How do you build up new pedagogies?

<span class=Participants of a Paris-Saclay workshop on pedagogical innovation gather here to envision teaching in the forest. Provided by author” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTcyMA–/ -~B/aD0zMDI0O3c9NDAzMjthcHBpZD15dGFjaHlvbg–/″ data-srcapg_https://s.yimd1cghttps://s.yimd1g /YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTcyMA–/–~B/aD0zMDI0O3c9NDAzMjthcHBpZD15dGFjaHlvbg–/″/ >

Participants of a wok shop in Paris-Saclay on pedagogical innovation meet here to imagine teaching in the forest. Provided by the author

The call for students to desert from AgroParisTech or the recent forum for students of the Écoles Normales Supérieures demonstrate this strongly: the new generations are less and less satisfied with the current scientific training. They don’t necessarily like the challenge.

Young people need to understand why learning science can help them truly face the crises ahead, starting with the ecological crisis. It is no longer enough to teach them the art of comparison, even if it remains necessary. They also need to be taught to work in groups, to create, to contextualize formal knowledge and, even more difficult, to feel that they are actors in the coming changes, not just observers.

Many colleagues are already developing lessons in this direction. But individual initiatives are no longer enough, we need to rethink all our training, draw inspiration from innovations already tested, the results of research in educational sciences, think about the level of institutions and disciplinary departments, in short, community to quickly address this crucial issue. to grab.

The Anti-Conference

However, a technical problem remains. Paradoxically, when we meet with colleagues to discuss pedagogical innovation, we prefer classical formats. How often have I given presentations about the art of teaching in an innovative and active way, while standing in front of a PowerPoint on a podium in a quiet room?

How many working groups called to innovate have I participated in, where we all sat around a big table, in meeting form, each discreetly checking his emails? When form opposes this point of content, these high masses of innovation generally do not lead to much news.

This is the dilemma we faced when we wanted to organize a workshop with colleagues from the University of Paris-Saclay to rethink our physics education. What framework should we offer our participants so that they can imagine other forms of pedagogy together?

To build a device that escapes the flaws of the usual conferences, we chose to collaborate with designers, as we already do for our popularization and education activities. Design isn’t just for embellishment. It makes it possible to think about the structure of an event in all its dimensions. For this workshop, two designers helped us put together the program and devise the activities. They also designed a very coherent graphic universe for the images. Then they helped us host and film the event, which they then transformed into a website to ensure its sustainability.

To find the right format, we took the opposite view of traditional conferences. The American Physical Society’s annual conference is a great example of what we wanted to escape from. Every year it brings together nearly ten thousand physicists in a large conference center for five days. The sessions follow each other at a military pace, 12 minutes per intervention, ten interventions per session, sixty sessions in parallel. It has adapted to hybrid modalities in recent years. But this format goes against what we were trying to promote. We have therefore constructed the opposite point by point.

Instead of opening up participation to a large number of participants, we have limited ourselves to thirty speakers. Instead of tying together orals or posters throughout the day, we limited ourselves to a single presentation per day. Instead of choosing a large conference center, we were lucky enough to take advantage of the buildings of the Institut Pascal, a place specially designed to accommodate researchers in collaborative mode, with work and discussion areas instead of a simple series of classrooms and amphitheatres.

Instead of inviting the big names in education to inspire participants during charismatic keynotes, we invited colleagues from the field who innovate on their own scale without necessarily wanting to change the world. For example, Denis Terwagne, a researcher from Brussels, invents lessons inspired by fablabs, bringing together students of physics and architecture. Claire Mâche, a researcher from the University of Paris-Saclay, offers a course on climate issues where she has her students take concrete measurements directly on the building. Giovanni Organtini, of the University of Rome, uses very inexpensive tools such as smartphones or Arduino boards to teach experimental physics. Fun-Man Fung, a Singaporean chemist, does not hesitate to film himself with a 360° camera to show his students how they conduct an experiment live from the couch. Rebecca Vieyra helps broadcast interactive simulations around the world.

Instead of a conference of a few days in hybrid mode, we asked participants to come in person for two whole weeks. This duration can be daunting and cause practical problems. But it ensures active involvement throughout the workshop. In addition, at the time of the climate crisis, it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify express flights by plane of just one or two days. Finally, such duration allowed us to envision a two-stage program.

Create a collective

During the first week, a series of creative and intense activities were presented. We wanted to help participants get to know each other better, show that they could work and build in a good mood.

To do this, we gave them fun and immersive experiences related to physics. For example, they were immersed in a fiction in a world of spies where they had to invent a device that protects an egg and makes the most noise when dropped from 5 meters high. We also wanted colleagues to discuss their practices. Instead of a series of presentations, we offered them new exchange methods.

In the ‘snowball’ workshop, for example, everyone tells someone else about their innovation, who makes notes on a special sheet. Then each couple meets with another couple to recap their exchanges. Then they come together with two other pairs, and so on. Finally, all files are shown in the form of a small thematic exhibition, which can be visited freely. After all, everyone has heard of all the innovations and the plates serve as raw material for other, more future-oriented workshops. We also tested theatre/mime, brainstorming that ended in a future video, etc.

This very dense first part made it possible to build in confidence a form of small human and professional community, ready to innovate in the rest of the workshop.

Building and inventing together

The rest, right, we had voluntarily decided not to foresee. At the beginning of the second week, the participants put together the program themselves. Ideas flowed. “Let’s imagine a lesson together in the nearby forest”. “Let’s have an Alcoholics Anonymous-style session where everyone shares their problems as a teacher and asks others for help.” “Let’s have a ‘teach me something’ morning where everyone can teach the others an exercise.” “Imagine an international network to support training and innovation”.

We all had a wonderful free and creative week. Now that we were confident and uninhibited, we could build together, explore together, think together, and even have fun together. We spent a morning in the woods envisioning an immersive education for our freshmen. We attended a cello concert that connects physics and music. We learned to use mime for breaks in lecture halls. We explored new course modalities. All in all, we had the feeling that we were innovating, or at least trading fruitfully.

All in all, we were able to give an inspiring and fruitful workshop to about thirty teacher-researchers. But is this enough to reinvent education? Certainly not, because the other colleagues lack the time to test, evaluate, consolidate, the institutions and a more political point of view.

Ultimately, this small conference was rather an opportunity to test a new, more participatory workshop format. That is why the website linked to the event not only brings together the productions, but above all the recipes to animate such a format. Even over shorter periods of time, certain ideas or workshops can be taken up and adapted to different contexts. In short, if you expect a collective to innovate in the pedagogical field, don’t settle for a meeting or brainstorm with post-its.

Take the time to build the right size. Provide a creative framework for your colleagues, and they will be more creative. Behind this truth lies perhaps one of the most important challenges of the coming transformations.

The author would like to thank the other organizers of the workshop described above: Frédéric Bouquet (Faculty of Sciences, Univ. Paris-Saclay), Jeanne Parmentier (Institut Villebon-Georges Charpak), Fabienne Bernard (Institut d’Optique Graduate School) and designers Lou -Andreas Etienne and Adele Nyitrai

The original version of this article was published on The Conversation, a non-profit news site dedicated to sharing ideas between academic experts and the general public.

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