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Steve Rauh - Principal, West Vancouver Secondary School > Posts > Personalized Learning and Rock Band?
February 21
Personalized Learning and Rock Band?
Where do you want to go today?

As I sat back and enjoyed the West Vancouver Secondary School Rock Band concert last week, I couldn't help but wonder if I was observing the result of personalized learning. What I saw were scores of students belting out the hits with passion, enthusiasm, pride, and accomplishment. I saw students demonstrate their learning in a medium of their choice whether it be vocals, lead guitar, bass, drums, or keyboard. Not only were they having fun . . . their performances were great!

The notion of personalized learning is not new as many of its tenets are grounded in constructivist theory, yet the idea of shifting the way that we teach to better align with the way that we learn is what it is all about.

The Ministry of Education describes Personalized Learning in the following way:

" . . . provides individual learners with the differentiated instruction and support they need to gain the required knowledge, skills and competencies and also provides them with the flexibility and choice they need to develop their individual interests and passions"

To read more about this topic, view the following interactive guide:


How does Rock Band fit in? At WVSS we are fortunate to have superb music instructors, Mr. Les Toth, Mr. Brad Daudlin and Mr. Steve Holmberg, who have created a fantastic program of all genres including Jazz, Orchestra, Concert, Guitar, and Rock Band.

Rock Band is an opportunity for students to expand their vocal and instrumental experiences in a rock band setting through rehearsal and performance. The performance repertoire focuses on popular selections from both rock and soul music.

If I take a look at a partial list of suggested instructional practices associated with personalized learning and compare them to Rock Band, I end up with the following:


​Instructional Strategies Rock Band​
  • teachers becoming co-learners ​with their students, using interdisciplinary approaches and working in teams of teachers to support students
  • providing students with more time to reflect on what they are learning and why they are learning it
  • teachers facilitating learning experiences for students beyond the classroom that contribute to the community at large
  • using the community and local environment as the classroom
  • teachers providing students with real life problems requiring a team-approach to develop a variety of solutions​
  • recognizing and providing for a variety of ways for students to express their learning​
I certainly acknowledge that this comparison is by no means comprehensive nor exhaustive, but the piece that really resonated for me was the effect upon the students.
Junior Rock Band students perform at the Kay Meek Centre

At the performance, I watched student after student perform at levels and with passion that can only be achieved with a strong measure of personal engagement and commitment. I watched one particular student seamlessly move between the guitar, bass guitar, and keyboards all within the same set. Each student proudly showed us their best piece of work or examplar.
Grade 11 student Jonathan Catliff showing us his skills
I also acknowledge that Rock Band is a unique course that attracts students who posess a certain skill set. Regardless, the question for me is how can we create a similar experience in both process and outcome across all of the curricular areas?
Luckily, I believe that most educators see the inherent value in personalized learning, and have naturally adopted elements of it within their courses as there are many examples of what works well in most classrooms. The challenge is to design a comprehensive approach that integrates all of these examples into a coherent framework that has universal appeal and application.
For additional useful references that reflect the current conversation please see "A Vision for 21st Century Education" from the Premier's Technology Council and "21st Century Learning" by Dr. Charlie Naylor.
Thank you Mr. Toth and all of your Rock Band students for an outstanding evening that not only showcased the talents of many of our aspiring musicians, but also allowed us to see what students are capable of when the learning environment allows them to flourish.
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West Vancouver Secondary School:
1750 Mathers Avenue
West Vancouver, BC, V7V 2G7
Phone: (604) 981-1100
Voicemail: (604) 981-1234
Fax: (604) 981-1101
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