Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Suzuki Method of Education

Our 2 year old loves his toy violin...
as you can see, it is now broken from wear and tear.
He pretends to play it when listening to the Suzuki Volume 1 CD.

Excerpts from The Magic of Matsumoto: The Suzuki Method of Education by Dr. Carolyn M. Barrett

His violin method has developed as a result of attempting to teach proficiency on the instrument in the same way a child is taught proficiency in speaking its mother tongue.
Dr. Suzuki further clarified, in his 1973 address, five elements that he had observed to be of paramount importance in helping a child acquire the use of its native tongue:

1. The environmental conditions and their influence on the new-born baby as it accustoms itself to the sounds of the mother tongue.

2. Teaching the child by constant repetition to utter its first sound. Usually "Mama, Mama" and so on.

3. Everyday attitude of the parents after the baby starts to talk.

4. Natural progress through daily practice.

5. The skillfulness with which the parents build up enthusiasm in the child, and the happiness the child finds in acquiring its newfound ability.

From these five points, reciprocals can be seen that have become the foundation of the Suzuki violin teaching Method:

1. The use of recordings, cassette-tapes, group lessons, concerts to build a suitable environment of sound to produce fine violin playing.

2. The importance of constant repetition of the repertoire.

3. The importance of the parent and parent-role in Suzuki teaching.

4. Natural progress through daily practice.

5. Parental support to build the student's enthusiasm; letting the child enjoy and glory in her ability - concerts, group lessons, progress attuned to the individual child.

~ ~ ~

(After a concert)... Dr. Suzuki had the children repeat after him a threefold saying which has become almost a credo:

Every child can become educated to a very high level. My parents - please educate me (accompanied by a bow to the parents in the audience).

Every child can become educated to a very high level. My teachers - please educate me (accompanied by a bow to the teachers in the audience).

Every child can become educated to a very high level. I must be responsible to myself in my education (accompanied by pounding on the child's own chest).

~ ~ ~

According to Guy LeFrancois in his Psychology for Teaching... there are relatively few readily observable stimuli that lead to human behavior: It also means that reinforcement, or the lack of it, will have a great deal to do with the behavior an individual engages in... one can hardly overestimate the relevance for teaching of an understanding of the principles of operant learning.

Parents and teachers are powerful dispensers of reinforcement or nonreinforcement to emitted behavior. Dr. Suzuki uses this as a factor in his method of instruction. He motivates children to want to learn to play the violin by first teaching their mothers. The children come to class for at least two months before they are even allowed to touch a violin... Seeing their mothers learn to play is a stimulus which elicits the desired response: the wish to learn to play the violin themselves.

~ ~ ~

Dr. Suzuki's stance on punishment is unremitting. It is not to be used. This is solidly in line with research that shows punishment is not effective in eliminating behavior, nor in reinforcing it.

~ ~ ~

The fabulous Suzuki memory is another phenomenon that occurs quite spontaneously and, for Westerners, almost has to be experienced to be believed. When teachers use and re-use pieces from the early repertoire, children do retain both the ability to play them all well and their memorization of the pices. Playing the pieces by memory with a group also facilitates memorization.

~ ~ ~

Proper conditioning would include (1) listening to a new piece many times before ever attempting to play it, (2) seeing and hearing the teacher play the new piece before ever attempting it, (3) seeing and hearing other students play the piece at group lessons before ever attempting it.

~ ~ ~

Another important application of the Suzuki approach is involving parents in children's learning. Parents are still the most successful educators known, as they successfully teach their children to speak a language - an achievemnt that is at a very high level of learning.

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