I love the guitar. And James Taylor is masterful with one. But his new “guitar lessons” are a good reminder of a few things:
- They might not be “teaching.” He’s showing what he does. Modeling of a sort. But you can’t find the value in something like that until you have some knowledge of what and why he’s doing what he’s doing.
So beginners, don’t apply to the James Taylor School of Guitar – not because it’s not fascinating, but because you’ll have to be an advanced player to see what it is he’s up to.
If you’re teaching somebody something, you’re not really teaching it to them unless they can follow you. So be thoughtful about where your students are coming from before they got to you – and what you need to send them off with so they can make sense of the next class.
Sometimes, a master doing his thing can be wonderfully and usefully illustrative. The camera angles on his videos – designed to give us a really, really good view of what he’s up to with his fingers – are handy. Just look at that picture up at the top of this post – plenty of angles there. But I’ve been playing guitar for 20 years. His modeling is, for me, a useful teaching tool, because I know most of the stuff I need to know in order to make sense of what he’s doing. Your mileage may vary.
He’s teaching. But is anyone learning?1 Does that matter?
- But how do you know? Are you assessing the learning in any way? Are there tests? Performance assessments? Is it enough to watch and say “huh” or “wow” or “hot dawg?” I think, plenty of times, those noises of adulation or delight or wonder are perfectly fine summative assessments. In this case, acknowledge, and move on. [↩]