Education Talks: New ways of learning

“If we are training them (students) for the past, we are not making them a favour, so we have to invest collectively in changing our system.” In this interview François Taddei shares his views on the education research and how can teachers become researchers themselves.

An engineer who became a biologist-geneticist, François Taddei, is the principal investigator at the Robustness and Evolvability of Life research laboratory at INSERM, and the co-founder of the Centre for Research and Interdisciplinarity (CRI). He is a recognized specialist in evolution and advocates interdisciplinary approaches in research as well as in education.

Our Minister of Education, Higher Education, and Research, asked me to write a report that was entitled “Toward a Learning Society”. 

So, we were trying to argue for the fact that we have all learned, we have all learned how to learn as individuals but rarely as a collective. and the idea is, that if we want to really promote new ways of learning, which we need to, in the age of AI (Artificial Intelligence), robots and so much change in our society, we have to change the way we learn and we are already doing it, but we are not necessarily optimising the way we are learning differently. 

So can we investigate that question, and can we do it not only as individuals which we all do, but also collectively, and we can build a sort of collective intelligence around this, a sort of a citizen science of learning? 

How does research in education compare to other sectors? 

Education system, because we are not investing enough in the R&D (Research and Development) of education and of learning, because we are not training enough our teachers through research, because we are not offering policymakers with the best advance of research. It makes it much more difficult for the education system to progress, and not only do we need it to progress in absolute, we need it to progress even more because of the international competition, and even more so because of the progressive machines and the needs of the employment sector that are becoming very different than what it used to be. 

If we are training them for the past, we are not making them a favour, so we have to invest collectively in changing our system, and that passes through research, that is the only way we know. Even if planes progress, it is because we make research on planes, if you want education to progress, you have to make research on education.

What teacher education is needed for teachers to become effective researchers?

I think the initial education of teachers starts before the school of education. The initial training of teachers starts when they are young ones, when they are students. If they can be reflective about 'what is to learn'. and 'what it is to share their learning with others'. Then when they become teachers, there are some countries where teaching is defined as facilitating learning, so first you learn about learning and then you learn about teaching as facilitating the learning opportunities that you give to the younger ones. So that is for the initial training.

Once you have entered the job, you realise that all the theory you learned in the university is somewhat different from the real complex situation that you are facing because you are suddenly in an environment that you had never imagined and maybe you have never been there because you come from a different social background, maybe because you were a good student, you enjoyed learning and you are suddenly faced with kids that don't like to learn. So being able to put yourself in the shoes of the learners, being able to face a situation that is very different, takes time.

It takes 5 to 10 years of ongoing development to progressively manage to help as well as possible the younger ones. What is the most important is that you are aware that you can use some of those research methods in your classroom. You can yourself try to not only be reflective as a teacher but you can start experimenting and you can start documenting your experiments, you can start sharing your results.

How can mobility at European level improve education?

One of the strengths of Europe is that it is ever easier for us to travel across Europe and to discover other ways of doing what you thought was possible to do only in one way. And that I think is great help and I think that this ability is being offered to students with Erasmus for long now but I think we have to offer it as professional development throughout the career of any educator and that is the best way to educate them and therefore to help them educate better the younger ones.

The Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity (CRI) experiments and spreads new ways of learning, teaching, conducting research and mobilizing collective intelligence in life, learning and digital sciences. It was founded in 2005 by François Taddei and Ariel Lindner. The Bettencourt Schueller Foundation has been an essential and key supporting partner since its creation. The CRI develops educational programs together with the Sorbonne Paris Cité University (Paris Descartes University and Paris Diderot University). A wide range of partners accompany the CRI including the European fund, “les programmes d’investissements d’Avenir” and town council of Paris. More info: http://cri-paris.org/