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#1523226 - 09/26/10 06:04 PM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: vladimiroir]  
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chopin_r_us, the analogy breaks down in that the piano teacher isn't selling piano exams, the piano teacher is selling blocks of time in which the vendee has access to their knowledge, insight and experience via a teacher-student relationship.

It's like going to a greengrocer and getting upset when they don't sell candy.


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#1523377 - 09/27/10 12:16 AM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: vladimiroir]  
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Sorry Elissa but your analogy doesn't make much sense. Surely it's more like a hairdresser? And one who won't let you go to the ball till they say? This is getting silly.

#1523380 - 09/27/10 12:24 AM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: vladimiroir]  
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I'll try to make it clearer so it makes more sense. The piano teacher isn't selling you certification. They are selling you lessons. If you want certification you can ask your teacher what their advice might be regarding certification, and then if you choose to disregard their advice that's not a problem at all, but it isn't the job of the teacher to advise you to do something against their better judgment. The teacher isn't pretending to be in the business of selling exams! So if you want to buy an exam and the teacher won't sell you one it's silly to get upset with them - they are selling you LESSONS!!!!

Just as you discovered, your teacher advised against you taking an exam and wouldn't endorse your entry by putting their name to it, but your teacher gave you good lessons in any case, helping you achieve an acceptable result in your chosen course of action.

A teacher entering a student isn't just an administrative exercise - it is an endorsement of the candidate. And endorsements aren't for sale.


Last edited by Elissa Milne; 09/27/10 12:25 AM. Reason: enhanced clarity

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#1523385 - 09/27/10 12:31 AM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: Elissa Milne]  
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Originally Posted by Elissa Milne
A teacher entering a student isn't just an administrative exercise - it is an endorsement of the candidate. And endorsements aren't for sale.
Thanks, that's quite clear. I expect a teacher to enter me when I ask. In what way it's an endorsement is hard to fathom - an endorsement to whom?

#1523488 - 09/27/10 04:55 AM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: vladimiroir]  
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I think the most important question that need to be asked is why the need for an exam in the first place? The danger here is to use these certifications and grades as the sole impetus to fuel your desire to learn music. I have taught for a few years now and have entered students for ABRSM exam. Those that did well were very much prepared and was playing in excess of the level of the grades they took. These students never treated these exams as a means to proof that they were at a certain level of proficiency; I emphasized that doing well in these exams are really more of a reward than a goal.

So the question that TS need to first answer is why does he want to take grade 8 in the first place? If it is just to seek a written assertion that he indeed could try to be a concert pianist, perhaps the intention should be reexamined.


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#1523504 - 09/27/10 06:21 AM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: chopin_r_us]  
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Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
Originally Posted by Elissa Milne
A teacher entering a student isn't just an administrative exercise - it is an endorsement of the candidate. And endorsements aren't for sale.
Thanks, that's quite clear. I expect a teacher to enter me when I ask. In what way it's an endorsement is hard to fathom - an endorsement to whom?

It's an endorsement to the examination board when the teacher agrees to put their name on the certificate saying that they are the ones presenting you for an exam. When a teacher is not prepared to endorse a student taking an exam they suggest the student enter themselves so that the teacher's name is not included on the certificate or in the record keeping.

Different teachers have different perceptions of how important these things can be to their reputations. Now, I won't enter a student unless I know they can easily manage the exam, but that's because I don't want the stress of an unprepared student as part of my life, nothing to do with my reputation - I couldn't care less. But then my reputation is based on other aspects of my teaching than my record in presenting students in examinations. And in cultures where this matters, and Australia actually is one of those cultures where it does matter, it really looks terrible for a teacher if they consistently present students for assessment who do not do very well. Parents talk about poor results and teachers know or feel that *they* are being judged on the results of their students in examinations more than in any other way.

There is also the issue, when students are minors, of parents coming back to the teacher and saying "but why did they get such a poor result?", and if the teacher can say, "well, you recall that I refused to endorse your child entering for this exam" the parent is forced to accept responsibility for the decisions the teacher advised against.

This issue of whether the teacher is selling exam entries or selling tuition in playing the piano is actually very significant in practice - which is why I think it's so important to clarify the difference between selling candy and teaching the piano in this thread!



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#1523529 - 09/27/10 07:17 AM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: vladimiroir]  
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Surely if minors get poor results parents can be reminded that they asked for the entry? As for certificates, one isn't issued unless there's a pass - is a pass not good enough? No, I really think if the teacher knows the administrative system they should help by making the entry. If the teacher doesn't wish to sell an exam entry, may they not at least grant it? Maybe the forms should have a tick box that says 'This wasn't my idea!'

#1523590 - 09/27/10 09:00 AM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: vladimiroir]  
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A pass is way not good enough. A pass isn't even close to good enough. Seriously. A pass means you couldn't execute one third of the requirements. A distinction means you executed the requirements either very close to perfectly or at a very high standard (something like 87% +). A merit either is a distinction standard student having a very bad day, or a student failing to put in the hours to master all the requirements (or maybe even a teacher failing to prepare a student for all the requirements adequately).

You can try to argue that teachers shouldn't feel judged on their exam results, but that won't change reality.

And then there is the issue of the teacher's duty of care: entering a student carelessly for an exam, against the better judgement of the teacher, diminishes the opportunity for that student to make optimum progress (or sometimes progress at all!).

A good analogy in this last point is like going to the doctor and being told that antibiotics won't help because you have a virus and you insist on getting a prescription regardless (the doctor knows how to prescribe drugs, so they should help you get the drugs). Just as exam entries don't have such a box, there is no space on the prescription label for the doctor to indicate that he/she doesn't think you should be taking the course of action you insist is right for you.


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#1523591 - 09/27/10 09:03 AM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: Elissa Milne]  
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This post does not address any individual. The "reply" button puts in a name.

What are lessons and what are exams (for)? The last few pages make me ask this. Thoughts:

Lessons and practicing are for the purpose of learning to play the piano: to get piano skill and musical understanding. A teacher provides the service of helping us gain that skill and knowledge, and we pay for the time slot set aside for us. The goal as well as the "product" is this piano ability, which is a gradual growth and a process. THAT is the candy or meat.

During learning or teaching we need to assess so that weak spots can be caught and strengthened - so that we know where we are. In group settings this is done through exams, because a teacher can't observe every student. Exams determine how well a student can do what is on the exam, so they are limited. One-on-one, the weekly lessons tell a teacher much more about the student's progress. Nonetheless, an exam gives a second set of eyes and ears for feedback. As student and parent, I found that exams gave fresh information from a new angle, and we used the comments for what actually matter: lessons & practicing toward these skills.

If this is so, then exams play a secondary and rather insignificant role. But in a few of the posts here it seems that exams are important and dire things can happen if approached the wrong way. It even seems as if the exam IS the goal and product, and lessons / practicing existing for the sake of the exams. That bothers me. I use an exercise machine that tells me my heart rate. I use those numbers to guide how much I can safely do and see how far I can go, but my goal is fitness. I don't exercise in order to produce heart rate numbers. Having exams as a goal has that feel to it.

The goal is musical growth. Can exams taken the wrong way impact that? If I get a poor grade or fail an exam, will that cause me to lose my skills or forget what I learned? No - so taking an exam alone does not affect a student's growth: it is an insignificant thing. Yet in this thread it seems dire. The results of doing an exam alone or against a teacher's advice may show us where we're lacking and where the teacher can help. They provide information (maybe not the kind we want). Bruised ego and lack of confidence maybe. Might the mere act of preparing for an exam help a student's growth? It doesn't seem a big deal as far as a student is concerned. (???)

Poor exam results due to an obviously badly prepared student WILL have a negative impact on the teacher. We students and parents should be aware of that. Teaching is a profession, and reputations must be maintained in order to keep business going. A teacher not wanting to put his/her name behind a student taking an exam against advice is logical. But I don't see it as having anything to do with the selling of products. An exam is an assessment tool, and the goal and product is the learning. That's the part that bothers me.

In teachers college it was drummed in to us that exams are the poorest and most error-prone devices of all. I may be prejudiced, but I was taught to mistrust exams and not give them much weight. (Sorry) frown

Preparing for an exam means preparing for the material that the exam will test. If a teacher wants to work on different areas that will benefit our growth, there may be little time for that due to an exam. This may be a reason not to want a student to enter an exam. If a student lends too much weight on an exam and gets demoralized, or if parents will pressure a student for the sake of "results" to the point of making student hate music, those could also be reasons to advise against exams.

Anyway, this is how we have always seen exams vis-a-vis lessons or self-learning. It may not be how things are. Some things in this thread have puzzled me which is why I have posted this.


Last edited by keystring; 09/27/10 09:08 AM.
#1523594 - 09/27/10 09:06 AM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: vladimiroir]  
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I agree with the above. If working towards a pass is enough to motivate a student (takes all sorts), then it should be a good enough goal for the teacher to accept.

#1523604 - 09/27/10 09:14 AM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: chopin_r_us]  
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Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
I agree with the above. If working towards a pass is enough to motivate a student (takes all sorts), then it should be a good enough goal for the teacher to accept.


Except to be aware of the part involving the teacher's reputation. Since the teacher is supposed to be able to prepare students and assess their readiness for an exam, a poorly prepared student will indicate that this teacher doesn't know how to prepare or is lazy, and also does not have the skills to assess his students properly. A reputation takes a long time to build, and can be lost quickly.

#1523621 - 09/27/10 09:36 AM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: chopin_r_us]  
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Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
I agree with the above. If working towards a pass is enough to motivate a student (takes all sorts), then it should be a good enough goal for the teacher to accept.

This is a bit of a strawman argument, now. Who said anything about struggling to motivate students? In my experience working towards a bare pass is about the most demoralising thing a person can attempt to do on the piano. I certainly wouldn't participate in such a miserable process for all the money a student could offer me.

Learning is what motivates students - the joy of discovering how to do new things, how to make new sounds, the connections between things, the stories behind the music, inside the music, discovering the ways emotion and logic cannot be unwound from each other in the alchemy that music is.

Now, if while you are busy learning about yourself and your instrument you also wish to celebrate your achievements through an external assessment, good and well. But to halt your learning in order to satisfy some need for a certificate? To stop your exploration and discovery in order to receive a bare pass? What a paltry exchange. How sorely such a student must crave affirmation to spend months seeking a bare pass.......



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#1523742 - 09/27/10 01:32 PM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: Elissa Milne]  
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Originally Posted by Elissa Milne
But to halt your learning in order to satisfy some need for a certificate? To stop your exploration and discovery in order to receive a bare pass? What a paltry exchange. How sorely such a student must crave affirmation to spend months seeking a bare pass.......
Surely a bare pass doesn't take months? And, even more surely, some are only capable of a bare pass? In fact I can't help thinking if there was more exploring and a lot less teaching to the test there'd be a lot more passes instead, but also more music.

#1523940 - 09/27/10 06:54 PM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: chopin_r_us]  
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Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
Originally Posted by Elissa Milne
But to halt your learning in order to satisfy some need for a certificate? To stop your exploration and discovery in order to receive a bare pass? What a paltry exchange. How sorely such a student must crave affirmation to spend months seeking a bare pass.......
Surely a bare pass doesn't take months? And, even more surely, some are only capable of a bare pass? In fact I can't help thinking if there was more exploring and a lot less teaching to the test there'd be a lot more passes instead, but also more music.

And finally we agree: it's the teaching to the test that is the problem. Although teachers who don't want to teach to the test are the ones you are complaining about not selling you candy!!

Students are all (with very rare exceptions) capable of distinctions. I can't begin to say how outrageous it is to assert that there are students who are only capable of a bare pass. The only reason someone loses substantial marks in an assessment is because they have not prepared all the requirements - bare passes are what happens when you simply are not prepared, and are no reflection on 'what you are capable of'.

And please note: Your assertion that teachers should accept students who wanted to achieve bare passes was what I was addressing in these comments. In my view, students who want to achieve bare passes don't even qualify as students - they have no interest in learning, merely in getting a certificate.


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#1524029 - 09/27/10 10:07 PM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: chopin_r_us]  
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Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
Surely a bare pass doesn't take months? ...


Read up in this thread - apparently to sign up for an exam now means taking it at the EARLIEST in April! This to me implies that the ABRSM (and AMEB and other similar orgnisations) expect exam stuff to be prepared over a period of many many months.

Either that or they expect a clairvoyant like ability to predict progress more than half a year in advance.



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#1524049 - 09/27/10 11:04 PM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: chopin_r_us]  
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Chopin r us - how do you see exams? What is your purpose for taking an exam? I bet there are some misunderstandings lurking.

#1524058 - 09/27/10 11:29 PM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: keystring]  
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There are a lot of potential different reasons for taking an exam including (but not limited to):

  • Motivation - introduction of clearly measurable goals.
  • Validation - Gaining a sense of pride at achieving goals.
  • Verification - Having external praise builds self-confidence and belief.
  • Input - Checking progress and getting 'impartial' constructive feedback.
  • External Credit - Higher grades can contribute towards high school scores and uni entrance.
  • Gloating - Quantified bragging rights over peers.


Not all are in keeping with the lofty ideals of some around here for whom the pursuit of the 'measurable' seems to be an offence. But they are all valid reasons for taking exams, and none of the above should necessarily work against any students desire to 'grow as a musician', gain good technique, improve understanding and appreciation for music - or any other less quantifiable goals.


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#1524078 - 09/28/10 01:22 AM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: keystring]  
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Originally Posted by keystring
Chopin r us - how do you see exams? What is your purpose for taking an exam? I bet there are some misunderstandings lurking.

'In my view, students who want to achieve bare passes don't even qualify as students - they have no interest in learning, merely in getting a certificate.'

Well, that's me bang on the head all my life! I earn a small income teaching piano, fairly new to it so need a certificate or two. I'm now more qualified than most piano teachers I know (most have no qualifications) but can't see why I should bust my a** to please the exam boards. In my grade 8 (the only grade I took) I lost a couple of marks on each piece (distinction grade) and near perfect sight reading. My merit came as quite a surprise, though even that would seem to not be good enough for some? I can't remember if my performance diploma was graded - but I thought I played well. Does it matter to me if some bods thought it was A, B or C? Not enough to make me lift a finger - literally.

#1524089 - 09/28/10 01:59 AM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: vladimiroir]  
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Does this mean that parents and older students look for that piece of paper, and without it they would consider you "less qualified"? If so, that reasoning is logical.

#1524105 - 09/28/10 03:16 AM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: vladimiroir]  
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No one has ever asked to see it but it does give me letters after my name which gives me the confidence to charge for tuition.

#1524109 - 09/28/10 03:37 AM Re: Jumpin ABRSM [Re: vladimiroir]  
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