Vygotsky theorized that a student should be taught based on their potential intelligence instead of teaching to their current intelligence. In the music classroom, students are constantly pushed forward while being given new ideas and concepts to apply to their instrument, their voice or their general music studies. Since this method is embraced in the music classroom, students of music are in the ideal situation to challenge themselves, build character and develop self-confidence.
Dr. Ann Brown, an educational psychologist building on Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), bolstered the importance of “student as teacher.” She added that a student should act as a teacher to other students with the teacher as facilitator. In a music classroom that often haves anywhere from 35 to 100 students in a room at once, a music teacher has no other choice but to use differentiated instruction along with peer-to-peer mentoring allowing students to work together.
Imagine a school that taught each and every core subject in this way. Students will tutor students on math problems while a teacher can direct their attention to other students who need more instruction. A science teacher can walk certain groups of students through experiments in a slower fashion while more experienced students can each lead small groups, building self-esteem and developing their leadership abilities. This is further demonstrated in the Kagan cooperative learning methods designed for the music classroom which creates small group learning environments with assigned leaders, scribes and participants.
For school districts looking to model character development programs through cooperative learning platforms, they should look no further than their music educators. Successful programs constantly create student leaders and transform children into young adults into empowered citizens ready to lead the next generation.