The Building of a New Academic Field: the case of French didactiques


The aims of the resource:
This journal article seeks to explore the cultural notion of French disciplinary didactiques within the national education system, examining their creation and evolution in a range of school subjects over the past forty years. The author traces the rise of subject-specific didactiques, beginning with the commission set up from 1964 to 1969 to examine the teaching of French, and bringing us nearer the present day, with the recent (2004) establishment of the Association pour les Recherches Comparatistes en Didactique (ARCD), a cross-disciplinary association to share concepts and methodology (i.e. 'association for comparative research in didactics').


Key findings or focus:
In a four-part article, the author considers i) the history of didactiques; ii) their role in education; iii) concepts within didactiques; and iv) the evolution of the French education system and the ensuing comparisons between different, subject-specific didactiques.

The key findings are:


i) The pioneering didactiques discussed (French, Maths and Physics) all came about after curriculum reform projects instigated by the French Ministry of Education in the 1960s and early 1970s. Research (rather than teacher education) was the primary concern of these first didacticians, as this research was conducted in disciplinary departments within university. Education departments were not involved at this stage.


ii) Whilst the first didacticians were subject specialists unwilling to affiliate themselves with educational studies, current didacticians are less reluctant to do so. There has been a significant rapprochement between educational studies and the disciplines in the last twenty years.

Didactiques should not be confused with ‘pedagogy' or the more general ‘didactics' i.e. the art or science of teaching, since subject-specific content is of such importance in didactic research.


iii) Didactiques are respectful of subject-specific elements of each discipline, since different didactiques would never be subsumed by what Caillot terms ‘general didactics' (p.127). They also require that theoretical frameworks be tested.


iv) The most important change (and probably the greatest contrast to the current system in England) was brought about in 1991 when, with the creation of new teacher training institutes or Instituts Universitaires de Formation des Maîtres (IUFM), several didacticians were appointed in each of these as academics in order to base teacher training on didactics. In the 1990s, didacticians began to share their work across disciplines. 2004 saw the establishment of ARCD.  


The quality, authority and credibility of the resource from your subject perspective in relation to ITE:
This article is written by an expert in the field of French educational studies and as such is authoritative and credible. It may be of use to those who are interested in drawing comparisons between English and French education systems and pedagogy. However, the author avoids defining fully the concept of the (coined) noun ‘didactique', so the reader is obliged to impose their own understanding of its meaning. The academic tone of the article, coupled with its cultural connotations (which may be unfamiliar to some readers) may also make aspects of the article challenging.


The implications for ITE tutors/mentors - when and how it could have best impact:
This article could help to inform its readers and stimulate useful debate with students by drawing their attention to educational practice outside of the UK, thereby forming comparisons and raising the question of a possible lack of study about didactics and/or the theory of teaching and learning within the English system.


The relevance to ITE students - how and why it has importance:
This article is of relevance to ITE students since it considers theories of teaching and learning. In addition, it will be of interest and relevance to those comparing and contrasting the English and French educational systems, as it clearly highlights different priorities within the two. In particular, it would be useful reading for those who are studying at Masters level.


Reviewed by:

Marie Ryan


Related Resources

The following might be useful to read in conjunction with this resource:


Charlot, B. (1997) Du rapport au savoir, éléments pour une théorie. Paris, Anthropos.


Authors :

Michel Caillot

Source :

Publisher :

European Educational Research Journal

Article Id :


Date Posted: