Daniel Coyle (along with Geoff Colvin and his Talent is Overrated) has written  a book that I admire very much: The Talent C0de. This should be required reading for everyone. He also has a web site and blog that we would do well to be aware of. In his book, blog, and videos, he offers both fascinating information and priceless tips on how to do anything (like horn playing, for example) better.

His latest blog entry is a good example. Any horn teacher would profit by his advice for how teachers and coaches can increase engagement in students. His list is quoted below:

  • Spend time designing a game that is built around the specific skills you want to teach.   Aim to place learners in their sweet spot: tasks that are not too difficult, and not too easy.
  • Talk less. Real engagement doesn’t happen when a teacher or coach is talking (a recent MIT study showed that student physiological arousal essentially flatline during lectures). Engagement doesn’t come from words, but from actions and involvement.
  • Aim for swift feedback. The most engaging games are transparent: you don’t need a coach or teacher to inform you how you’re doing, because the game tells you.
  • Keep it social. Engagement operates like a virus. Small groups are a good way to increase the odds of those viruses being transmitted.
  • Do the minimum: The leader’s role is to do nothing except to keep things moving. Set the stage, then back off and let it happen. A good leader’s job is sort of like cloud-seeding. You can’t make the lightning strike happen. But you can design the conditions where the chances increase.

If you haven’t read The Talent Code, yet, run – don’t walk – to your nearest bookstore and get a copy!