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Freinet Method

History of Freinet Pedagogy

    Summary

1. Freinet Techniques
  • Learning Printing Technique
  • "Livre de vie" or "Book of Life"
  • Working together to produce Manuals or Shared Stories
  • "Journal scolaire" or "Journal of a Scholar"

    Célestin Freinet was born on October 16, 1896 in Gars, a small French village close to the Italian border.
Freinet graduated with a school-leaving certificate from a junior high school. With this certificate he could go on to qualify as an elementary school teacher but was not eligible for admission to a university.  As a member of the French Communist Party in 1927, his publications constitute a radical critique of the traditional public education system (Oneness thinking, ahead of it's time). By the 1960s Freinet dwelt mainly on programmed learning and the expansion of his pedagogy to the secondary school level. He died in October 1966 and was buried in the little cemetery of Gars, his birthplace.

   
Freinet's approach was very practical since he integrated his ideas into his daily work in the classroom. In October 1924 Freinet introduced the technique of Learning Printing Technique. This meant that the children used a printing press to reproduce texts (computers now a days to share stories)  that they had composed freely. The pupils wrote down their own personal adventures (scientific investigations), the incidents that they had experienced inside and outside the classroom, and so on. Usually these texts were then presented to the class, discussed, corrected and edited by the class as a whole before being finally printed by the children themselves working together to produce Manuals or Shared Stories. Freinet called this approach "Free Writing" ("Texte libre"). Later these texts would be assembled to create a Class Journal ("Livre de vie" or "Book of Life") and a School Newspaper ("Journal scolaire" or "Journal of a Scholar").

    From 1926 on, the productions of his class, particularly the School Newspapers, were regularly exchanged with other elementary school classes in France, whose teachers were also involved in innovative teaching. Freinet calls this the technique of School Correspondence ("Correspondance scolaire or Correspondence Scoloar"). Later, this correspondence would spread throughout the world. The French teachers who used Learner Printing and others who were beginning to make and use movies and sound recordings with their classes came together in 1928 and founded the Public Educators' Co-operative (Coopérative de l'Enseignement Laïc, C.E.L.), soon to be known as "Freinet Pedagogy" or the "Freinet Movement". From 1932 they edited a magazine "The Proletarian Educator" (L'Educateur Prolétarien or "Educators Producing Offspring").

2. Freinet Techniques Continued
  • "Correspondance scolaire or Correspondence Scoloar" 
    • School Correspondence or Book of Life"
  • Learner Printing - Sharing Stories
    • Writing
    • Movies
    • Sound recordings
    • Classes come together
  • L'Educateur Prolétarien or "Educators Producing Offspring"
    • Magazine "The Proletarian Educator" 
    • Public Educators' Co-operative
    Since the thirties, the Public Educators "Co-operative has produced booklets based on pupils" research projects as documents for classroom use by others, because these teachers considered traditional school-books to be old-fashioned, academic and out of touch with reality. This collection of booklets is called the Working Library (Bibliothèque de Travail) and can be added to the Class Library ("Bibliothèque de classe") along with other documents, files and books. But Freinet also encouraged children to conduct their own Field Investigations ("sortie-enquête") and research. This meant that his pupils regularly left the classroom in order to observe and to study both their natural environment and their local community. Back in the class, they presented their results, printed out texts, produced a journal and then sent all this material to their counterparts in other schools. These opportunities for child-centred learning and independent enquiry are organized according to a Work Schedule ("Plan de travail") in which the students set out their plan of work for a certain period. The Work Schedule is discussed and evaluated together with the teacher.

    The Public Educators' Co-operative also initiated Self-Correcting Files ("Fichier autocorrectif") including hundreds of worksheets for such fundamental skills as grammar, spelling, math, geography, history, etc. Pupils use these files individually according to their needs and whenever they want to improve their performance. The overall co-ordination of class activities, and any problems affecting individual children or groups of children are regularly discussed and resolved in the Classroom Assembly ("Réunion coopérative", "Conseil") which consists of all the children in the class and the teacher.

    Freinet's philosophy of education disturbed the local school authorities of his time and they tried to have "Célestin Freinet" moved to another school-district. Freinet refused to be transferred and left the public education system. In 1935 he founded an independent school.  He applied and developed his techniques until 1940, imprisoned as a political agitator. Later released for compassionate reasons placed under house arrest in the Alps, where he eventually joined the resistance movement in 1943.

3. Freinet Techniques Continued
  • Working Library (Bibliothèque de Travail)
  • Class Library ("Bibliothèque de classe")
  • Self-Correcting Files ("Fichier autocorrectif")
  • Classroom Assembly ("Réunion coopérative", "Conseil") which consists of all the children in the class and the teacher.

4. The Essential Concepts of Freinet Pedagogy

    During his periods of detention at the time of the Second World War Freinet wrote his core works on pedagogy.
Freinet's school movement reopened in 1945. A revival led to the Cooperative Institute of the Modern School (Institut Coopératif de l'Ecole Moderne - I.C.E.M.) in 1947.  Their role developed ideas for pedagogical resources and activities, limited to the production of the actual pedagogical material. The Public Educators' Co-operative dwindled down to tasks revolving around the printing press and accessories, the Self-Correcting Files, the Working Library, etc. However the most important concepts that were left are the following:
  • Pedagogy of Work ("Pédagogie du travail") - meaning that pupils learned by making useful products or providing useful services.
  • Co-operative Learning ("Travail coopératif") - based on co-operation in the productive process.
  • Enquiry-based Learning ("Tâtonnement experimental") - trial and error method involving group work
  • The Natural Method ("Methode naturelle") - based on an inductive, global approach.
  • Centres of Interest ("Complexe d'intérêt") - based on children's learning interests and curiosity.
5. The Left Critique (intelligence) of Freinet Pedagogy

    1st Wave Between 1950 and 1954, Freinet was vigorously attacked by intellectuals of the French Communist Party, who accused him of a. promoting a notion of school based on an outmoded rural ideal, b. downplaying the role of the teacher, c. stressing process rather than content, d. exaggerating the importance of children's spontaneous behaviour thereby reinforcing principles dear to individualism rather than togetherness.
In other words, the Communists criticized Freinet for creating illusions in teachers' minds, who are being encouraged to believe that they can change the realities of school life in a world dominated by capitalism. This conflict is better understood as a power struggle between the allegiance the unionized teachers.
  • The Essential Concepts of Freinet Pedagogy
  • Stressing content rather than process
  • Children's spontaneous behaviour
  • Reinforcing principles of togetherness or Oneness
  • downplaying the role of the teacher
  • encouraged to believe that they can change the realities
6. The Freinet Myth and the Influence of the New Education movement

Freinet educators have subscribed to certain myths about Freinet, some of which were nourished by the accounts of his life written by Elise, his wife and lifelong partner. He invented Co-operative Learning and Child-Centred Techniques. Some see him as a pedagogical genius who created all of his techniques out of thin air however seen in the context of the international New Education movement., some of the pedagogical practices that were already known before Freinet :
  • School printing to reproduce pupil's texts were used by several teachers in the 19th century (Dumas in Paris, 1730; Oberlin in the Vosges c. 1800 and Robin at Cempuis, c. 1900).
  • Already in 1921 the Polish pedagogue Janus Korczak was using School Newspaper as an educational tool. The pedagogical concepts which Freinet referred to and which he studied thoroughly are the following (brief summary):
  • The Centres of Interest arose from a critical dispute between the Belgian psychologist Ovide Decroly and the U.S. philosopher John Dewey with his Project Method
  • Freinet's Co-operative Learning techniques were partly inspired by the studies of Ovide Decroly and the Swiss psychologist Edouard Claparède.
  • Enquiry-based Learning method was related to the Functional Pedagogy of Edouard Claparède and the Genetic Psychology of Jean Piaget (i.e. the construction of learning through experience).
  • The Work Schedule is close to the Dalton-Plan developed by the U.S. teacher Helen Parkhust.
  • Self-Correcting Files came about after an encounter with the Winnetka-method pioneered by U.S. school-inspector Carl Washburne. Indeed, the first math files of the Freinet Movement are an adaptation of Washburne's Self-Correcting math programs. Freinet's pedagogical theory is not only based on the above mentioned practical techniques, but may also be seen in a larger philosophical and political context still, in the crucible of the New Education movement.
  • School printing to reproduce pupil's texts
  • School Newspaper as an educational tool
  • Project Method
  • Co-operative Learning techniques
  • Enquiry-based Learning method
  • The Work Schedule
  • Self-Correcting Files
7. Pedagogy of Work

Freinet's approach to Learning through Work may be contrasted with the concept of the German Georg Kerschensteiner, the Russian Pavel Petrovic Blonskij and the Swiss educator Adolphe Ferrière. Kerschensteiner wanted to educate working-class children with manual work because he believed that a more abstract approach to learning would not fulfill the socially relevant virtues of behaviour and performance. While Blonskij tried to integrate school into factories in order to enable children to deal with a modern industrial culture, Ferrière placed greater emphasis on a spiritual approach through which the child's energies should be channelled and nourished.

Freinet's concept of Learning through Work focuses on work as the process of spontaneous re-organization of life in school and society. According to him, work is the basis of every human activity, indeed of the very development of a human being. Therefore productive work is an ongoing principle of teaching and learning. While the children are developing their texts with the techniques of Learner Printing, and producing their journals, exhibitions, and so on, they are in a constant learning process. This concept also distinguishes Freinet from the proponents of creative pedagogy popular in the USA.
  • educate children with manual work
  • abstract approach to learning relevant virtues of behaviour and performance.
  • integrate school into factories enable children to deal with culture
  • spiritual approach through which the child's energies should be channelled and nourished.

8. Co-operative Learning

Freinet's emphasis on Co-operative Learning was rooted in his own experiences as a founder of agricultural co-operatives. He was also aware of British experiments with school communities. At the same time he participated in debates about the French organization called Central Office of School Co-operatives (Office central de la Coopérative scolaire à l'Ecole), founded by B. Profit in 1923, and which still exists.
  • agricultural co-operatives
  • experiments with school communities
  • participated in debates
  • spiritual approach through which the child's energies should be channelled and nourished.
  • School Co-operatives (Cooperation with other Schools)

9. Natural Method

The Natural Method is a general learning theory based on the empirical tradition (data collection and statistical analysis) of sensational and associational psychology in the 19th century. It is also influenced by German "Gestalt-Psychologie". This method implies an intuitive and direct perception of the learning object, which activates the basic sensorial functions. Therefore, this deductive procedure allows us to integrate abstract notions (all around information, verses traditional repeating). The Natural Method is applied to reading, writing, and basic math. In this context, printing is an appropriate technique for a global as well as an analytical approach to the development of language (study and have faith).

The conclusion is that the real genius of Freinet lies not so much in the creation of the above techniques but in the synthesis and articulation of these various approaches and procedures. Most of the well-known educators of the New Movement wrote their most influential expository works between 1900 and 1930. Freinet was a late comer to the New Education scene. He founded his own school in 1935 and wrote his core works during the Second World War. However, the scientific epistemologist Thomas Kuhn believes that newcomers like Freinet, often have the opportunity to stimulate paradigm shifts and create new theories. This may also explain why Freinet is less well-known than the major figures of the New Education Movement. He published his major works at a time when the impetus of New Education was slowing down. Spécialists of the New Education Paradigm;
  • Empirical tradition (data collection and statistical analysis)
  • Intuitive and direct perception of the learning object
  • Deductive procedure allows us to integrate abstract notions (all around information, verses traditional repeating)
  • School Co-operatives (Cooperation with other Schools)
  • Natural Method is applied to reading, writing, and basic math
  • An analytical approach to the development of language (study and have faith).
  • stimulate paradigm shifts and create new theories

10. A Child-Centered Pedagogy


The New Education has to be seen in the Romantic tradition of the philosophy of education. These educators recommended a return to the origins of childhood which is regarded as "innocent" and full of promise. The effort to adapt the child to modern, industrial society through school is essentially an act of corruption. Only "natural education" offers a way to resolve these problems by introducing community-based activities such as manual labour and craft work. They are considered as more healthy and formative. Freinet's pedagogy stands in this tradition when he praises manual work and puts children's needs and desires above all.

  • return to the origins of childhood
  • "innocent" and full of promise
  • "natural education" offers a way to resolve problems
  • introducing community-based activities such as manual labour and craft work
  • considered as more healthy and formative
  • praises manual work
  • children's needs and desires above all

11. Conclusion

    Nevertheless, Freinet's commitment to a radical political philosophy meant that he did not drift into the reactionary tendencies that typified many of his many of his contemporaries inside the New Education movement. From the beginning of his professional life, his main interest always was to improve the social and cultural situation of working-class children. Instead of waiting for a broader revolution he believed that changes are possible in classroom right now. Nowadays Freinet pedagogy is still a very strong, international movement covering the whole range of school levels from kindergarten to university and adult education. The numerous celebrations of the centenary of Freinet's birth bear eloquent testimony to the enduring relevance of his pedagogy in today's troubled times.
  • commitment to a philosophy
  • improve the social and cultural situation of working-class children
  • changes are possible in classroom right now.

For further reading visit http://www.freinet.org/icem/history.htm
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