Sight reading was always one of my biggest weaknesses. Not that I could not read the sheet music and tell you what it was supposed to do, but in actually translating that into executed sound - mostly with regard to timing.
As a kid, we mostly played in groups, even as a lead in drum corps, there were other lead players, and it was easy to check/adjust with a new piece of music. Once I'd heard it a few times, then reading the music and then memorizing (almost everything was memorized) hid the problem for the most part.
When I took piano some years back, I improved some, but there was always the issue in the background - often rectified by asking someone else to play the piece.
Now, on to the question. To become better at this, should I just stay away from listening to a piece played entirely (and wait to see my teacher to see where I've gone wrong), try it some, and then compare to someone or a sound file, or just keep at it, and it will get better? (It did get somewhat better when I was taking piano, but it went back away with non-use). It might be really that we never played that many different pieces that I didn't already know, so I never had to do much reading and never developed.
Related to that, suppose we're looking at sheet music that is mostly 16th notes, the time sig is for example 3/4, I want to stay in time, for me it is easiest to practice with the metronome at 4 times the speed of the quarter notes, that way I don't have to try to divide each beat into 4 and keep it even. This probably is more a question about solo practice, because practicing with a group there are other 'queues' etc. I digress.
Am I shooting myself in the foot by giving myself the crutch of setting the metronome at 4 times the beat? I surely can't tap my foot that fast, suppose I set the metronome at the higher rate and tap the foot at the correct rate?
And finally, syncopation . . . as yo can see, all of my questions relate to timing. How do you develop a good understanding of what that should sound like . . . ?
I've always found ways to shore up this weakness by listening, etc, but would like to be able to just pick up the book, see what's there, and start working on it.