Scientific projects | ADEF Learning, Teaching, Assessment, Training

Scientific projects

Areas of focus for the team's work

In a context of reforms, educational policies (both national and international) contribute to diversifying and complicating the requirements, standards and frameworks of teachers' work. They modify the workplace in educational establishments and contribute to the transformation of the working activities of the various education professionals, often causing discomfort at work.

The ERGAPE team aims to organise its research programme around three areas of focus: a) prescriptive requirements and their development; b) new ways of organising the work (whether in establishments or teacher training) and c) the study of professional activities being (re)constructed by both experienced staff and beginners.

As part of this perspective, the methodological progress achieved in the previous contract will be continued. The aim, on the one hand, will be to develop a systematic analysis of prescriptive texts, which is uncommon in the education sciences, examining the methods used in accordance with a historico-cultural perspective. On the other hand, the idea is to combine two types of indirect methods. The first are those used in SHS by disciplines such as sociology or history, which consist of building up case studies and ensuring a valid comparison. This would appear essential when considering the changing ways in which work is being organised. The second are those more focused upon clinical activity, which allow us to capture what ergonomists call the 'subjective experience of work'.

Programme 1: The work of education professionals in educational establishments

Organisational dimensions and the development of professional activities: The 'Ambition Success Networks' (RAR), which are profoundly altering the form of schools in France, raise several questions. These are linked to the organisation of the work of all those involved (inspectors, head teachers and principals, primary and middle school teachers, etc.) as well as the conditions under which these professions respond to prescriptive requirements which push their limits. The development of professional activities will be studied within the collective and organisational dimensions brought together for the creation of educational resources and job area rules. This research programme will allow us to revisit the knowledge, particularly sociological knowledge, produced on the work of these various professionals, which will be studied independently and within other conditions and organisational frameworks.

Development of teaching activities and new tools: this programme will examine more closely how the category of 'pupils with learning difficulties' affects the organising function of teachers' work. This project will also aim to draw out the relationship between 'downward' requirements and 'upward' requirements - derived, on the one hand, from the nature of the work and, on the other, from the sources of the requirements (students receiving specific support, stakeholders). Here, the various tools teachers draw upon for support constitute a special area for studying the way in which the work of teachers has been transformed. This is considered both in terms of its objective dimension (the organisation of the study conditions) and its subjective dimension (the effects of this work on the teachers themselves). A dual approach - both ergonomic and didactic - will allow us to examine the relationship between didactic action and teachers' activities, especially as regards 'new devices'. To do this, special attention will be paid not only to the organisation of the study conditions, but also the collective dimensions implied by the teachers' organisational activities within their workplace, the subjective dimensions linked to the activity of organising the pupils' workplace, and also patterns of investment in this dual activity and the compromises it requires.

Programme 2: Education and vocational training professions

The context of the reform of teacher training and the emphasis on Masters degrees, with the principle of 'lifelong learning', challenges the current training system, which is now taking unprecedented new directions. The next four years will be an opportunity to put the results of previous research to the test in the light of these changes and to open up new empirical fields. This research programme will continue in accordance with three complementary areas of focus:

a) Analysis of the work of newly qualified teachers: this approach opens with the study of provisions related to the actions of novice teachers, from a developmental perspective. The emphasis is placed upon findings related to activities at work in processes of transforming these provisions, rather than solely on their characterisation, as is the case with other research. The aim is to test the developmental significance of the hypothesis of a 'beginner genre', showing that this does not only relate to newly qualified teachers, but also experienced teachers confronted with a transformation of their work. This might be the result of 'downward' requirements (related to the organisation of the work) or 'upward' requirements (stemming from the very subject of the work). Here, once again, we will draw upon a dual approach - both ergonomic and didactic.

b) Training consultancy: the reform of teacher training is transforming the principle of university study combined with classroom experience, as it has operated thus far, especially in terms of on-the-job training. Our previous results showed the importance of allowing the advisor and the trainee to jointly build the training environment, considered as a work situation. Far from taking a shared social reality for granted, the historicity of this appears as the product of the work of those involved. What interests us in particular is the historical evolution of professional actions and knowledge generated by prescriptive requirements and the resources drawn upon by those involved in order to take ownership of (transform) them through various ways of combining study and on-the-job training (simultaneous - alternating - successive - juxtaposed?)

c) Training for 'new forms of teaching': curricular changes in 'art history' at middle school level are destabilising both disciplinary expertise and professional know-how. How can both trainers and teachers take control of these new requirements which are causing shifts in disciplinary history and professional culture? We will analyse actual classroom practices from the point of view of the instrumentalisation of teaching, its effectiveness and the knock-on effects of this activity: overcompensation, work overload, fallback or job satisfaction strategies.

A Priority Education professions observatory

Most of the proposed research will be aligned with this observatory and thus adhere to ergonomic methods of intervention. The aim of this is both epistemic and transformative and is part of establishing an 'operating framework'. Firstly, knowledge must be produced on the real work of education professionals operating in various workplaces, at the request and with the assistance of professionals who are striving to provide, maintain or rebuild meaning in the work they carry out to meet these new requirements.

The observatory is considered a 'living laboratory' for the study of professional activities undergoing a process of construction. From our cultural-historical perspective, we aim to identify, in this construction, the historical traces making up the activities studied as the emerging traits of its current (re)structuring. Here the scientific challenge - and the difficulty - lies in successfully identifying, from these potentially structuring events, contingencies related to the diversity of situations. The full interest of an analysis of this kind of activity which, for years, has been conducted by indirect methods, comes through in its ability to take into account the contradictions, tradeoffs and dilemmas that professionals face. These can be renewed and become institutionalised in the design and organisation of these new work situations. This observatory will be a place where difficulties encountered can be diagnosed and contradictions overcome (or not) by the teaching staff and executive committees of the Ambition Success Networks.

An evaluation will then be carried out of the impact of this research and involvement in terms of transforming work situations and the professional development of those involved. Cooperation between practitioners and researchers and constant consultation with professionals will be essential to this process. This way of testing the methods used to evaluate research and its social efficiency is almost unique. We are aware of some minor influence of scientific knowledge on educational policies and the pedagogical practices of teachers and those working in education at a senior level. This is very limited, however, because these individuals have not necessarily identified with the results of research thus far. The approach proposed here is an alternative to this recurring criticism. Firstly, because these results come in response to a request from interested parties who are an integral part of the research. Secondly, because their ownership is reflected on a practical level through transformations of educational tools or projects which are collectively validated, including by those further up the hierarchy. Here, we are at the crux of the downward prescription/upward prescription dichotomy and the renormalisation activities developed by work collectives. It would appear that this 'local proximity' reduces the gap between social demand and its scientific handling, as well as the time difference between the 'results' and their 'application'. This will require further analysis.

The team's contribution to the development of research group thematics

The knowledge transmission/appropriation process

Job analysis has always considered an examination of the activities undertaken at work to be a prerequisite for professional training, both in terms of identifying problems or needs and also defining training content. It is from this perspective that the ERGAPE team will contribute to the development of the professional knowledge 'transmission/appropriation process', whether in a professional situation (between experienced teachers, mentors and novices) or in a training centre situation (analysis of practices, simulation, etc.). The idea is to account for the way in which the ergonomics of the activity question the relationship between knowledge formalised in SHS, which is supposed to equip us to reflect upon professional practices, and 'indigenous' or professional knowledge. In the context of teacher training, students are just as foreign to these fields of knowledge, which nevertheless set out the boundaries of their future profession. Understanding the complex links between these two kinds of knowledge - links that teacher training has difficulty forging - is an important issue in education sciences. A central preoccupation, from this point of view, is the way in which we take into account the knowledge produced by activity analysis in training design.

Professionalism and professionalisation of teaching, education and training professions

Our work examines the development of professional experience generated by a specific methodological framework for analysing activities carried out in different contexts, both individual and collective. We also consider the renormalisation processes that education professionals employ within these 'environments'.

Changes caused by prescriptive requirements can impact upon professionalism when this collides with the way in which teachers envisage their professional activities. The key question lies in determining to what extent this affects the conceptual frameworks of the profession and its job areas. We also need to question the significance of the term 'new professionalisms' or 'emerging professionalisms' in a context of job insecurity.

Educational and/or training institutions

How have changes in the management and organisation of the work of staff in schools affected the school as an educational form? How have transformations of teachers' and pupils' workplaces redefined the contours of the teaching profession and the role of the pupil?

Team goals

ERGAPE's main goal will be to have its work recognised in an international context. To this end, existing relationships with foreign laboratories will be strengthened, particularly through exchanges or postings of research lecturers and students. A thesis co-supervision is underway (Célia Ducros with F. Yvon from CRIFPE at the UDM). Other cooperative initiatives are to be confirmed (especially with UCL) and extended within an interdisciplinary perspective, particularly as regards job analysis (psychology, ergonomics, sociology of work). An effort to publish our work in English will be required in order to make it known outside the French-speaking world of education. Our participation and responsibilities in international networks are currently limited by the size of the team, but will be defined in accordance with future recruitment. Links and continuity are being established through theses co-supervision. A doctoral theses director (HDR) has recently been supported in this context.

Scientific activities

Publication policy

Scientific Publications

Our publication policy is moving in three directions. Firstly, the team's research is arriving at a stage of maturation where we can envisage the publication of works presenting, on the one hand, a summary of the results produced by the analysis of the activity of education professionals and, on the other, the theoretical and methodological presuppositions of basic research on the ground. A second aim is to publish articles in high level journals and in the English language. A third direction will endeavour to disseminate research findings in a form which can be appropriated by the professionals concerned.

Policy on the development and dissemination of research results

Disseminating the results of the team's work within the professional environment plays an important role in the team's activities. Our work is, in general, well received, whatever the categories of staff concerned (educational management and headteachers, consultants, teachers, etc.) or level of education. However, the team hopes to develop special reflection on the conditions for the dissemination of results. The aim of this will be to reduce the gap between the results, on the one hand, and professional and social needs, on the other (see observatory, above).

Research has been conducted within 'sensitive' areas with the active participation of interested teachers. Firstly, this has established how, and under what conditions, the study of the expertise of experienced teachers can be drawn upon and developed for the benefit of the environment concerned. Secondly, the position of the school council has been considered as a developer environment for the tools and practices of the trade, raising the possibility for tensions and dilemmas not settled by the profession to be debated through self-confrontation. Accordingly, a project for the continuing training of French teachers in Brazil has been selected by the Scientific Committee of the AUF (Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie). This has been designed in the form of practical action for the transfer of scientific, methodological and technical knowledge for the benefit of researchers faced with acute social demand. This cooperation should, in return, allow us to test the findings acquired through several years of scientific activity. This operation started in 2011 and allowed for the funding for a thesis and a post-doc.

Development policy for projects, agreements, national and international relations

In view of the new PRES and the SFR project on education and training, the team will participate in the programme 'educational policies, local area and school trajectories', which essentially brings together sociologists, particularly through the development of the following area of focus: Analysis of teachers' work, in the 'Ambition Success Networks' (RAR) and also focus on the way pupils with special educational needs are handled in mainstream schools.

Participation in networks

On a national level, the team is participating in the INRP project to create an online training platform for newly qualified teachers (néop@ss), monitoring the coordination of RARs ('Ambition Success Networks') with the observatory and examining the continuing training of teachers and educational advisors.

The team is currently participating in the international OPEN network and will contribute to the development of new themes: 'observation and its modalities', 'the effects of teaching practices' and 'professional development, training, effects of the learning of professionals on the learning of pupils'. We will strengthen our policy of international cooperation:

  • Exchange agreement with UQUAM (Provence University -UQUAM - 2010-2014) on the study of international comparisons of arts education in different educational systems.
     
  • FIR (Funds to Incentivise Research) contract at Provence University (October 2010 - November 2011) on the theme 'education policies and teaching work', funding (18,000 euros) obtained to build a research network with CRIFPE - University of Montreal and University of Sherbrooke. This network should be extended to other relations with Belgium, Switzerland and the United States.
     
  • A technology transfer project, funded by the AUF (Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, 2011-2013) for the continuing training of French teachers in Brazil, was selected by the scientific committee.

Research supervision

Themes

Suggested topics for Masters and PhD students correspond to the team's two programmes: firstly, the work of education professionals in educational establishments and, secondly, the education professions and professional training.

Methodology/ies

One of ERGAPE's specific characteristics is the development of the methodological framework of 'self- confrontation' to analyse the development of activities in a working environment. We can demonstrate the effects of this methodological framework as the initiator of a 'developmental' process related to the collective and individual changes it creates. This allows us to reflect upon training devices, drawing upon job analysis. The implementation of this methodological framework does not, however, exclude the use of other methods which are also used by the team: a) socio-genetic analysis and archiving methods to study prescriptive texts b) direct methods (observations, interviews, etc.) and indirect methods used in SHS to build and compare cases.

Results expected at the end of the quadrennium

Ongoing thesis support during this period will allow us to receive three new doctoral students per year. Given the current potential of our group members, along with the fact that we are soon to receive a new doctoral theses director (HDR), we should see 12 theses being defended during this period.

Supervision of doctoral students and students on research Masters 2

A monthly seminar, alternating with the team seminar, will assist doctoral and Masters 2 students with their research on a bibliographical, conceptual and methodological level. They will be offered support in producing scientific texts (articles, posters) for publications and seminar communications. They will participate in the ERGAPE team's annual study days, during which they will present the progress of their work.