This blog is a repost of Practicing Musician’s recurring column in In Tune Magazine entitled Your Passion, Their Success: Modern Teaching Best Practices from Practicing Musician. Click here to view the original column and read the rest of the amazing and free In Tune Teacher’s Edition Volume 19 Number 1. You can also share the free Student’s Edition with your students by clicking here.

What is Individualized Instruction?
Individualized instruction is a teaching method focused on individual student needs and strengths. The method’s foundation focuses on two central ideas: individual students have different needs, and individual students learn differently.

Individualization does not mean that each child receives an individual lesson. Instead, individualization seeks to use the music curriculum as a whole yet teach it using varied approaches, modifications for abilities, and personalized learning trajectories so each student can meet or exceed the music curriculum goals.

How to Individualize Instruction
To individualize music student instruction, you must understand your students’ needs, communicate with parents about their students’ needs, and support struggling students by guiding them to fill in their knowledge or skills gaps.

Understand Students’ Needs
Understanding an individual students’ needs requires regular assessment of the student’s strengths and weaknesses. Determining a student’s strengths and weaknesses can be as simple as observing a student’s confidence when performing. 

A student who lacks confidence has underdeveloped skills relative to their peers. To individualize instruction for that student, you must first analyze which skill is underdeveloped and guide them to a high-quality resource that will help them develop that skill and increase their confidence. Guiding a student to a high-quality resource instead of working with them one-on-one during class is critical because every time you work with a student one-on-one during class, the other students do not receive your attention.

Communicate with Parents
Parents can be a great resource if they understand music or can afford private lessons. When either condition is present, communicating your analysis of the student’s needs with their parents can help them know what content you are teaching in class and why their child needs additional training.

Support Struggling Students
When parents do not understand music and cannot afford private lessons, you can support struggling students by guiding them to fill in their knowledge or skills gaps. You can guide them in a couple of ways:

  • Use a free online resource with high-quality lessons, such as Practicing Musician.
  • Guided peer mentoring by creating a positive, inclusive classroom environment. 

By creating a positive classroom environment in which students give constructive feedback to their peers in small groups, all students can progress while you walk around critiquing the smaller groups. In other words, no student will be left behind.

Start Learning How to Individualize Instruction Today
You have the power to individualize learning for all students, but the skillset may take a bit of time to develop. Spending your time to work on the methods above will significantly enhance the impact you have on your students, accelerate their progress, and create more confident and happy musicians. 

If you need help, Practicing Musician offers free training to all educators on individualizing instruction for all students. Register for your free training by visiting www.practicingmusician.eventbrite.com