Music and Information Processing
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In this document, the use of the term information processing skills is taken to be the ability to process the information required to complete a specific task or problem. Sometimes the difficulty may be associated with performing tasks simultaneously e.g. listening to a speaker, making notes and formulating responses - for some students performing these processes simultaneously is problematic. Development of this skill may be affected by a number of factors such as if the student has dyslexia or dyscalculia and finds it difficult to extract the relevant information and organise it effectively. Another example could be if the student has ADHD and finds it difficult to focus on the relevant information without being distracted by external factors.
There are a number of instructional practices that can be used to help all music students to develop their information processing skills, and these can be summarised as follows:
- Provide an advance organiser - prepare students for a learning session by quickly summarising the order of various activities that are planned. Explain, for example, that a review of a previous session will be followed by new information and that both group and independent work will be expected, as well as any practical activities.
- State required materials well in advance of a teaching session - allow students plenty of time to obtain musical scores, or equipment, and work through them prior to the learning session.
- Vary the use of learning materials - e.g. use audiovisual material to present learning session. Leaving useful information on an overhead screen while students are conducting group work is a way of allowing students to refer back to points of relevance while they are working on the task in hand.
- Check student performance - question individual students to assess their mastery of the instrument or musical score. Doing this reguarly can help to identify any potential problems and ways of working through them with the student.
- Ask probing questions - probe for the correct answer after giving the student sufficient time to process the information and work out the answer to the question. Count for at least 15 seconds before giving the answer or calling on another student. Ask follow-up questions that give students the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learnt.
- Help students correct their own mistakes - describe how students can identify and correct their own mistakes in their practical sessions.
- Help students to focus if they are experiencing difficulties - remind students to keep working and focusing on their assigned task e.g. by providing follow-up directions or assigning learning partners.
- Divide work into smaller units - break down assignments into smaller, less complex tasks.
- Highlight key points - highlight key words or instructions that help students to focus on specific directions. This would be particularly relevant when following musical scores.
- Use cooperative learning strategies - encouraging students to work together in small groups can help them to maximise their own learning and each other's learning. But it is important to check that this style of learning suits all students in the group as some students find this difficult.
- Use assistive technology - some students may find the use of visual technology (such as computers and projector screens during lectures) can help them to focus on key points at the same time as conducting a task.