Scientific project

The EA ADEF's scientific project aims to increase understanding of teaching and/or training systems, particularly the effects of policy decisions. Their effectiveness is assessed in organisations for the professional training of teachers and/or trainers, through interactions between pupils (trainees), teachers (trainers) and knowledge.

Historically, many studies conducted locally have concentrated on assessment, on the one hand and on the study of education, on the other. This has included the teaching of school subjects (such as maths, science, technology, economic and management sciences, humanities and languages, arts etc.), professional education (vocational training in schools, the health care environment or areas of corporate training) and comparative approaches to teaching. The research to be conducted during the next quadrennium will continue in this vein. More generally, it will question the process of knowledge transmission and acquisition in educational or training institutions, based on the institutionalisation of professionals responsible for its organisation and implementation. The research is structured around three thematic axes:

  • the teaching-learning process
  • professionalism and professionalisation of teaching, education and training professions and
  • educational and training institutions.

The teaching-learning process

The building of social knowledge, when institutionalised in schools - whether educational institutions or institutions which organise different forms of vocational training - is characterised by the construction of a social space for interaction between a teacher (trainer), pupils (trainees) and knowledge finalised around a contractual objective: the teacher (trainer) is there to organise the transmission of knowledge to the pupils (trainees), who are there to acquire it. Tension is created between the notion of an institution responsible for preserving the knowledge it masters and the need to transmit this knowledge, to ensure both its sustainability and development. This tension defines the terms of interaction between these protagonists, whose roles are equally defined by the institutions as by their own social individualities. Understanding these tensions is a challenge for all research conducted within the research group teams, according to different approaches and methodologies based on various theoretical frameworks. This diversity reflects the complementarity of the work carried out in order to clarify issues which can only be resolved through a diversification of viewpoints.

The idea is to question these forms of knowledge transmission as a social phenomenon whereby social relations to knowledge are institutionalised and for which teaching approaches are designed to examine the conditions for entry into cultures through study. From this perspective, some studies aim to build a relationship between lengthy disciplinary learning and time-limited interactions in the classroom. This draws upon the relationship between forging a rapport with educational objects, defining needs in terms of knowledge within social organisations and building social relations at school. The educational dimensions of the process of transmission/acquisition of academic knowledge are thus the essential focus of the study.

From a socio-historical perspective, educational and/or training organisations should thus been seen a part of a historical background specific to each discipline, which will determine, simultaneously, what to teach and how to teach it. The assumption that the activity of pupils in the classroom is likely to generate learning based on the tasks proposed by the teacher raises the key question of the effectiveness of educational organisations. The form of teacher-pupil relationship is specified by the epistemology of the knowledge at stake, along with the educational conversion of social provisions related to knowledge and the school. We could argue that, in order to transmit knowledge with the desired epistemological properties, the classroom requires teaching situations with certain identified properties. In order for the school to transmit knowledge with the desired epistemological properties, society must possess a clear vision of the issues at stake in relation to this educational requirement. The effectiveness of this process would, therefore, appear to be determined by the distance between what is expected by the institution, how the teacher takes these expectations into account, what he/she teaches, what the pupils understand, what they actually do and what they learn. Each of these spheres defines the distance between content, institutions and local areas. Comparative approaches to teaching allow for several disciplines and educational premises to be analysed, considering them in a situational context and, beyond this, in the context of their social environment. This investigation also fits in with socio-educational and regionalised approaches which allow us to assess the differential effects of the education contract.

The effect of a particular kind of teaching depends on how the protagonists (first and foremost, teachers and pupils) are positioned in the transactions they conduct, jointly, for the purpose of teaching and learning, thus defining a central dimension of their social identity. An analysis of these processes considers social representations in their widest sense, prior knowledge and the discourse and practices of the protagonists. It is based on a study of three main types of choices educational institutions have to make: the choice of knowledge to be transmitted, the choice of teaching situation in which this transmission takes place, the choice of training courses themselves. For example, the development of uses of information and communication technology brings about new behaviours; participation in projects, whether spontaneous or directed, gives rise, in particular, to groups that evidence educational and/or training projects in an implicit or explicit way. Another example works on the assumption that social norms are constructed through the activities of pupils in educational institutions and that this environment has been forged out of this process of building social norms, especially through socio-cultural, socio-professional or socioeconomic differentiation. In the articulation of educational tasks, it is thus possible to identify factors liable to generate or mitigate this differentiation.

Professionalism and professionalisation of teaching, education and training professions

The teaching, education and training professions make up a group of vocations involved at all levels of the knowledge transmission/acquisition process, the professionalism of which is, nevertheless, far too often poorly defined. For example, the teacher's level of competence in a particular subject area is too often reduced to the mastery of academic knowledge in this field. Several studies aim to further our understanding of what makes up the professional competence of a teacher, trainer and, beyond this, an education professional. Creating favourable conditions for individual and/or collective learning requires great professionalism from these various protagonists and/or participants, manifested through three levels of expertise: mastery of the knowledge to be transmitted, mastery of the ways in which this knowledge is transmitted and mastery of the role of protagonist in this transmission system. The acquisition of these levels of expertise is part of the professionalism which should be built up in institutions for the training of trainers. Many studies carried out by the research group analyse these forms of professionalisation. We can consider the professional training of teachers within teacher training institutes, or the training of trainers in other institutions, such as the training of nurses, or those responsible for vocational training in companies. The analysis takes into account (i) requirements and their development, (ii) the way in which the work of teachers, trainers, managers, etc. is organised and (iii) the study of professional activities, as constructed or reconstructed both by beginners and by those who are already experienced.

Institutional requirements generate situations of conflict as regards the understanding professionals have of their work. We can analyse these conflicts in professional situations, along with issues concerning the practices and dynamics of identity, identifying the knowledge involved in these professional practices. This will help us to clarify the double meaning of the requirements involved - those derived from the organisation of the work and those pertaining to the actual subject of the work. There is a real interest in analysing the historical development of professional actions and knowledge generated by prescription and the means protagonists give themselves to take ownership of these.

The study of these issues of professionalism, professionalisation and vocation applies to teachers involved in primary school, secondary education (whether general, technical or vocational) and higher education, as well as trainers involved in training professionals, such as health professionals (nurses, physiotherapists, etc.), social workers, health educators, driving school instructors or, indeed, any form of training where an institution decides to train its personnel. This might involve the support we receive upon entering a profession, vocational training to enable us to develop our skills, or any kind of training we embark upon throughout our lives. This also applies to the managers and supervisory staff who run these educational organisations (inspection bodies, headteachers, senior education consultants, etc.) or these training institutions (hospital managers, training managers, etc.).

Educational and training institutions

The distinguishing features and characteristics of schools or training institutions, as opposed to other forms of institution, are related to the nature of these bodies. They only exist for as long as a political institution decides that there is a need to transmit instituted knowledge to a pupil institution. If we adopt an anthropological point of view, according to which issues of knowledge are, fundamentally, issues of power, then institutional places of knowledge transfer, such as educational and training institutions, could be considered places in which issues of access to and sharing of power are managed. By teaching the knowledge they master, teachers share some of their power with their pupils. This may be the power to act upon an environment, understand this environment or build this environment.

This issue of sharing is crucial in institutions, regardless of the perspective adopted when observing it. All the laboratory teams and research projects contribute to building possible responses, in accordance with certain vantage points. These include: pupil-teacher interaction as organised in the context of the teaching contract, the anthropological theory of didactics, the anthropological model for the deconstruction and reconstruction of the subject of education, the role of artifacts in the process of school learning, comparative approaches to teaching, socio-educational and regionalised approaches, ergonomic approaches, notably through the work of education professionals in schools, evaluation of educational policies and the sociological approach of curricula, the approach by learning organisations and collective intelligence or, indeed, the historical approach through the history of institutions.

Link to the Doctoral School

The laboratory is an important component of Doctoral School ED 356 - "Cognition, Language, Education". It receives approximately one hundred doctoral students, with around fifteen defending their theses each year. Its work is organised around basic research leading on to targeted research into issues and needs related to education, training and teaching.