What if the school “held on” thanks to the different pedagogies?


The “different” pedagogies bring together a vast set of approaches, admittedly heterogeneous (Freinet, Montessori, Steiner pedagogies …), but which have in common to stand out from the “traditional” pedagogy characterized, to put it quickly, by a masterful teaching, identical for all, introducing summative evaluations (that is to say aimed at evaluating a level) and not based on the questions and knowledge of the pupils.

But, what place do these different pedagogies hold in the French education system? Between private and public establishments grouped together, in part, within the FESPI (Federation of Innovative Public Schools) and schools where a single teacher or a small team set them up, it is difficult to draw up a precise inventory.

The available data nevertheless allow us to consider that their place is marginal in the French education system: thus Marie-Laure Viaud estimated , in her 2008 work, at around 20,000 children attending schools practicing such pedagogies.

To this should be added some of the hundreds of innovations identified and the teachers who experiment with such and such a practice (free text, morning interview, project, etc.) in their class, which is even more difficult to quantify.

Despite this marginal place, the different pedagogies are the subject of recurring and mediatized polemics which relate to the teaching principles (the power or not of the pupils on school life, the possibility which is given to them to express themselves, the conceptions discipline …), the operations and their undesirable effects (the confusion that might exist between activities and learning, the quantity of implicit …), the public concerned (which would be rather favored) or the results which would not be really convincing. The positions expressed, rarely supported by detailed studies, are generally clear-cut.

Strive to understand and describe

I tried to overcome these a priori, remaining very careful and avoiding slipping into an apologetic drift: there are indeed very different alternative pedagogies and various ways of bringing them to life. I relied on research of substantial duration and crossing multiple research techniques.

I thus worked on the experiments established by the “Fillon” law. I also studied Freinet pedagogy in a very disadvantaged environment for five years with a multidisciplinary team . And, more recently, I have focused on understanding the project pedagogy implemented in the Vitruvian school , one of the oldest schools practicing a different pedagogy in Paris.

In fact, beyond the hasty simplifications, the operations established and their effects are complex to describe. Understanding what is in place requires, in addition to real humility and a significant amount of time in the field, the crossing of a number of data from different techniques (observations, questionnaires, interviews, analyzes of documents requested or not, etc.), formal or informal exchanges with the various actors (teachers, students, parents of students, service staff, occasional speakers, etc.), as well as taking into account multiple dimensions (disciplinary or non-disciplinary learning, citizenship education, well- being, school climate…).

I will not come back to all these elements that I develop in my last book, Understanding different practices and pedagogies , in which I also propose a repository in order to better understand and analyze the operations and effects produced as well as an analysis of the obstacles that encounters the dissemination of these pedagogies, obstacles, part of which is sometimes due to certain rigidities in the discourse of educational activists.

Different pedagogies: a necessity?

I still tried to bring to light some elements, likely to relativize certain controversies. We can certainly criticize the different approaches. The debate is absolutely legitimate.

We should not forget the problematic effects, underlined by various international surveys, of the classic approaches which remain dominant in France: fatigue and burn-out of a certain number of teachers, problems of pupils’ level compared to others. country, boredom or dropping out …

In fact, different pedagogies ultimately develop just as much on the convictions and commitments of some as on the weaknesses and dysfunctions of classic school practices: lack of information or companionship with families, systematic imposition without the slightest latitude in the tasks and the ways of carrying them out, unmotivating situations, lack of cooperation, differentiation, listening and taking into account of the knowledge possessed by the pupils, evaluations with often vague criteria and tending to stigmatize the errors …

Some of these difficulties lead many families to entrust their child to establishments which practice different pedagogies. They also lead some teachers to modify their practices to regain the desire to teach, to obtain a more peaceful atmosphere and more satisfactory results.

It should also be remembered that the different pedagogies arose, at least in part, from the problems encountered by traditional pedagogies, that the systems for pupils in difficulty were based and often still lean on practices resulting from alternative pedagogies and that a number of experiments in particularly difficult places borrow the devices they implement from different pedagogies.

Likewise, a number of structures fighting against dropping out of school also rely on such devices in order to restore taste and meaning to schooling. We could thus say that these pedagogies have been and remain living laboratories and sources of renewal for pedagogical practices.

Consequently, I would gladly say that the quantitative marginality that I mentioned at the opening of this article can echo what Jean ‑ Luc Godard has expressed on several occasions about the functionality of margins. This was the case on March 7, 1987, during the presentation of the French cinema Cesars, when he was crowned with a “Honorary Cesar”. Jean ‑ Pierre Elkabach then presented him as the “eternal marginal of cinema” and declared “very funny to see him there, in the midst of cinema professionals”. Jean ‑ Luc Godard then had this famous reply: “You know, the margin is what keeps the pages together. “.

The relationships between the different educational approaches and the school system are, perhaps, at least in part, of the same order. The question is in any case worth asking.

Author Bio: Yves Reuter is Professor emeritus in didactics at the University of Lille