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  • Maxwell Casazza

Three Common Pitfalls in Education

I am going to discuss three pitfalls of being an educator that can inhibit the growth of a student. The first pitfall is expecting a curriculum that worked for one student to work for others. This is foolish because everyone learns differently! We cannot expect students to have the same taste, learning style, or level of dedication. Each student is at a different point along their journey, so it is imperative to customize a curriculum for all students. Although preferences can be limiting, it is important to meet a student where they are, and work within their preferences and tastes, while hopefully introducing them to a broader scope of the subject matter. For example, if a student only wants to learn Bach, then introducing them to Chopin right away is probably not the right move. But perhaps you can use a student's love for one composer as fodder for their appreciation of new composers. In this way, we aren't discounting the preferences that define the student's individuality, but we are also not giving in to their narrow view of what's worthwhile to learn.


The second pitfall is not making a lesson into a dialogue between yourself and the student. Too much of the education world is one-sided; a professor gives a lecture, and you attempt to catch everything they say verbatim and parrot the information for an exam. This is not learning. This is not embodied knowledge. This is short-term intellectual learning that ultimately withers away with time. Let me ask you: do you still remember how to solve molecular reactions from chemistry class? What about finding limits in calculus? Perhaps you do remember. But perhaps these instances are vague mires of memory that you wouldn't be able to call upon for assistance in your daily life if your life depended on it! That's because it is not embodied knowledge: knowledge that you've put into practice in systematic ways which allow you to form connections across subject matters. The way you accumulate embodied knowledge is to practice it with an expert in a hands-on way, not to simply tell someone what they want to hear in order to pass an exam.


The third pitfall is neglecting to auditing a student's progress and making adjustments along the way to the curriculum you have devised for them. The student you are teaching six months from now will not be the same student you are teaching today. Therefore, it is unwise to assume that the student will follow the curriculum each step of the way. They may have a breakthrough along the way which changes their priorities. Perhaps they spent months learning classical repertoire, and suddenly have a yearning to learn improvisation--something they were intimidated by previously. Now that they are up for the task, it would make sense to revise their curriculum to include their newfound interests. This will reinvigorate their desire to learn, and will only help in their efforts to learn other subjects.

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