The jazz education community possesses abundant subject matter, play-alongs and an unstoppable harvest of reissues and new music available through the internet. However, while educators are better resourced, informed discourse about teaching and learning is comparatively undeveloped. Interestingly, the great Australian educator John Biggs describes 3 types of teacher which reflect historical attitudes to learning jazz (see Biggs, J.Teaching for Quality Learning at University, Open University Press, 1999, chapter 2).
3 Types of Teacher (and jazz educator)
Type 1: Generally preoccupied with what a student is. The effectiveness of any activity is literally determined by this. This is fatalistic view of education.
Type 2: The teacher as a transmitter of knowledge and information, a competent professional possessing a repertoire of techniques that generate results, frequently supported by resources conscientiously accumulated and created by the teacher. This is education as product.
Type 3: The teacher that supports learning, interested in how and why students learn. This is education as process.
In terms of jazz, type 1 (the fatalist) believed that “you either had it or you didn’t”, or “I just blow man”. Type 2 is currently widespread, as jazz education is resourced by enthusiastic teachers eager to transmit information, resourced by a jazz education industry preoccupied with providing information-based product.
While we all possess the 3 types within ourselves, our transition to a type 3 teacher, requires considerable and rigorously informed reflective practice. Most importantly educational know-how is needed in order to devise teaching and learning strategies that place the student at the centre of the educational experience. By so doing, we can facilitate learning processes more likely to resemble the improvised, yet informed, nature of our music.