Emmanuel Ax, professional pianist, was recently interviewed about “ways to make practicing an instrument more fun and productive.” Ax devotes four hours each day to practice. As you might expect, he reports that sometimes “it’s kind of a slog.” I love that this article normalizes hard work. Even people at the top of their game have to continue to work – even when they’d rather be doing something else.
Emmanuel Ax performing
As I read the interview, I found a lot of parallels with studying. If you talk about studying in your courses, consider asking your students to read the article, jot down a few notes on how his advice could apply to studying, and then get into small groups to share ideas. Finally, go through each section of the article and ask volunteers to share what parallels with studying students drew.
Here are some parallels I found.
“Listen to great performances” – listen to professors and read material that make the concepts clear.
“Get a partner” – study buddies can help you make connections that you weren’t seeing yourself.
“Try another instrument” – mix up your studying. Study psychology for a while and then switch to chemistry. Think interleaving.
“Experiment” – try different study techniques. If you haven’t tried creating your own concrete examples or elaborating on concepts, or drawing a diagram that shows how concepts relate, try those techniques.
“Come back to old pieces” – practice retrieving content you learned from earlier in the course. Not only does it refresh your memory, but you may see it differently this time, especially now that you’ve learned new stuff that may relate.
“Use an app” – put your notes in a form, like Google Drive or OneNote, that allow you to have access to your notes wherever you are.
“Play Bach” – challenge yourself. Don’t settle for studying the easy stuff. Studying difficult material will stretch you, and isn’t that what education is about?