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In the realm of education, the statement "2+2=4" is universally recognized as one of the most basic mathematical facts. But, have we ever paused to consider the importance of understanding the 'why' behind such a simple truth? This concept extends beyond mathematics, touching every aspect of learning and teaching. It's not just about knowing that 2+2 equals 4, but understanding why it is so.

**The Limitations of Rote Learning**

Traditionally, education systems have heavily leaned on rote memorization. Students are often encouraged to memorize facts, formulas, and figures. While this method might yield immediate results, it's akin to building a house on a weak foundation. Memorization lacks depth; it doesn't foster a lasting understanding or the ability to apply knowledge in different contexts.

**Understanding Promotes Critical Thinking**

When students grasp the 'why' behind a fact, they're engaging in critical thinking. They're not just accepting information at face value but are analyzing and understanding the principles that govern it. This approach cultivates a more profound and durable form of learning. For instance, understanding why 2+2=4, in terms of basic arithmetic principles, sets a foundation for more complex mathematical concepts.

**Application in Real Life**

Knowledge becomes powerful when it can be applied. Understanding the reasoning behind facts enables students to apply this knowledge in real-life scenarios. It's not just about knowing that 2+2=4, but also about understanding how this applies to everyday situations like sharing equally among friends, budgeting, or cooking.

**The Role of Educators**

As educators, it is our responsibility to encourage a culture of understanding rather than mere memorization. This can be achieved by:

1. Asking 'Why': Encourage students to ask 'why' and not just 'how'. Let them explore the reasons behind the answers they find.

2. Real-World Connections: Demonstrating how classroom knowledge applies in the real world can spark curiosity and a deeper understanding.

3. Encouraging Exploration: Allow students to explore various ways to arrive at a solution. This nurtures creativity and a deeper grasp of concepts.

4. Fostering a Growth Mindset: Emphasize the value of effort and understanding over just getting the right answer. This approach builds resilience and a love for learning.


In conclusion, the necessity of understanding the 'why' behind facts cannot be overstated. In an age where information is at our fingertips, the real challenge is to understand, interpret, and apply this information effectively. Just as with 2+2=4, every piece of knowledge, no matter how simple, holds deeper layers of understanding waiting to be explored. As educators and learners, let's commit to diving beneath the surface of facts and into the rich waters of understanding.

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Welcome back to our Music Lab Newsletter! In this edition, we're exploring a fascinating and vital aspect of music education: the impact of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation on resilience. Drawing from psychological research, we'll delve into how these motivations influence our learning and perseverance in the realm of music.

Understanding Motivation in Music Education

Motivation in music, like in any other field, can be broadly categorized into two types: intrinsic and extrinsic.

1. Intrinsic Motivation: This type of motivation arises from within the individual. According to Deci and Ryan's Self-Determination Theory (2000), intrinsic motivation is driven by an inherent interest or enjoyment in the activity itself. In the context of music, this could mean practicing because you find joy in music-making or because it fulfills a creative urge. Research suggests that intrinsic motivation is linked to higher creativity, better problem-solving, and greater psychological well-being (Ryan & Deci, 2000).

2. Extrinsic Motivation: Extrinsic motivation is driven by external rewards or pressures. This might include practicing to win a competition, to please a teacher, or for social recognition. While this motivation can be effective in the short term, studies have shown that it may not sustain long-term engagement (Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 1999).

The Role of Resilience in Music Education

Resilience, or the ability to recover from setbacks, is crucial in learning an instrument or mastering musical skills. According to a study by Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck (2007), individuals with a "growth mindset" – the belief that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work – show greater resilience. This is particularly relevant in music, where progress often involves overcoming challenges and setbacks.

How Different Motivations Influence Resilience

- Intrinsic Motivation and Resilience: Individuals driven by intrinsic motivation are likely to view challenges as opportunities to improve and learn. They tend to have a growth mindset and are more resilient in the face of difficulties. A study by Gillet, Vallerand, and Rosnet (2009) in the field of sports psychology found that intrinsic motivation was positively related to persistence and performance.

- Extrinsic Motivation and Resilience: Extrinsic motivation, while effective in initiating action, may not foster the same level of resilience. When the external reward is removed or the external pressure is too high, motivation can wane. A meta-analysis by Deci, Koestner, and Ryan (2001) indicated that external rewards could undermine intrinsic motivation, potentially affecting long-term resilience and persistence.

Balancing Motivation for Sustained Musical Engagement

For a sustainable and resilient journey in music education, balancing intrinsic and extrinsic motivations is key. Encouraging students to find personal meaning and enjoyment in music can foster intrinsic motivation. Simultaneously, external rewards and recognition can be used judiciously to motivate and celebrate achievements without overshadowing the intrinsic joy of music-making.

Enhancing Intrinsic Motivation in Music Education

Improving intrinsic motivation is key for sustained engagement and resilience in music learning. Here are some strategies:

  • Self-Reflection: Encourage students to explore what aspects of music genuinely interest them. Is it a particular genre, the act of creating, or the emotional expression? Understanding these personal interests can spark intrinsic motivation.

  • Goal Setting: Setting personal goals, rather than only external achievements, can enhance intrinsic motivation. Goals might include mastering a specific piece, improving a technical skill, or expressing a particular emotion through music.

  • Autonomy: Allowing students some choice in their learning process can bolster intrinsic motivation. This could involve choosing pieces to learn, picking practice schedules, or selecting performance opportunities.

  • Community and Connection: Being part of a musical community where experiences and passions are shared can reinforce intrinsic motivation. Collaborating with others, sharing music, and participating in group performances can make the musical journey more personally rewarding.


Understanding the nuances of motivation and its impact on resilience is critical in music education. By fostering an environment that values both intrinsic joy and external achievements, we can support learners in building resilience and maintaining a lifelong engagement with music.

Stay motivated and resilient in your musical journey!

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Understanding the Limitations of Traditional Resolutions

As the new year rolls in, it's common for music students to set ambitious resolutions, like perfecting a complex composition or increasing practice hours. However, these resolutions often don't yield the desired results. Why is this the case?

The main issue lies in their lofty nature. For instance, resolving to "master Chopin's Nocturnes in a month" is an overwhelming task, particularly for those at the beginning or intermediate stages of their musical journey. When such high expectations aren't met, it can lead to a quick loss of motivation.

Additionally, many resolutions are vague and lack a concrete plan. Goals like "improve my violin skills" are too general and don't provide a clear path to follow.

Lastly, the rigid nature of resolutions doesn't account for the dynamic lifestyle of a music student. Strict goals can become more of a hindrance than a help.

Adopting a More Effective Strategy: SMART Goals and Regular Practice

Shift the focus to setting SMART goals - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For example, instead of a vague goal to "get better at the guitar," aim to "learn two new songs each month for the next quarter."

Incorporating small, daily habits can also be more beneficial than grand, sweeping resolutions. Consistent, shorter practice sessions can lead to steady progress and help avoid burnout.

Embracing Adaptability and Persistence

It's crucial to remain adaptable and patient in your musical journey. Progress can be uneven, and there will be challenging days. When you hit a rough patch, remember to adjust your goals as needed and recognize the value in each small step forward.

Leveraging Resources for Enhanced Learning

To further enhance your learning journey, consider turning to comprehensive resources. My book, "How Do We Learn," available here:, offers insightful guidance on the learning process, which can be incredibly beneficial for music students. It provides strategies for effective learning and practicing, helping you to make the most of your musical education.


While setting New Year's resolutions is done with good intentions, a more structured and flexible approach is often more effective for music students. By setting SMART goals, establishing regular practice routines, adapting to challenges, and utilizing resources like "How Do We Learn," you can achieve meaningful and sustainable progress in your musical endeavors. Remember, your musical journey is unique – embrace each step with patience and enthusiasm!

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