Revamping My Student Incentive Program

After several years of running "Maestro's Musical Quest", I've come to the conclusion that my student rewards program needs a complete overhaul.
 
This is what I've learned with Maestro's Musical Quest:
  1. Most of my students found it very hard to maintain a practise diary. Many couldn't be bothered with it. Some hated it.
  2. Quite a few students detested logging their minutes.
  3. My students got discouraged when they saw that they weren't earning as many Maestro Bucks (to spend at Maestro's Market) because they didn't maintain their practising diary or get their parents' signature and basically gave up on the program.
  4. The Top Dogs (Most Minutes Practised, Most Tasks Cleared, Most Maestro Bucks Earned) weren't necessarily practising efficiently.
I came to the sad realization that my practise incentives rewarded students for practising inefficiently. That is something I do not want to keep doing. Having a system that frustrates students isn't something I want either. Having said this, I still want them to be accountable for their work. It really made me think about what exactly I wanted to reward and inspire in my students. 
 

Pets make good studio mascots. Maestro is the inspiration of my student incentive program. Photo by R-M Arca.

I decided to focus on four main areas: technical proficiency, music mastery, leadership/initiative and efficiency/meeting goals. The first three are Top Dog categories, re-branded as: "Technique Savvy", "Music Mastery" and "Music Maestro".

 
Technique Savvy: Students will earn $2 Maestro Bucks for each technical element they master.
 
Music Mastery: Students will earn $25 Maestro Bucks for each five songs they master. Memory is optional. Perfection will NOT be stressed at all. The main thing I want to reward is proficiency.
 
Music Maestro: Students will earn $3 Maestro Bucks each time they do something above and beyond their assignments, e.g. do a concert report, compose a song, do a music review, help out as a recital assistant, do a composer report, present an independent study or work ahead on their own.
 
For those who are wondering, student prize that "costs" $100 Maestro Bucks costs me $1.00 to buy. Prizes are in $25, $50, $100, $250 and $500 amounts. I have gotten some requests for a $1,000 MB category as my students really like this one squishy exercise ball (which costs me $10). The three Top Dogs will be awarded at the year-end Top Dog party, which all students (and pets) will be invited to attend (Note to self: find out if the neighbourhood park is available).
Mastery will also be rewarded through the Gig Card program. Perform 20 times and get a prize.
Goal setting, milestones and accountability are addressed with the Goal Setting Sheet. We'll work together to set their short-term, medium term and long-term goals:
On the reverse side, there is a spot for End-of-Semester Checkpoints. Both sides of the sheet must be signed by the parent, student and teacher.

The "assignment sheet" has been renamed "Learning Goals for the Week" to support the shift towards more goal-oriented practising habits versus practising for X minutes.  The Practise Diary? Gone. The Practise Log? Also gone. Parent signature? Not required. All I ask of them is to check off which days they worked towards meeting their learning goals. They will earn $1 Maestro Buck for each goal cleared.

 
Truth be told, my own Practising "Diary" is just a To Do List for that session. I don't log minutes. I stop when the job is done. I stop when I need a break. I change my strategy when something isn't working.
 
This is the heart of what I want them to learn - to make the best use of their time, whether they have 10 minutes or 60. Then when they do perform, wherever they perform, they can do so with a high level of proficiency and artistry. © Rhona-Mae Arca, 2012. All rights reserved.