A matter of presence: A qualitative study on teaching individual and collective music classes

Andrea Schiavio*, Michele Biasutti, Dylan van der Schyff, Richard Parncutt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the current study, 11 expert music teachers were asked to reflect on their own practice and compare their experience of individual and collective teaching settings. Adopting an approach based on grounded theory, two interrelated themes were identified in the raw data: teaching issues and professional development. In both categories, the notion of ‘presence’ emerged as a defining feature of the comparison. Teachers reported to be less present in collective settings, whereas one would expect that the higher (cognitive, teaching, etc.) demands associated with more learners would result in teachers being instead more involved in the unfolding dynamics of the lesson. Inspired by the conceptual tools offered by the Extended Mind (ExM) approach, we suggest that in collective settings teachers feel less present because they can offload the cognitive role of ‘teacher’ onto the learners, giving rise to a hybrid extended system that fosters a shared sense of responsibility, where pedagogical dynamics are functionally distributed across the whole group. In reporting excepts from music teachers, and adopting a novel perspective to frame our discussion, our research may contribute to existing literature in (collective) music pedagogy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)356-376
Number of pages21
JournalMusicae scientiae
Issue number3
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: A. S. is supported by a Lise Meitner Postdoctoral Fellowship granted by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF): project number M2148. D. v.d. S. is supported by a postdoctoral fellowship granted by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • collective music lesson
  • Extended Mind
  • music teacher
  • musical learning
  • presence

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