There is general agreement that the quality of practice has a significant part to play in the development of accomplishment in performers across ability and age levels (Barry, 1992; Ericsson, 2008; Ericsson et al., 1993; Hallam, 2001a). Yet, because most practice occurs outside lessons, it is not easy for teachers to gain access to the approaches their students take to practice, to learn how they challenge themselves when practising, or to assess the techniques they use during their practice. Given that all of these factors can have a great impact on advancement in playing, it is crucial that teachers have some input into the establishment of effective practice habits in their students as they develop their musical skills. For teachers of novice students embarking upon their journey towards musical accomplishment, it is not unusual to find that initial enthusiasm is followed by the realization that learning to play a musical instrument involves learning a great deal of new content, theory, sound and physical movements, as well as developing an understanding of how these facets relate to one another. At times like this, significant progress can be difficult and much depends on the student having the motivation to overcome the challenges they face in their learning, as it is through overcoming these challenges that learners stretch and grow in their musical proficiency (Ericsson, Krampe and Tesch-Romer, 1993). In general, it has been found that deliberate practice strategies that focus students’ practice time towards purposeful, goal directed and evaluative processes are most likely to be related to productive outcomes in performance and learning (Ericsson et al., 1993). There are a number of beneficial strategies related to such practice and those selected may be effectively tailored to the playing needs of each person. Added to this, there are specific strategies that appear between experts and across domains that seem to be particularly valuable and merit further study. We take this as a starting point for our chapter. We consider the impact of metacognitive thinking on students’ practice, learning and performance during the development of musical skill. We review evidence that, through a relatively short intervention involving explicit discussion of reflective practice strategies, adolescent students are able effectively to engage in metacognition that can result in improved performance. We note that, while music teachers report that they
regularly emphasize practice, many students believe that they do not often discuss practice with their teachers. This disconnect may arise from a lack of detailed, explicit conversations between student and teacher about the reflective evaluation of one’s practice. We explore this idea, along with its potential implications for teaching, by discussing teacher and novice student responses regarding the use of, and conversation around, practice strategies. By interrogating these responses, our intention is to illuminate and explore the important role played by metacognitive teaching and metacognitive practice in the early practice and performance of adolescent music students learning to play instruments.