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Study like a pianist practices

sue_frantz
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Emmanuel Ax, professional pianist, was recently interviewed about “ways to make practicing an instrument more fun and productive.” Ax devotes four hours each day to practice. As you might expect, he reports that sometimes “it’s kind of a slog.” I love that this article normalizes hard work. Even people at the top of their game have to continue to work – even when they’d rather be doing something else.

Video Link : 2254

Emmanuel Ax performing

As I read the interview, I found a lot of parallels with studying. If you talk about studying in your courses, consider asking your students to read the article, jot down a few notes on how his advice could apply to studying, and then get into small groups to share ideas. Finally, go through each section of the article and ask volunteers to share what parallels with studying students drew.

Here are some parallels I found.

“Listen to great performances” – listen to professors and read material that make the concepts clear.

“Get a partner” – study buddies can help you make connections that you weren’t seeing yourself.

“Try another instrument” – mix up your studying. Study psychology for a while and then switch to chemistry. Think interleaving.

“Experiment” – try different study techniques. If you haven’t tried creating your own concrete examples or elaborating on concepts, or drawing a diagram that shows how concepts relate, try those techniques.

“Come back to old pieces” – practice retrieving content you learned from earlier in the course. Not only does it refresh your memory, but you may see it differently this time, especially now that you’ve learned new stuff that may relate.

“Use an app” – put your notes in a form, like Google Drive or OneNote, that allow you to have access to your notes wherever you are.

“Play Bach” – challenge yourself. Don’t settle for studying the easy stuff. Studying difficult material will stretch you, and isn’t that what education is about?

About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology in community colleges since 1992, and has been at Highline College in the Seattle area since 2001. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award . She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed.