Lifelong Learning for Musical Learners

Lisa M. Clark The Lifelong Learner Leave a Comment

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We’re nearing the end of exploring ways in which we learn differently, both in the classroom and throughout our lives as lifelong learners. So let’s keep learning about learners—whether we find them in the classroom, workplace, or living room.

Let’s introduce our musical learners.

Even at a young age, these learners may be living with an internal soundtrack playing in their minds. How do you know? They’re often humming as they walk from one room to the next. Their hands might be drumming to a beat or playing an invisible keyboard on their desk. Far from “fidgety,” these learners can often engage in learning while also processing music in their cognitive world.

Gifts of a musical learner:

Let’s begin with the obvious: musical learners are often skilled at music. Pitch, rhythm, and harmonies come easily for these students. They get excited when learning music, and their enthusiasm can be contagious. They’ll often use music to help them learn other skills: memorizing Bible verses to a rhythm or a simple (often original) tune isn’t work; it’s a study aid. Difficult learning concept: the mnemonic devices this learner uses will often be set to music.

Learners with musical skill can also apply their strengths in music toward other learning as well. We’ll look at this more later in this post, but a few examples include a recognition of patterns, technical precision, comprehension of emotion, and—let’s be honest—a strong work ethic.

Myths of a musical learner:

When our culture and educational systems seem to push musical education to the sidelines, this educational intelligence can seem more of a niche skill than an integral way of comprehending information. As a result, both musical learners and those around them can be tempted to pigeonhole these learners to “music and only music.” This is a risk for all of us as we understand multiple intelligences and varied learning styles, but this might be even easier to do with musical learners. Musical ability need not be limited to the choir room or performance hall, and all learners typically have multiple skills. For example, some have noted that musicians often have strong logical/mathematical skills, perhaps due to their understanding of complex patterns. Other musical learners use their intuition of mood and emotion and apply this to their interpersonal skills.

As a matter of fact, studies have shown how music can benefit learning in general. So when schools see musical learners as unique prodigies or—worse—students who will find careers outside of traditional schooling, institutions deprive other students of basic learning necessities as essential as the three Rs instead of encouraging musical learners and others to utilize, cultivate, and integrate this skill throughout learning.

Equipping a musical learner:

In the classroom, give these students—and all students—opportunities to learn musical skills. If your school does not already have dedicated instruction for music, find ways to integrate it in your lesson plans, using a multimodal approach to engage more learners. Share songs that reinforce the lesson, from Schoolhouse Rock on adjectives to hymnody of the Reformation. Demonstrate teamwork through a rhythm band performance.

In the workplace, these learners are easily spotted in the band rooms, recording studios, and offices full of half-composed scores. But don’t stop there! Accounting offices, truck cabins, and counseling offices are full of musical learners as well. A recognition of these gifts can go a long way in supporting overall job satisfaction.

At home, recognize that your learner’s study space might be more effective if filled with music. Warning: keep in mind that volume and genre (the level of stimulus) can both impact effectiveness. One student might be fine with loud pop beats, but others will be able to focus best with soft instrumental music.

In the classroom, provide ways for students to respond through music. Invite students to set a poem to an original tune, or encourage the opposite: writing a text to a specific tune. Play a soundtrack, and encourage students to write a story that goes with the mood of the music. Assign a project focusing on famous musicians: their styles, philosophies, and backgrounds.

In the workplace, this colleague may thrive in finding ways to apply his or her musical skills to the project at hand (patterns, poetry, analysis), or music simply may be a way for him or her to be more effective. Earbuds or other workspace arrangements can allow these colleagues to work to music that motivates them.

At home, be patient with the joyful noises your developing musician may produce—in and out of regulated practice time. Try to use music as a means for study. (If you’d like to hear me sing the books of the Bible to music, let me know.) Ask your student if he or she can think of a beat to remember the six functions of trigonometry. Put your young pianist’s fine motor skills to work on an artistic model of the solar system or a cell.

Are you a musical learner? What ways do you love to learn? What tips can you offer those who want to learn more about this learning style? What strategies do you use?

I’d love to hear from you as we continue this learning community!

 

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About the Author

Lisa M. Clark

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Lisa M. Clark spends her days reading and writing about God’s love for all people through Jesus Christ. She is a former high school teacher and a current editor for Concordia Publishing House. Her degrees from Concordia University, Nebraska, and the University of Missouri--St. Louis focus on Lutheran doctrine, education, and writing. You can read her latest posts here.

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