Don’t we all want to turn out students who, at the very least, can play independently one day as adults? Don’t we want students who map out a strategy for learning something new, and believing that persistence will pay off, stick diligently to that strategy for as long as it takes? These things are dependent upon the student’s sense of self-efficacy – what a great phrase!

I was very eager to attend this one, and I was seriously bummed that I missed most of it. I was driving from the home of the kinfolks I stayed with, and thanks to the legendary Atlanta traffic, missed the exit to get to the hotel. I’m also rather disappointed that this topic ended up at the worst possible time slot (8:00 am on the last half day of the conference) because I think that self-efficacy has to be one of THE most important factors in a piano student’s success.

“If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” ~Mahatma Ghandi

Piano practicing in a nutshell, eh?

Self-efficacy is not quite the same thing as self-esteem or self-confidence. Those things have to do with one’s self concept or self worth. Self-efficacy is “an individual’s judgment of his or her capabilities to perform given actions” – like learning to play a Beethoven sonata. Psychologist Alfred Bandura’s seminal work on the concept of self-efficacy is having a great effect on educational theory these days, and I think it is an important concept for piano teachers.

I googled “self-efficacy” to learn more and came up with a huge list of resources at this web site from Emory University. These ought to keep me busy for a while! I’ve also realized now that self-efficacy is at the very heart of the posts I wrote for Rebecca at The Piano Teacher’s Retreat about gifted students who quit trying when met with a challenge.There are some concrete ideas there for developing self-efficacy in students that are effective for students of all ability levels.

This article from The Wall Street Journal , “If At First You Don’t Succeed, You’re In Excellent Company,” is an inspiring tribute to self-efficacy, relating the success of folks like Julie Andrews, J.K.Rowling, Walt Disney, Michael Jordan, and others who tenaciously stuck to their guns and succeeded despite many rejections. Reading this will really make you want to learn how to put self-efficacy to work in your piano studio. A good start would be to order the recording of this seminar. (Recording #09105) You’ll hear the results of some small-group brainstorming by a roomful of piano teachers as well as ideas from the presenters themselves.

I’ll be listening to the recording again myself because my notes are so sketchy and scrawled! They include these ideas: we should foster students’ perception of progress (more support for my decision to give year-end progress reports); feedback should be immediate and frequent; praise effort first before praising other things; after skills have been learned, provide credible ability feedback; rewards should be meaningfully linked to activities. I’m sorry not to have more gems to relate because there were quite a few good ones.

Incidentally, this was the only one of the seminars that I attended which utilized small-group discussions. I wonder how many years of piano teaching experience were represented in that one hotel conference room? The obvious message was that, as teachers, we need to develop our own sense of self-efficacy, too.

1 thought on “2009 MTNA National Conference: Self-Efficacy for Music Students”

  1. Hi Laura. Thank you for your comments on our presentation. We were impressed at the number of people attending, even on the last day of the conference at 8am! It was a great group; they came up with wonderful ideas on developing a sense of self-efficacy in students.

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