Dimon on the teacher’s “conception”

“Let’s say that a person is having trouble singing without unnecessarily tightening the muscles of the throat. Noticing that the student is using too much tension, the teacher then asks the students to sing a phrase, pointing out particular faults and asking the student to correct them.

What is wrong in this approach is that the teacher is creating a vicious cycle by asking the student to do the very thing that brings about the problem and then to correct what she has done wrong. If the student’s idea of how to perform the activity is wrong, what good does it do to have the student repeat that very thing, and then ask her to relax particular muscles or sing differently? The student thinks that to sing she must use tension. Why, then, does the teacher expect to remove the tension while continuing to ask the student to sing? It is the student’s very conception of singing that is at fault. Further efforts to sing properly cannot correct the problem. She must be given an alternative to her usual conception of what it means to sing.

By failing to recognize the bind the student is in, the teacher too often fails to discern the true nature of the problem. The teacher thinks there is a right way of doing something, if only he can simply show the student what it is. He thus steps into the student’s vicious cycle. If this doesn’t work, he concludes that the student has a block or, worse, simply can’t master the problem, not realizing that he has contributed to the very situation from which he drew this conclusion.”

Dimon, Theodore. The Elements of Skill: A Conscious Approach to Learning. North Atlantic Books, 2003.

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