DESCRIPTION OF THE SUCCESS STORY
Main actors involved
The teacher, the class group.
When, where and how the story took place
General, technical and vocational school in an industrial area in decline, in the Liège suburb. School year 2012-2013
The experience takes place in a third vocational class (3P), within the framework of a computer course.
The teacher, passionate about coaching and team work, develops “peer education”. He has been using this educational technique for several years because he wants to work on the “resources” in the class group. The teacher assumes that the students all have resources regarding skills, knowledge and people skills …
“Peer education” gives every student the opportunity to stand out at some point. Thus, a student who seems less brilliant (student with “little means”, student who is “a bit slow”, as other teachers describe) can at any moment explain an exercise to a classmate who has not well understood. Thanks to this technique every student can exist, belongs to the group whatever their skills.
There is no lecture, students receive files with theoretical sheets and exercises to do.
In the beginning of the lesson, the teacher explains they can help each other and how to work together and in an efficient way. A time slot is also given to students so they can handle the file and express themselves (what they like, what they dislike, their strengths, their reluctances, the subject they wish to work on rather than another, the theoretical sheet they want to improve …). This educational co-building step establishes “coexistence”.
Every student has a computer to make their work autonomously. When a student is confronted to a difficulty, they are helped by their neighbours or any other student of the class who comes to sit beside and takes time to explain the subject again. Peers learn to learn. They do not do their classmates’ work, they guide them (for instance, the peer does the exercise with the classmate then deletes it so the students does it again). Learning remains individual.
The teacher takes the position of an actor among others and is sometimes unavailable to prompt mutual aid and collaboration between students. It happens that students take the teacher’s place in front of the class group and explain a subject again the teacher has not explained well (deliberately or not). Likewise, the theoretical sheets proposed by the teacher evolve year after year, reworked by the students.
In some lessons the teacher hardly speaks at all. Students work autonomously and help each other between peers. The teacher is here responsible for the framework, he reminds evaluations and certifications to come. The process will enable all students to succeed in their work and prepare evaluations. The evaluation is always announced and explained by the teacher (date, criteria, evaluation grid …),” test = no surprises”.
It is a “win/win” process. All the students succeed (apart from those who are too often absent). They acquire a work methodology, autonomy, skills, mutual aid, collaboration … that will prepare them for the rest of their studies. It is primordial for the teacher and “it is so important to make them experience successes!”
Reasons why the story can be considered successful
• Students succeed
• Students achieve skills and social skills that are important in their school path: having one’s lessons in order, working autonomously, daring to ask questions, expressing oneself in front of the class, collaborating with classmates, helping each other …
• They learn how to live together, a notion that goes beyond the lessons
• They co-build the lesson with the teacher (contribution to the theoretical sheets, explaining again the subject to the whole class …). It is peer education to the end!
Starting point of the student
Students arrive in class with their background: all types of family difficulties, personal problems, fatigue, stress ...
When they start 3P, some students are in a situation of great school failure, others do not have the primary school certificate, others have been expelled from other schools … Few have chosen to be here. They have become passive regarding their success at school.
Social and economic background of the family involved
The school is multicultural: Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Italy, Spain … Families are often underprivileged.
The parents’ commitment in the studies varies:
• Parents that are interested but lack means
• Parents who are not involved in the studies: the student must look after his brothers and sisters, work in the family business, moonlighting to help them …
• Parents who hardly or don’t speak French and need their children to translate
• Moral suffering of the mother who is alone when the child goes to school …
Possible explanation of the success
• The teacher acts rather as a trainer. He sees himself as a coach who must lead his team to victory. He encourages and students do. However, each one keeps their role. The teacher is not the students’ friend, neither in class nor on Facebook (unlike other more traditional teachers who paradoxically accept students on Facebook)
• Students can have speech time (which is sometimes necessary given their daily life)
• Students can choose to work in one way or another depending on their state of mind
• There is enough time to understand the subject
• The lesson is co-built by students, which makes it easier to understand and command it
• Students succeed
• The approach based on coexistence allows the teacher to discover and address other problems related to early school leaving (violence, learning difficulties, integration …)
• The approach is supervised by an external counsellor (follow-up and assessment)
The teacher is aware that there can be an educational rupture when they arrive in 4P, with other teachers who have more traditional methods. But in his opinion students have achieved skills and social skills that will help them through the rest of their studies.
Interaction between the different actors involved
Interactions mainly take place in the group class. The teacher is voluntarily set back to leave room for communication and collaboration between students who collectively help each other, learn the subject, improve educational tools and foster each one’s success.
Action of educational policy
The school has been recognised in the framework of “differentiated learning” by the Ministry of Education.
This device was launched during the school year 2010-2011 to make sure each student in lower secondary school (mainly in 3P, the students of which have 33% chance to have a diploma) has equal opportunities of social emancipation in a good educational environment.
Recognition depends on the socio-economic coefficient of the area in which the school is located (income per inhabitant, level of diplomas, unemployment rate, professional activity rate, accommodation comfort …).
The school is recognised in class 2, which corresponds to a very low socio-economic coefficient.
Transferability potential of the experience
“Peer education” is transferable in every course, but it cannot be decided overnight. It is a choice of working method that needs to be adopted.
One needs to acquire skills (“keys to communicate, to decode”), to train (in Neuro-lingustic programming - NLP, for instance), to fill their toolbox.
The teacher who wishes to make this choice needs first to think about their type of teaching, to ask the following question: “what teacher do I want to be?”