17 SES 07, Comparative Approaches
This contribution asserts that the "laboratory" is a matrix of educational sciences: lively and multifaceted, it renews the concept of "laboratory" (Hofstetter & Schneuwly, 2006; Topalov, 1999; Ratcliff & Ruchat, 2006). This at least is what our investigation in the heart of laboratories demonstrates, where the pioneers of the Genevan “school of educational sciences”, the builders of the Rousseau Institute, work during the first half of the 20th century. In fact, these actors are part of the "zeitgeist", being inspired by similar initiatives in Germany (Jena), the United States (Teachers College), and Great Britain (Institute of Education) (Hofstetter, 2010). Its protagonists were inspired by experiences done in the psychology laboratory of Wundt (D), the educational laboratories promoted by Wilhelm August Lay (D), the laboratory school of John Dewey (USA), the laboratory school of Grange-aux-Belles street (F) where Alfred Binet did his experiments, and the "Casa dei Bambini" of Maria Montessori (I).
To carry out our investigation, we will enter the spaces used as laboratories in Geneva by those who at the same time tried to build a new science and renew educational practices. Our research will take into account 1. the materiality of these spaces (places, instruments), 2. the procedures and approaches of those who worked there, and 3. the issues and causes they did advocate. This, in order to better understand the evolutionary configurations of these laboratories.
We based our work on studies in the domain of social history and sociology of sciences (Backhouse & Fontaine, 2014; Bourdieu 2001; Chaubet, 2014; Mucchielli, 2004). We used also the researches about the evolution of educational sciences in Europe and worldwide (Drewek & Lüth, 1998; Depaepe, 1993) and their relationships with other disciplines (psychology in particular, cf. Smeyers & Depaepe, 2012). We were especially interested in the works showing the close relations – both inseparable and irreconcilable – between educational sciences and New Education (Savoye, 2006; Hameline, 2002; Hofstetter & Schneuwly, 2006). We used conceptual and methodological tools of the transnational turn (Caillé & Dufoix, 2013; Douki & Minard, 2007; Werner & Zimmermann, 2003).
In Geneva, three places function as laboratories accompanying and allowing the construction of “sciences of education”. They are emblems, which may also reflect a paradigm shift that we will try to clarify.
- The laboratory of experimental psychology (founded in 1890), in the basement of the Faculty of Sciences where the first interdisciplinary seminars took place, premise of the Rousseau Institute.
- The Rousseau Institute / School of Education Sciences (1912) itself, explicitly considered by the actors themselves as a “living laboratory” of progressive pedagogy within the University (Bovet, 1919).
- “New schools” (~1920) as living laboratories of educational renewal founded by the researches as “observatories of the child natural development”. “The New school, says Ferrière (1919, p. 3), is a laboratory of practical pedagogy”.
These three types of laboratories form as many matrices of educational sciences. There seems to be a shift between the pattern of the laboratory in the Faculty of Science and the one of the New schools: on one hand a scientist posture, on the other, a naturalist posture. A paradigmatic turning point? A generation gap? A disciplinary mutation (psychology vs. educational sciences)? Above this possible change, an experimentalist posture; a way to elucidate the dialectic?
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