Popular educational techniques and methods

The principles and origins of popular education

Popular education stems from the associative practices of collectives and individuals with similar quests for freedom. Popular education is often taken outside the education system with the aim of training citizens (e.g. BAFA training provided by the Francas or CEMEA). However, the school can draw inspiration from many practices that have been developed, discussed and passed down over time by famous teachers.

In this fact sheet, we will suggest some educational techniques that of course should be tailored to your audience and whose purposes should be kept in mind. In fact, a technique in itself does not have to have an emancipatory ideal. As Adeline de Lépinay said, The popular methods of education are methods, not a gathering of tools to make meetings more enjoyable, participatory, to make sure everyone expresses themselves, or to make sure we have a clear decision. So of course we use tools. But the main thing is to know where we are going, what stages we need to go through, and then we will think about how we are going to do it. And to answer this question we don’t have to use a ready-to-use “use”, but maybe invent new processes based on what we’ve already experienced. (https://www.education-populaire.fr/methodes-en-vrac/)

Examples of popular educational practices

The examples given and selected are incomplete and in no way reflect the diversity and expertise of our fellow renowned teachers, they are merely the result of meetings during training.

– Small story / Big story

Proposed by the late SCOP (worker production cooperative society) Le Pavé, a popular educational cooperative, this approach makes it possible to mix cold (academic) knowledge with warm knowledge (those individuals, in everyday life). ). It consists of presenting a frieze of collective moments of history (history of the labor movement, or of feminism … /next (what were you doing at the time) .Once each person can make their frieze, one collective feedback is needed to spot common references, differences … etc.

One way to adapt this is also to show the links we have to the big story. Consider that an important date was the law of free education (1883), you were not born. So you can show your relationship to this law (commitment as a teacher, activist for equality, etc.).


Important dates/events personal story Common references

– The debate is different

Students are often asked for debate, to give their opinion. If it’s important for a variety of reasons, it’s best to do it in a structured, organized way so that there are no debates without arguments or where everyone agrees. In the first two examples that follow, the discussion takes place in small groups and is both written and oral and aims to involve the whole group.

Rotating tablecloths

In this form, it is necessary to use at least A3 plates, or even larger plates if possible. The group was divided into groups of 3/4 people and each group had a sheet on their table.

On each page, one sentence to complete, or one sentence to comment. Each sheet has a different sentence. Each group will think and discuss and each group member will write as he or she thinks (there is no obligation to think alike in the group). After 5/10 minutes of reflection and writing, you should turn the pages to another group. Students can react to the sentence given by the teacher and react to the words of their classmates written on the sheet. The more the sheet turns, the more it will fill.

Once each group has access to each page, it is possible to immediately browse to see all the “debates” written on each page. It is important to take collective time to analyze what is being said. This can be in the form of reading unique sentences or reading a more “scientific” text on the theme. For example, the revolving layers of slap and corporal punishment could result in the reading of a text written by deputies proposing a ban on all corporal punishment in France.

The snowball debate

In this type of debate, students reflect on a given theme by combining the contributions of the participants, as suggested by its name (“snowball”) and try to find a consensus. This happens in several stages (depending on the size of the group). It can start individually, each student has to think about the suggested sentence (e.g. do you agree / disagree with it?) Then the snowball begins: students are grouped in pairs, with the same instructions, then in groups of 4, then 8 … etc. depending on the time, the size of your group and the possibilities of the debate. Finally, the question should be discussed with the whole group to find a possible consensual position.

For example, a snowball debate might take place at the ideal school with instructions on finding 1 or 2 suggestions to improve the school so that it goes to the ideal school for the students.

Acting debates.

As their name suggests, moving debates have a tendency to happen… by moving! In addition to the advantage of moving a little, of taking action, to help some students participate in an activity, these debates make it easier to visualize each other’s arguments. There are many differences.

With “The river”, it’s a question of proposing to participants a confirmation that we can answer with “yes” or “no”. One room space is limited to the equivalent of “yes” and the other to “no”, with a river in the middle, symbolizing uncertainty or less clear posture. Participants first put themselves in the river and once the statement was suggested, they could put themselves more than “yes” or “no” according to their opinion. Once the participants are settled, the debate is open: everyone is free to justify their position in space, argue, and possibly move around depending on whether they are convinced by the arguments of one and the other. The advantage of this practice is that it allows young people to concretely visualize the full scope of possible answers to a question, in order to approach the concept of nuance as closely as possible. Standing position and the possibility of movement encourage you to justify your choice of an argument. Finally, the fact of listening to the arguments of others and being able to position oneself in relation to them in a nuanced way (more or less closely) also helps to formalize one’s own opinion. Students can quickly say to themselves that “I somewhat agree with so and so, but not completely”: we are moving away from the traditional face-to-face debate that can sometimes bother indecisive students.

Another way to proceed is the “ladder”: instead of an imaginary river, the plates are placed on the floor of the room (A4 for example) numbered in increments (from 0 to 10 for example). The facilitator or teacher will then offer students a statement about their level of support, from “0 = I completely disagree” to “10 = I completely agree with this statement. Once the statement is proposed, we proceed as for the river and all who explain their positions, or on the other hand to move the arguments.

If we are to implement these two variants of active debate, we must remember that unlike small group debates, the large group here can reinforce the usual effects of speaking in groups: that is only those who are comfortable with this exercise can speak. . It is then up to the teacher to anticipate the size of the group and the speaking organization to avoid this trap.

– Surveying

It’s a way of discovering a job for a lot of people. It is a way of reading that comes from working class groups recruited and developed by the People and Culture association. The procedure can be done in different ways depending on your relationship with the books. The goal is to collectively work, read and understand a book. In the most “radical” way, you have to divide the number of pages to read by the number of students (there are 300 pages to read for 30 students, each student will read 10 pages) by divide the book without having to follow the chapters, sections, organization of the book. It’s about getting the job done. This can be in a “slower” way for the book where each student has to read part of the book (a chapter, a section, a sub-section … etc). We will provide a frame to fill in to make it easier for students to read (what do you think? Do you agree with what you read? What do you understand/do not understand … etc).

Once the reading is complete, the assembly can be done in a variety of ways. Here is an example. In the beginning, students can react immediately (give their opinion, say what they understand/don’t understand, like/dislike) then the feedback can be organized into a few questions. The goal is to collectively retrieve a work, it seems important to ask students questions as they read.

We can also suggest that everyone, while reading, summarize the topic in 3 main ideas or sentences, using post-it, for example. It should be remembered, however, that the goal is not so much as to find the most representative ideas in the whole text or the best combination of them, but those that the reader wants to keep and send (e.g., in a 10 -page book, the ideas. The saved may only cover certain pages if they seem more relevant to the reader). Once the sentences have been noticed, everyone can read their post-it: in text order, it gives a clear idea of ​​the book’s progress; but one can imagine that this reading is done randomly or vice versa in the development of the text as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *