Monday, July 16, 2012

Do You Have the Right Combination of Goals vs. Process?

Play Me I'm Yours
Image by MotoMan67
With the current emphasis on goals and accomplishment in educational thinking these days, perhaps we as teachers are missing out on the curation of a more addictive practice process for our students. New research by Ayelet Fischbach and Jinhee Choi (paywalled link) seems to suggest that initial goal-setting gets people interested and in the door with activities, but emphasis on the experience of doing the activity is what keeps them at it over time. From the 99 percent's Christian Jarrett:
Ayelet Fishbach and Jinhee Choi started out by recruiting over a hundred students at a university gym, just as they were about to start a session. Half were told to describe their goals – "I work out to lose weight," said one. The other participants were told to think about and describe the workout experience: "I stretch first and then run on the treadmill" was one comment. Both groups of students were told to continue focusing on their goals or the experience, respectively, throughout their workout.

Describing the goals of working out boosted the students' intentions to exercise. They tended to say that they planned to run on the treadmill for longer than did the students who were focused on the workout experience. But here's the thing: The students who focused on their goals actually ended up running on the treadmill for less time than the students focused on the experience (34 minutes versus 43 minutes).
In light of this research, more effective way for music teachers to acquire and retain students might be to mention end-state targets in marketing material and initial presentation, then focus largely on process in the subsequent lessons. Collaborative pianists could market themselves utilizing this same process, by advertising a high quality musical product and explaining how it can positively impact a soloist's presentation and career (via posters, brochures, web, FB pages). Then in the rehearsal room create the greatest possible collaborative and process-driven experience. 

Then again, I think many teachers and pianists are already operating in this manner. It's great to hear that research is confirming the effectiveness of focusing on the experience of the present moment in doing an activity rather than just visualizing where we want to end up.

Teachers and performers: how do you handle the goals vs. process continuum? Are you consistently goal or process oriented, or is your approach different based on the pedagogical needs of each student? Leave your thoughts in the comments.


  1. Anonymous6:17 PM

    Wonderful, fabulous post!

    1. Thanks Elissa! I've long been an admirer of your work, so your kind words mean a lot to me.

  2. Anonymous10:24 PM

    thanks for sharing.