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Chopin Berceuse in D flat major Op.57 -


Adapting Your Teaching Based On Child Developmental Psychology


Written by Anson Sin, October 20th 2020


            As a piano teacher, we plan our piano lessons for children from different age groups by designing a tailor-made scheme. Considering the characteristics and personality of students with respect to their developmental stage is tremendously essential in the educational field; since a students’ developmental psychology can considerably influence their ability to learn in their long-term learning journey. Personally, I believe children’s psychosocial maturation has to be carefully considered at each developmental period. In other words, teachers must take into account the youngsters’ psychological aspects in order to match up their thinking patterns and needs.

            According to research by Susan Bastable, kids around three years old are in the period she calls: ‘sensorimotor.’ They are curious about many things in their surrounding environment. As a teacher, we must answer their questions and concerns. Furthermore, it is always a good idea to ask the parents for information on their child’s strengths and limitations, as well as likes and dislikes. For instance, if the kid likes eating candies, the teacher might want to prepare some of his or her favorites as an award of an accomplishment in a lesson. More importantly, allowing children to learn through playing games which apply to all senses, is the most ideal way to set up the lessons. In this case, a piano teacher can introduce some aural-training games, such as singing as an echo, or sight singing through reading simple notations and rhythms. Instead of singing, games with body involvement can also be introduced to the young learners; such as, stepping using their feet along with the rhythms.

            When children get to the age of five, they are in ‘the preoperational stage.’ In this stage, their general characteristics are listed: egocentric, thinking literally in a concrete way, believes punitive, motivated by curiosity, active imagination, and wants to play most of the time. To teach students at this age, it is better to build trust with them through using many positive encouraging words to motivate, rather than blaming. As I believe being a student’s favorite teacher not only can boost their willingness to listen and follow teacher’s instruction during lesson, it can also enhance student’s interest of music making. More significantly, teachers should reassure students to ask questions to reveal their perceptions and feelings towards what is being taught. Consequently, teacher must always provide explanations of learning materials and procedures in a simpler and brief approach. Similar to the three-year-old group, applying more sensory activities (visual, auditory and tactile) is beneficial to them.

            Students from six to twelve years old are in the middle and late childhood group. Their characteristics at this stage are – understanding cause and effect, wanting concrete information, deductive and inductive reasoning, recognizing seriousness and consequences of actions, and ability to focus on tasks. Because of these distinctive characteristics, teachers should consider allowing time for students to ask questions; the teacher should use logical explanations to illustrate their instruction to their students. Overall, teachers additionally might consider encouraging their students to be learning independently by guiding them with hints to the answers. For instance, when we teach sight reading, we might want to ask many questions related to the given exercise: what the key or time signature of the exercise is, what fingers of both hands should we use at the beginning of the exercise to accommodate comfortably the rest of the piece, what the dynamic change throughout the exercise is, what the speed of the exercise is, etc. By asking so many questions related to the exercise, this activity enhances the student’s awareness to information that they need in order to be successful in sight-reading practice.

            Last but not least, students in the age group of thirteen to nineteen are comparatively more distinctive than the other two groups especially in the aspect of social acceptance. Teenagers tend to be motivated by desire for social acceptance, and peer grouping is very important to them. They might want to learn music that is popular in their generation (such as pop music, movie music, famous classical masterpieces, etc.) for gaining the satisfaction from their peers (classmates, cousins, and siblings). Nonetheless, they do not follow instructions unless teachers can provide logical reasons. In this case, a piano teacher might want to set up an agenda for each piano lesson with specific achievable goals and expectations.

            In summary, it is imperative for teachers to understand the particular and various needs of students relating with different developmental stages in order to adapt the proper educational approach. In many ways, the younger students are very dissimilar to the adult students. Psychosocial aspect and developmental periods both are critical in choosing the correct teaching methods, which can enhance both the student’s learning experience as well as the instructor’s teaching experience.


Bastable, Susan. Nurse as Educator: Principles of Teaching and Learning for Nursing Practice. 2009.

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