Friday, March 30, 2018

The Power of Music Drives Learning

Holly Linder has been known to sing the praises of her elementary school students in the Kent City School District in Kent, Ohio. She is a music teacher, after all, so any singing of praise—either literal or figurative—is highly appropriate.

Sometimes, when her students’ voices are raised in song, Ms. Linder simply cannot contain herself. “I feel so good about them that I shout out the window how great they’re doing,” she said in an interview for the BrainSMART publication, Effective Teaching, Successful Students.

What causes Ms. Linder to raise the window and her voice in praise is the effort that students put into improving their performance. As with any academic pursuit, meaningful musical achievements come primarily through hard work. This is something that Ms. Linder impresses on her students—that the work they’re doing in second grade is harder than what they did in first grade, and that it will be harder still in the third grade. However, with hard work comes the reward of becoming more accomplished musically.

Students may have talent, but Ms. Linder has learned that development of musical potential occurs largely because learning and practice result in neural connections forming in the brain. This is part of the understanding she acquired while earning her Master of Science with a Major in Brain-Based Teaching (Concentration in Learning and Teaching), which she completed in 2011.

“It’s amazing the connections that can be made in the brain,” reported Ms. Linder. “I’ve been interested in the process of music therapy, and I know that music does so much for the brain. This program helped me understand more about the brain and how it works.”

Understanding the brain’s amazing plasticity has helped Ms. Linder appreciate the potential in every student. “Everyone has the plasticity to grow,” she said. “If you’re interested in music, you might not become Yo-Yo Ma, but if you start out as a 1, you can work to become a 2 and then a 3. Plasticity means that everyone has the potential to achieve. Students can make themselves smarter by their own effort.”

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