CRI Research focus - Open Science : Teachers as researchers

On a daily basis, teachers try new things and observe the impact on learning. With regards to their experiments, could they gain a position as researchers ? According to Ignacio Atal, “millions of teachers learn to teach daily by experimenting and intuiting “what works” and “what doesn’t work”. In that sense, each classroom could be seen as a living research laboratory contributing to teaching and learning sciences”. After a PhD in epidemiology and public health, this former engineer came at CRI with a desire to focus its research on education. “During my PhD studies, what I was interested in was to find out : how do you know if something works or not in medicine? For a treatment, a surgical procedure, or a psychological intervention... How do you know “what works” and “what doesn’t work”? I then wanted to study the same issue in education. I came to the CRI to make this transition, as few places would have understood the value of my background.”

As a long term fellow, he now works with research engineer Nathanael Jeune and 2 interns. In collaboration with Pascal Haag from EHEES/Labschool network, the team created a series of workshops to accompany teachers throughout the year to conduct and structure their “teaching research”. During these workshops, which last between 2 and 3 hours, teachers are invited to explicit their context and objectives. Some of them aim to make their students more autonomous, for example, or others have objectives related to development, well-being and self-confidence. Thematics groups are then created around a research question. It could be :“What would be the tools to integrate into the classroom to develop student autonomy?” or “What teaching methods should be put in place to develop self-confidence?”. Related to these questions, teachers are encouraged to take note of what seems interesting to them, and to draw the lessons learned for future action plans. Between workshops, they share interesting resources, observations and thoughts, in dedicated online collaborative documents, by email, through Whatsapp groups, or physically if they are in the same school.The project is for now focused on about fifty teachers in kindergartens and primary schools. Step-by-step, participants are invited to gain a scientific posture concerning their daily pedagogical experiments. “Coming from the world of medicine, I realized that medicine has suffered from the fact that we don't publish research when the results are negative”, Ignacio adds. “When we want to know if a drug works or not, we usually take into account past research that has been done on that drug. However, we have a huge bias if research has not been published. This approach of a researcher who collaboratively shares his scientific progress tries to limit this bias. The idea is thus to document this path for teachers.”