The danger of aiming low: how our expectations can shape our students’ learning & performance

The Perils of Aiming Low: How Our Expectations Can Shape Our Students’ Learning & Performance

In the mid-1960’s, two researchers visited an elementary school in the San Francisco area and administered a test called the "Harvard Test of Inflected Acquisition" that was purported to identify students who were likely to experience significant academic growth in the coming year (“bloomers,” they were called). They compiled a list of student names, and shared the list with teachers, explaining … [Read more...]

Facebook and the upsides of envy

Facebook and the Upsides of Envy

Have you ever had a really rough day (or month), turned to perusing your friends' Facebook status updates, and moments later, been filled with feelings of gratitude and appreciation for how great your life is? Meh…probably not so much. It’s easy to forget that what we see on Facebook is not a complete picture of our friends’ lives, but mostly just the cool bits. So even though we are happy … [Read more...]

Kinesthetic Imagery: a Way to Minimize Backsliding When Dealing with Injuries?

Kinesthetic Imagery: A Way to Minimize Backsliding When Dealing with Injuries?

Horowitz (or Heifetz or Paderewski or Liszt or even Louis Armstrong, depending on whom you Google) once remarked: “If I don't practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it.” Umm…so what happens if we get injured and can’t practice for weeks or months? Like, let’s say we have an unfortunate thumb wrestling accident, fracture a bone, and have to … [Read more...]

why ear training matters more than you might think

Why Ear Training Might Matter More than You Think

I don’t know if it’s normal to get nervous for aural skills class, but ear training at Juilliard with Mary Anthony Cox was not just any class (the short anecdote in the second gray box provides a tiny glimpse of a typical day in class). In her legendary 49-year tenure, she was known for being an absolutely terrific teacher, albeit demanding and tough as nails (I particularly enjoyed this … [Read more...]

Lucky charms and magical thinking: Can superstition enhance performance?

Good Luck Charms and Quirky Pre-Performance Routines: Can Superstition Enhance Performance?

Have you ever knocked on wood? Tossed salt over your shoulder? Went out of your way to avoid walking under a ladder? Even if you’re usually a very logical and pragmatic person, there is probably a quirky superstition or two that you go along with from time to time. And when it comes to uncertain, stressful situations like performances, competitions, or auditions (particularly those in which … [Read more...]

Help Your Student Learn Better by Making Them the Teacher

Help Your Student Really Learn Something by Making Them the Teacher

In school, athletics, music, and pretty much anywhere else, we seem to do an awful lot of testing. Exams, quizzes, tests, games, matches, meets, recitals, auditions, concerts, seems there's no end to the testing we do. Don't get me wrong - it’s not that testing is inherently evil, or necessarily such a bad thing all the time. For instance, testing (a.k.a. retrieval practice) does … [Read more...]

the unheralded benefits of mindlessness, mind-wandering, and daydreaming

The Unheralded Benefits of Mindlessness, Mind-Wandering, and Daydreaming

From scoring higher on the GRE's to boosting mental toughness in Marines to improving peak performance in Olympic athletes to maximizing happiness for all of us, mindfulness seems to be all the rage nowadays. And there are indeed a ton of benefits from developing our ability to be more present and engaged in the moment. But sheesh, sometimes being mindful can be so exhausting. Is … [Read more...]

top posts of 2014

2014’s Most Popular Posts

Happy 2015! I have to admit that I'm not really a New Years resolutions sort of person, but I do like aiming to , and developing habits and processes (which are often more effective than goals). The beginning of a new year is as good a time as any to make some changes, so if you're still shopping around for something new to try, here are 10 to choose from (otherwise known as 2014's most … [Read more...]


Why Practicing While Distracted Is Actually Very Important (Sometimes)

Like any other child, I had many moments when I wished I could practice while reading a book or watching TV. Like passing the time while driving by listening to music, I thought it would be awesome to be able to simply move my fingers while engaged in some other more entertaining activity, and still make progress. I tried (and failed) to make that work, and am surely not the only one who has … [Read more...]

learn quicker by focusing less on what your body is doing

Learn Quicker by Thinking Less about What Your Body Is Doing

I'm not much of a tennis player, but I wanted to give my kids an introduction to the sport last summer, so we picked up some kid-sized rackets and headed out to do some hitting. Naturally, I started by walking them through the basic grip, stance, and swing...and managed to overwhelm them with instructions and paralyze them with too many things to think about. I also totally sucked all the fun out … [Read more...]