Education Papers: Classroom Management Interview with Caroline Hache

If class heterogeneity is no longer discussed, on the other hand, how to manage it becomes a political question. “Heterogeneity is a constitutive fact of class. The question that arises for the teacher is how to manage it and make this diversity an advantage for the better efficiency of the educational system? Instead of denying and wanting to fight against this reality. » “Documents on Education” is a podcast about the practice of educational professions, especially in schools and priority educational institutions. It was produced in Marseille by Alain Barlatier, documentary filmmaker and former teacher. Every Friday “The Educational café” publishes an episode (ticket and audio interview). Today, the podcaster gives the floor to Caroline Hache, who presents the state of research in the educational sciences, specifically on the notion of classroom heterogeneity and possible responses to it.

Image containing human face, person, glasses, clothes Automatically generated descriptionCaroline Hache is a teacher-researcher in “Education and Training Sciences” at the Faculty of Arts, Letters, Languages ​​and Humanities (ALLSH) of Aix-Marseille University (AMU). She prepares students for bachelor’s and master’s studies and conducts research on “excellence in priority education”, also occasionally intervenes at INSPE in Aix-Marseille.

She first worked as a teacher in a priority area of ​​the city.

The first return to school was a real shock after she realized that priority education students were nothing like the caricature she had of them and that was conveyed by the dominant system. In front of the CE1 class, he meets students full of respect, eager to learn and understand, engaged in learning. Many could read, some were excellent students. Excellence therefore existed in working class schools. That first observation changed the course of his early career. This motivated her to continue studying educational sciences “in order to understand what happens in the classroom”, to complete her master’s degree and in 2016 she defended her thesis: “Teachers before the school of ZEP student success”. Since then he is a lecturer at the University of Aix Marseille and also conducts joint research with several educational teams on the school/family relationship.

What to do with excellent students in Priority Education?

Excellence is not a debate, it is a proven fact, completely erased from the institutional political discourse. “The first thing I did at the beginning of my research was to propose a questionnaire on this question to several thousand teachers working in primary schools in REP+. I got 2,500 responses and it turned out that at that time there was an average of 2.5 students who were considered excellent per grade in priority schools. The question that could be asked then is what to do with these students? how to act in conditions of class heterogeneity? “.

Certain political choices have led to these students being separated from the rest of the class by creating level groups, classes with a certain profile focused on training that is considered representative of academic success – is there only Sciences Po Paris for success? –, even cut them off from their environment, for example through excellent boarding schools geographically distant from their family and social environment. One of them was located in Barcelonnette for the Aix-Marseille Academy, a few hundred kilometers from the original district. The students went there by bus on Monday morning and returned home during the day on Saturday.

The stated goal is the homogenization of groups (from above and below) from a de facto heterogeneous social environment. This policy was made within the framework of a certain interpretation of priority education, far from its conception announced during the creation of ZEPs. It has had mixed results, as shown by several researchers, including Patrick Rayou.

“There are two ways of approaching a group, either you approach it from a common point and it will, in this case, be a homogeneous group (the class as a whole, for example Editor’s note), or you study it from the singularity of each person and in this case it will be heterogeneous. » In the same class, the teacher can lead a joint activity for everyone based on these common aspects and at other times of the day, starting from the specificity of each person and addressing several different entities. This approach makes the notion of “homogeneity versus heterogeneity” obsolete and invalidates all the hypotheses relied on by the followers of educational differentialism. Followers who defended the planned turnaround of the current faculty.

The positive side of heterogeneity is to start from existing differences and use them. A teacher in a multi-level class (for example in a rural school) often uses a tutoring system where the most advanced students (in this particular case the oldest) come to help the youngest. They emerge valued from their assigned role even if they have academic difficulties. This practice is also common in priority education classes where the teacher asks the “good” students to help their struggling classmates. The term “good” can vary from one discipline to another. “What kind of society do we want to build if we believe that students in the same class must have the same profile, all be clones? (…) It is true that such an audience, if it existed, would ease the teacher’s workload (…) It is really difficult to address a heterogeneous group, but for me it is a necessity. »

All research in the educational sciences shows that level groups do not work. In any case, there will always be a class teacher and students with difficulties regardless of the level considered – see for this the work of Vincent Dupriez and Hugues Drealants in “Homogenous versus heterogeneous classes: research contributions to ‘problem analysis'” (2004).

Giving more to those who have less was the stated starting point of priority education in 1981/82. This principle arose from the observation that René Haby’s (1975) unique college, even if it started from a generous assumption, could not function with an “indifferent to differences” approach. The desire to increase the level of knowledge and training of the nation required addressing (in some cases differentiated) the entire population.

Today, political power no longer goes that way, on the contrary. He progresses along dangerous paths of social classification, early orientation to devalued training and consequent devaluing of those who follow him. For this, it is enough to see, for example, the degraded image of vocational education when it can be a path to excellence for many professions essential for the life and development of our society.

Wanting to individualize too much and isolate the student from his group, he ends up losing social reference points. A young adult in training no longer has a global vision of society and moves between themselves (both rich and poor) where they do not perceive the problems of the modern world. It adapts to social practice, which increasingly withdraws into itself. By severing the connection with his original class group, the student is locked into an additional school ghetto. After the local school or college, here is a group of levels.

The near unanimity that emerged against the conflict of knowledge allowed the lines to shift and the grip to loosen. Teachers today say “we will not sort our students at the beginning of the school year”, it seems that the management staff is going in the same direction, some believe that the main need of the students is to keep that sense of belonging to the class group in its integrity. The groups that will be formed in this way next school year could then respond to this or that specific need within the class itself, without disrupting its coherence and dynamics.

Blanquer’s reform of the secondary school also shattered the notion of a class constituted on the basis of a coherent study project. It causes significant suffering among high school students, makes school careers invisible, complicates the task of teachers and parents, and weakens the educational effectiveness of high schools.

This very negative assessment refers to adolescents between 15 and 18 years of age. It would be even more serious if the children leave CM2, with primary school based on the principle of one class/one teacher. We must be able to keep our wits about us and learn all the lessons from the recent past.

In the face of such political blindness, listening to and respecting the views of practitioners and researchers remains the only realistic solution for the future of public schools.

“Heterogeneity management is a real topic and I think that, faced with the same recipe, teaching teams will be able to find answers according to their particular context and show their creative potential. »

She is the author of two papers, the first of which contains the results of her dissertation entitled: “Academic excellence in priority education: what perceptions among teachers?” » edition of the PUR edition; the second “School Failure” from the collection Myths and Realities written together with Caroline Ladage and Jean Ravestein, published by Retz.

She has published several articles, including one in Cahiers Pédagogiques “Success in priority education? “, the second “ZEP teachers’ representations of the school/family relationship through the prism of students with excellent academic success” and finally: “Management of heterogeneity in ZEPs, between failure and academic excellence. A question of professional ethics. »

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