I was extremely fortunate to see Dr. Guadalupe López-Íñiguez last week as part of ResearchWorks presented at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She gave a talk on her research regarding the Constructivist Approach when teaching children aged 4-12 an instrument, specifically in classical music education.
Here's a video introducing you to her work and research.
She talked about creating independent learners. In traditional approaches to education there is much more 'demonstration' where a teacher will do something and the child will simply copy. While there are benefit in the short term to this, like learning a piece fast, or perfecting a technique quicker, the result leaves the student unable to process WHY this needs to be done. I understand that I must hold the bow this way, but why? I understand that played the notes wrong, because I was told, but could I hear it myself?
A student-centred approach should be at the heart of constructivist teaching. There's a great need to deinstitutionalise music education and return to the idea of 'art for arts sake'.
My own education experience was positive, I enjoyed doing exams and learned a lot from my piano teacher, who was definitely used more traditional teaching methods. However, my love of music did not stem from these classes. I wasn't taught how to express myself, or how to understand music. It's like learning a language completely by memory, only certain phrases and words, never getting into history or grammar or learning how to say what you want to say in your own words.
The constructivist approach aims to create more independent learners and thus musicians in the long run. Guadalupe is now extending her research into high education both secondary and tertiary. I'm personally very interested to hear and see the results of her research, I'm confident they'll reflect positively on the constructivist approach and it's role in developing more well rounded musicians.