Group Instrument Lessons – A tool to prepare musical performance and develop critical thinking

Research paper


This article discusses instrument group classes as a strategy to support individual lessons and help the development of skills related to performance and the development of critical thinking. This discussion is based on 2 qualitative studies conducted in Portugal. In the first, it was sought to answer the research question: are group classes a tool capable of supporting the preparation of performance? Questionnaires were applied to 16 higher education students and 4 teachers involved in this type of class and class observation was carried out (with field notes). The data obtained were subjected to “pattern analysis” (Crabtree & Miller, 1999, p. 164; Robson, 2002, p. 458) – analysis based on the categorization of the collected data. In the second study, it was sought to answer the research question: “What is the impact of instrument classes in cooperative groups on the development of critical thinking?”. The research followed an action research methodology. It was a pedagogical intervention project, in which 6 students, divided into 2 groups, had 3 sessions in a group context, in which the students helped their colleagues to solve the difficulties by cooperating and sharing feedback. Data were collected through diagnostic tests and final evaluation tests, observation with field notes, video recordings and interviews. The qualitative data collected were subjected to “pattern analysis”, and the results of the diagnostic tests were compared with the results of final evaluation tests (between the tests performed) showing a 26.3% increase in participants’ critical thinking levels.

In the first study, the results indicated that Group Instrument Lessons may simulate performance, helping to develop performance-related skills, allowing peer-to-peer feedback sharing, and helping students cope with anxiety. In the second study, the results showed that the implementation of a cooperative groups weekly instrument class can have a positive impact on students’ development.

The results obtained in the 2 studies allow us to conclude that instrumental group classes can be a methodology to support the development of skills for musical performance and critical thinking. The results highlighted the importance of peer-to-peer feedback and the relevance of collaborative learning. These types of classes help students grow technically, musically, and humanly.

About the speaker

André Fonseca, Violin

André Fonseca is a violinist and conductor who graduated from the Escola Superior de Música in Lisbon and holds a Ph.D. in Music from the University of Aveiro. As a Gulbenkian Foundation fellow, he studied in Berlin, Germany, under the guidance of Abraham Jaffée, where he remained for three years. Fonseca participated in master classes with Gerardo Ribeiro, Anatoly Bajenov, Pierre Amoyal, and Ifrah Neaman, and received private instruction from Max Rabinowitsj.

He has won several prizes in Portugal and performed concerts across Europe. In duo collaborations with piano, Fonseca has presented concerts at various music festivals, collaborating with pianists such as Maria Emilia Leite Velho, Nancy Lee Harper, João Miguel Crisóstomo, Eduardo Resende, Grigory Gritsiouk, João Bettencourt, Nuno Caçote, Bernardo Santos, among others.

Regularly performing as a soloist with orchestras, Fonseca has played with the Orchestra of the RDP, Orchestra Collegium Musicum, Filarmonia das Beiras, Cascais and Oeiras Chamber Orchestra, among others. In this context, he has performed violin concertos by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Max Bruch, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Brahms, and others.

Due to the nature of his artistic personality, Fonseca is often invited to join various chamber music groups. He founded the Luís de Freitas Branco String Trio and the Aveiro String Quartet, giving concerts across the country with particular attention to Portuguese music.

Since 1998, he has been the concertmaster of the Filarmonia das Beiras Orchestra, having played more than 1400 concerts in Portugal, Spain, and France in this function. Frequently invited to serve on competition juries and provide master classes, Fonseca has been a professor of violin at Aveiro University, Portugal, since 2013, where he is also responsible for the String Orchestra.

As a conductor, Fonseca primarily works with youth orchestras. His preferred research area focuses on group music practice as a collaborative and inclusive activity, exploring its various aspects and implications on student motivation and learning.