Main lines of the research program

Mapping of « history of education »

Main objectives of the research program Mapping of the discipline “history of education”

Twenty years after the inquiry realized by the Service d’Histoire de l’éducation in the context of the growth, complexification and internationalization of higher education and research, it is fruitful to map the history of education in Europe since the early nineties. This proposal is conceived of as a first step of a collective and international endeavor to realize such a cartography.

The 36th conference of ISCHE in London, July 23 to 26 2014 will be the occasion to draw a first inventory on a European level. We propose a series of symposia on this topic, based on an inquiry realized since last spring in francophone Europe (French speaking Switzerland and Belgium, France), and on contributions of other interested researchers from other linguistic areas.

The mapping of the discipline will focus on the emblematic traits that characterize any discipline: its institutional foundation (Institutes, departments, posts), communication networks (associations, scientific events, means for publication), the structures of socialization and education of the new generation (curriculum, diploma, doctoral theses) and the ongoing renewing of knowledge produced by the discipline (research, epistemological foundation, research methods). It aims to describe the recent evolution of History of Education in order to make it more visible and, in knowing it and in reflecting on it, to reinforce its foundation and legitimacy. It may also serve as reference for prospective planning and for establishing a research agenda.

In order to operationalize this ambitious research program, the inquiry is limited to the recent evolution of the discipline: the last 25 years (1988-2013) in Europe. Later on, or in parallel, a larger time period and other countries can be envisaged. The French and Swiss research group at the origin of the proposal is currently collecting the necessary data in this aim.

For pragmatic reasons, the research program will be realized in different steps. The first is concentrated on the institutional conditions that allow knowledge production in the discipline. Data bases will be produced that take an inventory of the institutions (centres, laboratories, research groups, services), the researchers (chairs, stable posts), communication networks (societies, congresses, journals and series) belonging totally or partially to the discipline. In order to take into account the vital forces of the discipline (young researchers, new topics and studies), particular attention will be paid to doctoral theses and “habilitations”.

The whole program will benefit from the numerous existing reports (notes of synthesis, analytical records, guides, etc.) that will be listed in a systematic bibliography concerning the historiography of the discipline.

The present program was initiated by a small group of historians in January 2013, on the occasion of preparatory work for the Congress of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Erziehungswissenschaft (DGfE) in Berlin (2014). It will now be enlarged to a larger group of researchers and networks already specialized in the domain. Research groups from different European countries representing different cultural areas have been or will be contacted.

Being an international association organizing the historians of education ISCHE – and its president Eckhardt Fuchs – will be the privileged interlocutor for sustaining the program (other organizations, like for instance network 17 of ECER “History of education” could also become such an interlocutor). The support makes possible the constituting of research groups through the logistic support provided to produce data bases (to contribute to the reflection for defining criteria of inventory; perhaps also financial support for the work; online publishing of data on the ISCHE website). Support is also possible in offering a platform of discussion for the research groups participating in the program: during the pre-conference of ISCHE (for instance in London in 2014), during workshops, seminars, symposia or through a Standing Working Group during future ISCHE Conferences. Collective publications (and event applications for research subsidies) are already planned. Taking into account the important role of the research program for the discipline, a special issue of Paedagogica Historica would be particularly welcome (2015, 2016?). In this respect, its chief editor is also a privileged interlocutor.

At the ISCHE conference (London 2014, July 22), three main topics will be discussed:

–       networks and institutions

–       journals

–       doctoral theses

Networks and institutions

The history of education, following national configurations, is integrated in different disciplines, essentially history and educational sciences, but also history of science and didactics. It is therefore a transversal space that allows it to be in the intersection of different scientific communities. It nevertheless constitutes a coherent epistemological space that creates the conditions to be recognized as such beyond the traditional disciplinary borders and for which it is important to constitute networks and specialized spaces. This question of the practical modalities of institutionalization will be in the center of the inquiry on networks and institutions. In order to elaborate a precise map and to put in evidence systems of interrelations, existing structures have to been analyzed: laboratories and research groups, professional associations that exist in Europe and in the world. An as precise as possible inventory of them has to be made and their position in the national and international disciplinary fields has to be analyzed together with the linguistic and cultural spaces and their history.


During its history, the publications in education has evolved in important ways. It was first used as an aid for teachers and for spreading pedagogical methods globally. Journals became a potent transnational relay for scientific communities institutionalized in a highly specialized context. It therefore constitutes a privileged space from which to describe research in the history of education on different levels. First, an inventory of journals totally or partially dedicated to the history of education will be established; on this basis, a panorama of the main inquiries that have nourished the domain during the last 25 years will be produced in order to analyze in more detail the evolutions of its contents. In this way, one can measure the part of the studies dedicated to the national and local terrain and evaluate transnational dynamics. The methodologies that are represented in the journals will also be described as will be the epistemological borrowings from other domains (sociology, anthropology, political, economical and social history, etc.). Finally, the journals’ institutional contexts and resources and the profile of the authors of the texts will be analyzed in order to describe the contours, the stakes and the possibilities of which that nourishes the scientific debate in the history of education.

Doctoral theses

A pertinent means for measuring the institutional foundation of a discipline is to look at doctoral theses since they constitute the privileged material of its recent dynamics. Young doctors continue the epistemological heritage of the domain and define their own practices, but at the same time construct scientific bridges in order to open new fields of research.

In a first step, the way the discipline “history of education” structures doctoral studies will be analyzed. Since the years of producing a thesis are an important moment of socialization, analyzing who are the directors can be revealing for understanding the logic of construction of the discipline on the national and university level. A comparative approach will enable a study of the disciplinary anchoring and of the collective construction of history of education.  In this sense, the study of doctoral theses will treat the question of defining the boundaries of history of education in different cultural contexts and in relationship to other disciplines.

In a second step, the terminology used in the titles of the theses and the methodologies adopted will be analyzed in order to understand the mainstreams and the renewal in this domain. In the background, the translation of terms will be studied and the notions that each concept covers. Finally, the topics of the theses will be observed as revealing periods, spaces and explored levels in order to define the moments that can be considered as the most important and most innovative in the discipline.

Rita Hofstetter, Université de Genève, Rita.Hofstetter@unige.ch

Emmanuelle Picard, École normale supérieure de Lyon, Emmanuelle.Picard@ens-lyon.fr

Alexandre Fontaine, Université de Genève, Alexandre.Fontaine@unige.ch

Solenn Huitric, École normale supérieure de Lyon, Solenn.Huitric@ens-lyon.fr


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  1. Pingback: AAC ISCHE 2015 - SWG Mapping the Discipline History of Education | Le pupitre
  2. Pingback: ISCHE 37: Standing Working Group “Mapping the discipline history of education” | Le pupitre

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