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Feedback with 2EA

2EA - giving musical feedback - teacher and musician

Feedback is a hot topic in schools.  Up and down the country, teachers are trying out a variety of approaches and often have to work them into a whole school approach.  Marking stickers and RAG123 may well be feedback strategies that you are familiar with but these (and may other approaches) are centred on the needs of written work.  It makes sense to me that if a pupil completes written work, then the teacher should respond in writing.  Similarly, it makes sense that if a pupil provides musical work, then the teacher should respond in music.

I took the time recently to ask myself how exactly I give musical feedback to pupils as, generally speaking, it’s something that I do automatically.  Maybe, at some point, someone explained this approach to me but it’s now so deeply engrained in my practice that I’m not sure how it got there.  When I thought it through, I realised that it breaks down into four stages, which I’ve now called ‘2EA’ (naming things has never been my strong point…).  Those stages are:

E – error
A – accurate
E – exaggerate
A – accurate

See?  It goes ‘EA’ twice…
Yes, please send me a tweet if you have a better name for this…

Four stages might seem like a lot of work but it takes precious little time and leaves pupils in no doubt as to what you are expecting/suggesting.  Let’s have a look at each step.


Repeat the sound the pupil made, which you consider to be an ‘error’ or needing improvement.  Make sure that the pupil knows the point in the piece where this sound occurred.  Preface this with a sentence along the lines of “You know when you played [plays instrument]?”


Accurately perform the sound that you want the pupil to create instead.  If you can’t play the instrument that they are using, do this with an instrument you’re confident playing.  Preface this with a phrase such as “I’d like you to try playing it like [plays instrument].”


Perform the ‘accurate’ version again but exaggerate the elements that are different between this and the ‘error’ version.  Perhaps overdo the staccato or the crescendo; whatever it is that makes the difference between the ‘error’ and the ‘accurate’.  Try a slower tempo to aid the pupil’s understanding.  As you do so, augment the playing with talking to further highlight the difference and the technique required.  


Make sure that the last thing you play is the ‘accurate’ version so that there’s no doubt in the learner’s mind about what it should sound like.  


This quick and simple approach makes sure that pupils understand…
  • what they are doing
  • what you want them to do
  • how to get there
…and does so in a very clear, musical way.  
Is this the way in which you give feedback to pupils or do you have your own approach?  As ever, I’d love to hear your ideas on Twitter ( @johnskelleher)