how to train good teachers

It is a complex but essential project. “It is the one from which everything else comes”, estimates, for example, Guillaume Prévost, chief emissary of the Vers le Haut ideas laboratory, specialized in education.

While heading the Ministry of National Education, Gabriel Attal made teacher training the mother of battles. Appointed to Matignon, he promised to “build normal schools of the 21st century”, a reform announced for the month of March. The first idea was presented: to change the time of the competition in order to become a teacher. If today is held at the end of the 5th year of studies, Gabriel Attal would like it to be held earlier.

On Tuesday, February 6, his successor, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, confirmed before the National Assembly that he has now completed his degree, in order to free up time to increase the number of internships in institutions. This setting is not trivial, because it determines the moment when the future teacher starts speaking in front of the students. The basic debate is always the same: should a teacher first of all be an expert in his subject or a specialist in pedagogy?

Today, France is clearly leaning towards academic excellence. “We think that knowing how to solve equations is enough to know how to teach mathematics,” summarizes Édouard Gentaz, professor of developmental psychology at the University of Geneva. “We are the only country where it is possible not to know the children at all before you start teaching,” admits Elsa Lang Ripert, vice-president of the network of higher national institutes of teaching and education (Inspé).

“I can come to the beginning of the school year without experience”

In fact, future teachers – from kindergarten to their final year – must all have a high school diploma + diploma 5. With this application in their pocket, they apply for the competition, regardless of the master's degree they have followed up to that point – mathematics, French, English… From the course, there is a special master's degree, which prepares for the “professions of teaching, education and training” (Meef), and includes training hours in pedagogy. It is being prepared as part of Inspé. But it is not mandatory. Also, “among future school teachers, for example, only half have this Meef master's degree. The remaining 50% have master's degrees in mathematics, French, etc. They can therefore come to class on the first day of school without ever having set foot there before,” explains Elsa Lang Ripert.

Even within Inspé, training in classroom management or the psychology of child development is still lacking, continues Édouard Gentaz. Most of the time is devoted to dialectic, which consists in knowing how to choose which knowledge will be transferred to the students as a priority. “Training therefore remains very discipline-focused,” believes the researcher.

Learning to lead a class, practicing discipline or coming up with a word during group work… all this mostly remains at Inspé's doorstep. Evidence of the scale of the need is that many young teachers are training themselves once in the field and fostering the success of, for example, Nicolas Gaube's YouTube channel “A Happy Teacher”. This life and earth science teacher shares the latest international research studies and his box of educational ideas. This initiative earned him the rare privilege of being among the finalists in the November 2023 competition for the “best teacher in the world” – which aims to be the Nobel Prize of the profession.

Train secondary and primary school teachers together

From the state's point of view, there is therefore an urgent need to re-establish control and ensure that training meets the real needs of future teachers and their students. In general, several directions have been proposed, starting with the reform of the training of university teachers, encourages Guillaume Prévost from the Vers le Haut ideas laboratory. “Historically, we created their status based on the model of high school graduates, that is, with the logic of academic excellence. Today, therefore, you need the same training to teach sixth form or prep school! But the reality is that students first of all need support and teaching, especially the poorest, who do not have family support and give up too often. We have to think about secondary school for these adolescents, without immediately fearing the loss of the overall level. School and college teachers should be educated on the one hand, with a focus on pedagogy, and high school teachers and their university colleagues on the other, with a focus on performance. »

There are other ways to more quickly put teachers in front of students during their training. The “Preparatory Courses for School Teaching” (PPPE) created in 2021, for example, allow young people who want to teach in kindergarten and primary school to be partially trained in the field. “They enter PPPE after graduation and study for three years in mathematics, French, history-geography, etc. In short, in all subjects useful in primary school, with an increase in the number of practicals in school from the first year,” explains Elsa Lang Ripert. With a permit in hand, they enter Inspé. After the start of classes. The formula, which is still poorly developed, seems to be working: applications are pouring in and PPPEs can't keep up.

As in Staps, watering training through research

The government could also draw inspiration from another success: that of Staps training. Here, too, candidates push through the door and come out with a physical education and sports teacher's diploma, which has developed positively in recent years. Damien Vitiello, head of Staps UFR at the University of Paris Cité, sees this as the result of the constant adaptation of the content of research training. These days, he is revising the training model for the period 2025-2029, and next year, he announces, his students will, among other things, benefit from “co-interventions between basketball teachers and teacher-researchers in biomechanics, in order to analyze the importance of arm angle in throwing ”, in order to better adapt their future professional practice. In the same way, research results in neuroscience or psychology can be integrated in real time into all courses.

Nevertheless, the success of the “Staps model”, according to Chloé Caré Proust, associate professor of TZK, additionally confirms the importance of children's good knowledge. “Our students often come with club management and entertainment experience, as the Staps license gives the Bafa equivalent. Once teachers, they immediately know how to address young people. »

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Training that is constantly evolving

1989. Creation of university teacher institutes (IUFM) which unify the training of all teachers from kindergarten to senior year.

In 2007, the IUFMs were affiliated to the university, so the training moved to the market. We enter on bac + 3.

In 2010, teachers are hired at Bac + 5, and no longer at Bac + 3. They become civil servants of the A category.

2013. Creating Higher Schools of Teaching and Education (Espé). During the final year, students are “civil servant trainees” and are trained alternately in Espé and in classrooms.

2019 National Higher Institutes of Teaching and Education (Inspé) replace Espé. The final year is focused on preparing for the competition held at the end of the course.

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