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Independent learning pays dividends with SLC guitar students

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BRASHER FALLS - Allowing guitar students more independence to work at their own pace paid dividends in the classroom over the past school year, according to St. Lawrence Central School music teacher Krista M. Easton.

“It works beautifully,” Ms. Easton told board of education members.

Ms. Easton had made a presentation on “Co-constructing Curriculum: Democracy in Music Education” in February at the Legislative Office Building in Albany.

Ms. Easton said teachers in co-constructed classrooms take on the role of facilitator rather than someone who is doling out the information. The curriculum is “tailored to each student in class,” she said, as teachers “co-construct the curriculum with students.”

“Democratic education is an approach that partners students and teachers in an active pursuit of shared interests. There is a fundamental shift of the responsibility of learning from teachers in students. In this way, students start to take responsibility for their own learning, and create meaning of the subject knowledge,” she said.

The instruction is adapted so students are challenged, while at the same time not feeling frustrated, Ms. Easton said.

The students had a hands-on role in their education. They take on the role of teacher in their exploration, research, discovery and construction of new musical knowledge, she said, calling it “self-related learning” or “self-directed learning.”

“The goal is to develop techniques and resources to teach. They were constantly teaching each other problem-solving. They would analyze their own data, talk about their frustrations and maybe adjust their goals,” Ms. Easton said.

That allowed a meaningful experience for each student, she said.

“They all signed up for specific reasons,” whether it was to write music or as a form of stress relief, Ms. Easton said.

During the year, they had an opportunity to meet with David R. Nichols, who works out of his shop as a custom pearl inlayer for Martin Guitars and local musicians. His craft goes back to his high school days when he had an opportunity to work on a project that was in his interest range.

“He invited the class to his workshop. He took a shop class (in high school) and the teacher let him make what he wanted. He made a guitar. It’s a great success story,” Ms. Easton said.

The students shared their philosophies with board of education members via a 10-minute documentary they had created during the school year.

“This year’s class decided they would like to share what they learned and how they learned. The work was done mostly by them,” she said. “You’ll see students showing what they know.”

Students said in the video that they were appreciative of being allowed to work at their own pace.

“It’s nice that we learn by ourselves with very little direction,” Danielle Furnace said.

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