Training Musicians Like Dogs

How is learning an instrument like training a dog to roll over on command? Both involve a complex set of movements that must be done in sequence to achieve a desired task. Animal trainers have been using clickers to teach tricks for a long time, but some people are wondering if the same techniques can be useful to humans too.

clicker for animal training

Consider this story by NPR:

When Everything Clicks: The Power of Judgement-Free Learning

And this article from

A Better Way To Teach Complex Skills, Borrowed From… Doggy Training?

The authors of both of these stories highlight that positive reinforcement is a helpful tool when learning something new. They argue that clickers help to give immediate feedback when the person (or dog) is doing the right thing.

Should Teachers Use Clickers During Lessons?

Or perhaps it should be the parents who use the clickers during practice?

Clearly, more research needs to be done, but I have some observations from my experience as a teacher:

  • Young children respond especially well to positive feedback.
  • When learning something new, it’s helpful to have ample, frequent reinforcement about what is correct.
  • I often say a quiet “yes” or “uh-huh” or “keep going” when students are headed in the right direction and need encouragement.
  • We need to be careful about simply training a student. Our job as teachers is to get the student to listen and self-correct, not be reliant on an external cue.

The clickers are on sale at PetSmart for $1.99. Who wants to be my guinea pig this week in lessons? 😁

For more blog posts on learning and reinforcement, check out

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