Teaching Piano for Different Learning Styles: Part 2

Welcome to part 2 in our 4-part series on using Myers-Briggs Type Indicators to understand differences in personality and learning styles. 

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

As a piano teacher, you probably know that people learn in different ways. How do you adjust your teaching tactics to account for them? Do you know how to recognize personality conflicts, and how to work through them?

There are many systems designed to help educators think about these questions. For this series of articles, we've decided to introduce you to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI). 

This system places each of us on four different spectrums: extraverted vs. introverted; sensing vs. intuitive; thinking vs. feeling; and judging vs. perceiving. It's important to remember that these are preferences - we may prefer to do things one way, but it doesn't mean we can't do things another way if we decide to.

In part 1, we discussed the first pair of Myers-Briggs Type Indicators: extraverted vs. introverted. Today's article will look at the second pair, and why your teaching methods should account for both types.

Sensing vs. Intuitive

This spectrum describes how we take in information. The more sensing you are, the more you'll focus on facts initially. You won't want to move on until you feel you have all the information you need. By contrast, the more intuitive you are, the more quickly you'll start looking for connections, possibilities and underlying concepts. You're happy to gather facts later in order to validate your ideas.

If we're sensing, we prefer to concentrate on the here-and-now, while the intuitive among us prefer imaginatively exploring the possibilities. Of course, most people do both - it's more often a question of whether we'd prefer to start with facts and eventually move to possibilities, or vice versa.

Teaching Sensing vs. Intuitive Students

Your more sensing students will often like a lot of structure, with clear, step-by-step explanations of what they should do. If you're someone who loves to inspire imaginative leaps on the part of your students, you may have to remind yourself to account for personality differences here. Use discretion in deciding how hard to push a student to find connections by themselves - some will benefit from this approach more than others.

More and more piano teachers are incorporating improvisation into their lessons. This is a great idea! Students can generally learn underlying musical concepts by finding creative ways to apply them. The more intuitive a student is, the more likely they'll take to this like a duck to water - just introduce the concepts, and they'll easily get excited about exploring the possibilities.

If your student is not enthusiastic about improvising, it may be that they need start with a more restricted range of options. Teach them several variations on the same concept by rote - for example, teach them 3 ways to start a C-major phrase, then teach them 3 ways to end it, and have them mix and match. Give them a few more examples to learn for homework, and keep giving them examples until the underlying concepts begin to make sense to them.

By contrast, your more intuitive students are more likely to chafe at rigid restrictions. For example, consider the stylistic conventions that govern the performance of Western classical music. Telling your intuitive students that it is wrong to play Mozart with extreme rubato and lots of pedal may prompt dissatisfaction or open rebellion! 

However, they might be interested in why questions of style and historical authenticity spark such heated debates in the classical music community! Learning about multiple perspectives will likely appeal more to intuitive students than learning the "right" answer. From there, you might have an easier time persuading them that it's okay to play music however they want, but for a competition they should demonstrate their historical understanding of the piece.

Piano teachers usually value both creativity and accuracy in their students' performances, but we might tend to emphasize one over the other. Which is fine - so long as we remember that not everyone is the same as us! The better you understand these differences, the more you'll be able to play to your student's strengths in lessons.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

With the Right Approach, You'll Be Surprised How Fast They Learn


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