1On October 9, 2014, France’s Association of University Presidents organized a conference on the theme of universities and the challenge of teacher training: Les universités et le défi de la formation des enseignants. At the entrance, each participant was given a copy of Petite Poucette, an essay by Michel Serres celebrating a new type of human being created by the rise of technologies, dubbed “Poucette” for her ability to send text messages with her thumb, or pouce.  According to the author, this new type of human was “born during the brief interval that separates us from the Second World War. He or she no longer has the same body nor the same life expectancy, no longer lives in the same space, communicates in the same way, perceives the same external world, nor lives in the same nature; born under epidural and at a scheduled time, [he or she] no longer dreads the same death under palliative care. No longer possessed of the same mind as his or her parents, he or she knows differently.”  The decision to hand out this resolutely optimistic essay—which has received widespread media coverage since it was published and is often invoked in reflections on “school reform”—attests to a political will to showcase the “challenge of teacher training” as a response to the transformed twenty-first-century student.
2While Serres’s exposition is a little cursory and seldom uses tools from the social sciences—which could in fact enhance his interpretation of transformations in school learning—it nevertheless poses a very real question about difficulties that have arisen since the 1980s. These difficulties stem from parallel changes affecting the sociology and anthropology of students and their families, social and public expectations vis-à-vis the history that is taught in schools, and finally the discipline of history itself, which has experienced a “crisis” from which it is only now beginning to emerge.
3Against a political and economic backdrop of shared constraints and the public debate on history, practitioners working in separate institutions—whether secondary-school teachers or academics based at universities or the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)—are confronted by a reconfiguration of knowledge and practices. Though these institutions are not entirely hermetic, the disconnect fosters ambiguous relations. Informal social connections and networks formed during teacher training—which allow a degree of porosity between university and secondary-school—are accompanied by an institutional will to promote the circulation of knowledge. To this end, the training plans produced by local education authorities (plans académiques de formation, PAF) offer themed modules aiming to develop academic knowledge. Led by specialists, training is tailored to identified professional needs, most often the introduction of new content into curricula or the teaching of topical social issues. While teachers’ interest in this type of training has never waned, the question of its impact on the quality of teaching is increasingly mooted in an economic context where resource cutbacks require training to be targeted and needs arbitrated.  The circulation of actors is a final connecting element, though it should be noted that this circulation runs up against constraints and rationales that are more antagonistic than they are complementary. Take, for example, the dual allegiance of the high-school teacher studying for a doctorate, who is often torn between the contradictory demands of required output and academic sociability on the one hand, and his or her pedagogical investment in the day-to-day running of a school, in front of students and alongside colleagues, on the other. The same is true of the contract teacher who, in addition to his or her work at a middle or high school, also teaches at a university.
4The response to this threefold transformation of students, the public debate, and the historical and social sciences is an overhaul of training, which has taken concrete form in changes to competitive recruitment examinations and the remit of the new graduate schools for teaching staff (Écoles supérieures du professorat et de l’éducation, ESPEs).  This process of change has been underway since the late 1980s but, despite a succession of reforms, appears incomplete. From the creation of the university institutes for teacher training (Instituts universitaires de formation des maîtres, IUFMs) in 1990 to the establishment of the ESPEs in 2013, by way of the conversion to the master’s system in 2009, the professionalization of training and its relationship to sites of academic and disciplinary knowledge production continues to fumble along devoid of structure.  In a context of austerity and considerable financial difficulties, universities that host ESPEs may legitimately wonder about their chances of succeeding where the IUFMs failed. Significantly, if one compares the texts that led to the establishment of the ESPEs and the 1989 report by then superintendent of schools, Daniel Bancel, that set out the creation of the IUFMs, one finds a desire for change founded on the same principles.  One of the essential lessons drawn from the experience of the IUFMs is structural: while the Bancel report singled out sound relations with universities as a factor in the success of IUFMs, the latest reform has established the ESPEs within universities themselves.  Indeed, the ESPEs are called on to become schools within schools, “open to other components” of the university system. 
5Behind such a volontarist policy, it is the wider interaction between research and teaching that is at the heart of the problem posed by the reform. Whether in the first year of the master’s degree (M1) or during preparations for the competitive secondary-school teaching qualification (Certificat d’aptitude au professorat de l’enseignement du second degré, CAPES)—an exam-based system that now combines academic exercises, such as essay writing and textual commentary, with didactic reflection and analysis of professional situations—the central issue at stake is reconciling professionalization and research, or professional competencies and academic skills. The same applies to the provision of support for trainees on teaching placements  or those planning a dissertation topic in the second year of their master’s (M2).  According to the ministerial texts, the answer lies in the creation of a common culture among different actors and the implementation of complementary contributions from academics and secondary-school teachers via the institutionalization of teams drawn from across the different sectors. Though this ambition is not new, it seems to be precisely where the stumbling block lies. In practice, the institutional will to locate ESPE training centers within the sites of knowledge production that are universities runs into structural contradictions that set the autonomy of universities at odds with the national teacher-training policy headed by the superintendents of schools (recteurs académiques). These antagonistic logics—combined with a lack of forward planning in a reform that seems to be being made up as it goes along, plus delays in the publication of decrees and managerial confusion—sometimes limit proceedings to a mere declaration of intent, and time is of the essence when it comes to inventing new models.
Epistemology to the Rescue of Didactics
6If the main issue is to move beyond the juxtaposition of discourses, actors, and training sites in order to establish a program of integrated cooperative education (formation en alternance)  that culminates in a final-year dissertation, it is essential to consider what kinds of knowledge and research are to be involved. Two options emerge, neither of which precludes the other. On the one hand, didactical research that draws upon the psychological and cognitive sciences, both of which are precious in understanding the learning processes of school students and developing effective pedagogy; on the other, discipline-specific research. The first option, student-centered and practice-based, moves towards establishing a shared culture common to all teachers in secondary education. Yet this option also requires abandoning the specificity of a discipline, the unique situation created by the subjects it addresses, the practices it employs, and the social expectations it arouses. On the face of it, a disciplinary logic that tends to segment reality in order to render it intelligible seems at odds with the constraints of the practice of teaching, which directly grapples with the complexity and heterogeneity of real life. Yet this antagonism between theory and practice, vocational training and academic education, rests on a conception of the historical and social sciences that reduces them to the positivistic content they produce. However, the historical and social sciences are also a set of practices specific to the historian’s profession, practices that are learned, tested, and updated. There is a corollary to this need to defend the place of historical research, founded on the historiography and epistemology of the discipline, in teacher training. This is the conviction that it is by integrating research into the training curriculum from the beginning of the program—that is to say, through research-based training—that the secondary-school history teacher is best placed to respond to the needs of his or her students.
7Produced in the final year of their course, when students undertake their first long teaching placement—either under the supervision of a qualified teacher or with full responsibility for a class—their dissertations address legitimate pedagogical questions. How does one gain students’ interest? What materials and methods can be used to involve and motivate students and make them “actors of their learning”?  It is in the literature of the education sciences that student teachers seek answers and experiment with techniques in reaction to their own experiences as students on the receiving end of an essentially transmissive pedagogy.  Cooperative learning, problem solving, and the investigative approach are the methods to which they most often turn. These techniques are not ineffective when applied to history teaching and can produce fine pedagogical results, opening up rich perspectives for trainee teachers. They can also lead to excesses. Such excesses have been pinpointed by schools inspectorates in recent years, which in part explains the return of the “blackboard lecture” or récit magistral in the explicatory texts published alongside curricula in 2008.  On the other hand, what is striking among most student teachers is the patent—and widely held—sentiment that the epistemology of an academic discipline can be of no professional help. Yet this issue is one that has been addressed within research centers, as attested, in the case of history, by the work of Yannick Le Marec, Sylvain Doussot, and Anne Vézier at the Nantes Center for Research in Education.  It is also discussed in journals such as Le cartable de Clio, produced by Switzerland’s Didactics in History Study Group. Inspired by epistemology, disciplinary didactics compares the construction of knowledge in primary and secondary education and examines the relationship between this knowledge and the practices and output of historians. Problematization, periodization, the plotting of historical narrative, and historical debate are all fundamental historiographical operations that have a place in school learning environments.  Yet in the rush to enter the profession, there is little time to become acquainted with this nonetheless remarkable research,  and “textbooks,”  however good they may be, are most often used simply to find ready-made solutions and turnkey tools.
8Other obstacles emerge besides this lack of time. Among student teachers, the main issue is their tendency to compartmentalize the act of teaching and the relationship with historical knowledge. Troublingly, classroom visits during placements show student teachers struggling to mobilize even the simplest and most obvious skills they acquired at undergraduate level, such as contextualizing a document before giving it to the class to read. In interviews after the visits, it emerges that these undergraduate skills are perceived as rigid academic exercises, which students do not see as relevant to their work as teachers. Student teachers are still capable of reciting by rote all the elements expected in the introduction to a document analysis exercise, without realizing that these elements are also indispensable in making documents both pertinent to their lessons and comprehensible for their students. The use of the problematic or core question is equally revealing. Generally present in teachers’ lesson plans and sometimes copied out at the top of a chapter in students’ exercise books, the problematic is very rarely used as the guiding theme for a class. When questioned, student teachers respond that they are aware of its importance in history—which they also say to humor me in my role as evaluator—but that it is too complicated for secondary-school students to put into practice.
9A few rare student teachers have taken on board the pedagogical value of setting an initial question, which they use to structure classes. This question can take the form of a puzzle that piques student curiosity, or a problem that is “constructed” by the class on the basis of an initial document or the juxtaposition of two contrasting documents. Yet once the question has been posed, the student teacher often does not extend the process to its logical conclusion. With the curriculum to be delivered and knowledge communicated, the problematic is often broken down into closed questions that help pupils find the answers in a set of worksheets prepared by the teacher and therefore determined by his or her objectives. The posture apparently adopted by the secondary-school student—who is described, a little too hastily, as an “apprentice historian”—conceals a set of methods, choices, questions, and intellectual operations that are administered by the teacher, and which therefore remain implicit. In terms of the problematic itself, the obstacle that student teachers invariably come up against is the reality of the historian’s task of problematizing the past. While in practice this task can proceed only in stages, it is nevertheless elided in the structure of classroom discourse. Choosing a problematic (or a situation that allows pupils to identify a question) has a fundamental didactic importance in the planning and delivery of a lesson. Making trainees aware of this extraordinary pedagogical freedom—and of the fact that it is through this freedom that they give meaning to their teaching—should be a priority for teacher training. Equally, enabling secondary-school students to grasp the extent to which exposure to documents raises new questions, or to understand that the same set of documents can produce different answers depending on the question asked, is a way of genuinely bringing their relationship to historical knowledge into play. 
The Necessity of Exposure to the Writing of History
10These examples raise questions about university education as a whole. While investing students’ learning with meaning and instilling autonomy are priorities from the outset of primary education, it seems that junior teachers have not been sufficiently familiarized with this construction of meaning and autonomy during their time at university. Research-based training, which would produce this particular relationship to historical knowledge, is essentially introduced at master’s or doctoral level, and rarely during undergraduate degrees, which nevertheless represent the general level of discipline-specific training required to be accepted onto master’s courses in teaching, education, and training (métiers de l’enseignement, de l’éducation et de la formation). Rather than chronologically disassociating the acquisition of knowledge from the exploration of research and its methods, would it not be more meaningful to introduce them together from the outset of university-level history study? This is not to deny the presence of historiography, epistemology, and source work at undergraduate level, nor all the thought that French universities have put into adapting teaching to students from diverse backgrounds over recent years. Nevertheless, it seems that these efforts could be taken one step further.
11Indeed, from school to university, history teaching is associated with particularly standardized exercises, epitomized by the report-style dissertation. This dissertation itself represents the ideal of a self-contained text, which in turn corresponds to the self-contained discourse of a lesson that condenses and collates the knowledge to be acquired. Yet a greater diversity in forms of written and oral production can be observed in both recent secondary curricula and the revised papers of the CAPES examinations, opening up fresh perspectives and new relationships to historical knowledge. In middle schools, the introduction of the skill of “narration” as part of the latest curriculum was a response to a twofold desire to make history seem more tangible again—thereby aiding the memorization of important historical events—and to restore the legitimacy of teachers’ interventions.  The implementation of this “narrative turn” in the classroom has triggered a remarkable epistemological and historiographical mobilization on the part of the schools inspectorate and professional workshop providers. For, in order to reflect on teachers’ or students’ narratives, it was first necessary to define what a historical narrative was. While the skills-based approach is often lambasted for impoverishing knowledge, it is nevertheless significant that teachers have never heard so much about Paul Veyne, Michel de Certeau, or Paul Ricœur since they completed their initial training. The “relating of true events,” the “layered text” and the “full text”  are just some of the approaches that have been juxtaposed with students’ classroom practices. It is by turning to historiography and epistemology that a progressive approach to narrative skill has been achieved, one that runs the gamut from chronicling and “plotting” to the mobilization of sources, the introduction of actors and logical connectors, the handling of timescales, and work on the construction of historical explanation. This pluralistic narrative has an open form, and the student no longer simply writes in order to be assessed or to record what the teacher says, but in order to think and construct a discourse. The fact that it is the process of writing in history class that shatters the traditional teaching framework and reinvigorates didactic reflection opens up new ways of thinking about the interface between research and teaching. 
Reflexivity as a Meeting Point between Research and Teaching
12The traditional lecture-style lesson and the reduction of history to a sum of facts have both been thoroughly called into question by research in the education sciences and by classroom practices, though until now this has largely been the result of overarching pedagogical currents such as socioconstructivism rather than discipline-specific factors. At the same time, research developments in the historical and social sciences have essentially been integrated into taught history via a sort of thematic transposition into curricula.
13While it is essential to keep knowledge up to date, it would be an error to reduce the contribution of research developments in history to this alone. In fact, the focal point around which academic research and teaching can intermesh and develop profitably and innovatively is not so much scholarly content as the reflexive practices that have spearheaded the renewal of the historical and social sciences—and which have the potential to become the foundation for a new plan for teacher training and history teaching. This research exists already, but takes place at sites that are relatively disconnected from research centers in the historical and social sciences.  Designated by the National Council of Universities (Conseil national des universités, CNU) as belonging to both the seventieth and twenty-second disciplinary sections —education sciences and history and civilizations, respectively—researchers in this area are affiliated to education-science research centers.  While pluridisciplinary reflections make an undeniable contribution to their research, history departments deprive themselves of this perspective, and, in most universities, such contributions to students’ education remain marginal. Yet the socially constructed character of the categories, periods, and objects of study within the historical and social sciences makes it impossible to avoid interrogating the practices of teachers, whether in primary, secondary, or higher education. The pioneering reflections of Donald Schön—which described the advent of the “reflective practitioner” as early as the 1980s, and which over the last fifteen years have largely been assimilated into primary and secondary teacher training in France—are now joined by the social sciences in the “age of reflexivity.” 
14However, one observation that has emerged from analysis of the “reflexive turn in education” is that the promotion of practice-centered training leads to paradigmatic impoverishment.  According to Maurice Tardif, founder and former director of Montreal’s Interuniversity Center for Research on Training and the Teaching Profession, “such a vision of professionalization gradually contributes, within faculties, departments, and education programs, to the downgrading of theoretical and critical knowledge derived from the humanities and social sciences in favor of knowledge and skills that can be used in professional practice and practical training.”  A richer interface between research and teaching could perhaps be envisaged by combining the dual reflexivity of teaching practitioners and historians. Making reflexivity the meeting point for academic, didactic, and pedagogical issues in secondary schools and universities alike would produce the necessary change, and the consequences would extend well beyond initial teacher training.
15By better integrating reflexivity into university training from undergraduate level onwards,  and by using research not exclusively for the results it produces but also for the questions it poses and the approaches it leverages—aspects that undergraduate programs often elide—students would be given the means to build a new relationship with knowledge. Here again the issue of writing is central. Though easily reduced, for the purposes of evaluation, to a means of imitatively reproducing knowledge according to a formal model, writing is also a process through which one experiences thought and what it means to construct a discourse. Most often, it is only when students begin work on their research master’s dissertation that they have the opportunity to grapple with the processes of writing and rewriting under the supervision of an academic. Within the framework of the recent reforms, it is only by juggling courses or sacrificing the vocational training provided in the first year of their master’s that future teachers can choose a personal training pathway that includes a research master’s degree. Yet student teachers cannot fail to benefit from this distinctive experience of writing and from the questions it poses in terms of the practice of the historical and social sciences. Since entry into the profession above all requires teachers to demonstrate effective classroom practice—and since practical experience takes precedence over broader perspectives and theorizing—research-based training must be introduced long before the second year of master’s courses if it is not to be rejected by student teachers. More broadly, exposing students to the construction of history through research provides a radical experience of the complexity of reality, not to mention autonomy, critical thinking, epistemological questioning, the selection of conceptual tools, the establishment of a corpus, and so forth. This deconstruction of discourse and knowledge would thereby play a major part in training students to become autonomous as they progress through the undergraduate curriculum. Furthermore, this curriculum would no longer be primarily conceived as a potted summary of world history from antiquity to the present day (markedly biased toward Europe or even just France), with genuine exposure to research practices being introduced only at master’s level.
16Coupled with vocational training, this relationship to knowledge developed during undergraduate study would induce future teachers to position themselves differently, and consequently to abandon the notion of a singular, true, consensual, and definitive history, at odds with history as it is actually produced. Indeed, it is by stepping back from the subjects to be taught that pedagogical freedom can be consciously exercised and that teachers can make their choices, set their objectives, and plan the outcomes of their teaching. The second-year master’s dissertation would formalize this experience and lay the foundations for a reflexive professional practice enlightened by issues specific to the discipline, and it is by developing this experience from the undergraduate level onwards that common ground could be found between academics and teachers in secondary education. The decision to locate initial teacher training and continuous professional development within universities would then make genuine sense.
This article was translated from the French by Helen Tomlinson and edited by Chloe Morgan and Stephen Sawyer.
Michel Serres, Petite Poucette (Paris: Éditions Le Pommier, 2012).
Excerpt from a speech delivered by Michel Serres to the Académie française on March 1, 2011, http://nouveaux-defis-education.institut-de-france.fr/serres.html (author’s emphases).
On changes to continuing professional development and the current issues involved—at a time when only one in every two school districts has chosen to continue offering a training plan, or PAF—see Hayat El Kaaouachi’s contribution to this issue of the Annales.
See Christian Delacroix’s contribution to this issue.
Richard Étienne et al., eds., L’université peut-elle vraiment former les enseignants ? Quelles tensions ? Quelles modalités ? Quelles conditions ? (Brussels: De Boeck, 2009).
“Créer une nouvelle dynamique de la formation des maîtres,” Bancel Report, 1989, http://www.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/var/storage/rapports-publics/894185300/0000.pdf.
However, as the French schools inspectorate explicitly points out in its first report, entitled “La mise en place des écoles supérieures du professorat et de l’éducation,” the governance of research is largely undefined and remains to be formulated: http://cache.media.enseignementsup-recherche.gouv.fr/file/Formation_et_recrutement_des_enseignants/92/0/rapport-espe-2014_355920.pdf, pp. 23–24 and 50–51.
Law no. 2013-595 concerning the framework and planning of the school reform (July 8, 2013).
With regard to supervision by “two trainers with complementary profiles and skills,” as recommended on page 9 of the 1989 report, the circular released at the start of each new school year details the introduction of “mixed mentoring” involving a “practical tutor” and a “university tutor.” See annex 15 of the 2014 circulaire de rentrée, http://www.education.gouv.fr/pid25535/bulletin_officiel.html?cid_bo=79642.
A dissertation “that must contain disciplinary and research content relating to a pedagogical objective and professional practices [and which] draws on the teaching practice undertaken as part of the cooperative education program and on other teaching delivered during the course.” See article 19 of the decree of August 27, 2013 setting out the national framework for courses delivered within teaching, education, and training master’s.
Referred to as the “simultaneous model” in the Bancel Report, or, to borrow the terminology used in the circulaire de rentrée, “integrative” cooperative programs: “Cooperative education is at the core of the new training model for teaching and education staff. The teaching placement is training in its own right, with the trainee’s experience becoming a central part of the training. The school or institution is a place of training just like the ESPE. The basic principle underpinning cooperative education is that of ‘integrative cooperative education.’” The theoretical framework for “integrative” cooperative education was set out as early as 1982: Gérard Malglaive and Anita Weber, “Théorie et pratique, approche critique de l’alternance en pédagogie,” Revue française de pédagogie 61 (1982): 17–22.
The following observations are based on my experience as a history lecturer in primary and secondary education master’s courses at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin since 2010. As part of this role I supervise a number of vocational dissertations and participate in the oral defenses each year.
Particularly in “Pédagogies,” a series edited by Philippe Meirieu and published by Esf éditeur.
Inspectors lament the increasingly widespread use of activity worksheets, a development justified on the pretext of placing pupils in a situation of active research, but which amounts to extracting information from a surfeit of decontextualized documents treated as a source of truth.
Sylvain Doussot, Didactique de l’histoire. Outils et pratiques de l’enquête historienne en classe (Rennes: Pur, 2011); Yannick Le Marec, Sylvain Doussot and Anne Vézier, “Savoirs, problèmes et pratiques langagières en histoire,” Éducation et didactique 3, no. 3 (2009): 7–27.
Nicole Lautier, À la rencontre de l’histoire (Villeneuve-d’Ascq: Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 1997).
For example, the work of Didier Cariou, a member of the Research Center for Education, Learning, and Didactics (Centre de recherche sur l’éducation, les apprentissages et la didactique, CREAD) in Rennes, and the book based on his thesis: Écrire l’histoire scolaire. Quand les élèves écrivent en classe pour apprendre l’histoire (Rennes: Pur, 2012).
Yannick Mével and Nicole Tutiaux-Guillon, Didactique et enseignement de l’histoire-géographie au collège et au lycée (Paris: Publibook, 2013).
On this point, see Virginie Barbier’s contribution to this issue and the “laissez-faire” approach that distinguishes her teaching from the practices of student teachers I have observed. Many studies exist within the field of research in didactics. For the links between the “discursive community of historians” and that of the history class, see, for example, Sylvain Doussot’s article, “Le cas Menocchio et la construction en histoire. Une lecture didactique de l’étude de cas selon Carlo Ginzburg,” Le cartable de Clio 12 (2012): 111–25.
See Alexandre Berthon-Dumurgier’s contribution to this issue. Berthon-Dumurgier was directly involved in training activities undertaken in this area in 2008 by the school district of Créteil.
Paul Veyne (Comment on écrit l’histoire, 1971) has described history as a “relating of true events,” while Michel de Certeau (L’Écriture de l’histoire, 1975) portrays the historical narrative as a “layered text” (texte feuilleté). Antoine Prost (Douze leçons sur l’histoire, 1996) describes the historical narrative as a “full text” (texte plein), whose narrational consistency masks a number of “gaps” in the historical record and whose fragmentary nature appears only in explanatory textual notes.—Trans.
It is significant that the most recent works on didactics in history (see references to the works of Cariou and Doussot, above) focus specifically on writing practices in history classes, including lists, tables, and more generally all forms of intermediary texts as well as reflective writings (along the lines of “How did you go about explaining why the Romans persecuted the Christians and why they then adopted the Christian religion?”).
On the difficult institutional and scholarly position of researchers in didactics, see the special issue “15 ans de recherche en didactique de l’histoire-géographie,” Perspectives documentaires en éducation 53 (2001), in particular Nicole Tutiaux-Guillon’s contribution, “Emprunts, recompositions… Les concepts et modèles des didactiques de l’histoire et de la géographie à la croisée des chemins,” pp. 83–90, and the account by Anne Le Roux, “Un itinéraire de recherche en didactique de la géographie,” pp. 17–27.
The CNU categorizes research into numbered sections. See http://www.cpcnu.fr/listes-des-sections-cnu.—Trans.
On a social and historical approach to the construction and progressive institutionalization of the education sciences as a disciplinary field in Europe, see Rita Hofstetter and Bernard Schneuwly, eds., Science(s) de l’éducation, 19e-20e siècles. Entre champs professionnels et champs disciplinaires (Berne: P. Lang, 2002).
Donald A. Schön, The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action (New York: Basic Books, 1983); Schön, ed., The Reflective Turn: Case Studies in and on Educational Practice (New York: Teachers College Press, 1991).
Maurice Tardif, Cecilia Borges, and Annie Malo, eds., Le virage réflexif en éducation. Où en sommes-nous 30 ans après Schön ? (Brussels: De Boeck, 2012).
This was already a key concept in the 2012 undergraduate reference document, http://cache.media.enseignementsup-recherche.gouv.fr/file/Plan_licence/61/4/referentiel_227614.pdf.