Lab schools, or “laboratory schools”, are innovative schools operating in close collaboration with or within university departments. They appeared in North America in the late 19th century (for example, at UCLA or Toronto). Collaboration between these pilot schools and research laboratories in pedagogical innovation and education naturally fosters circulation of knowledge, sharing of skills and emulation between the different actors. It also favors the application and the dissemination of the findings of scientific work to other institutions, locally and internationally. In general, lab schools aim to promote:
- Dynamic classrooms
- Improving children's learning and well-being
- Professional development programs for senior and pre-service teachers
- Diffusion of scientific results and sharing of evidence-based practices
- International collaboration
- Commitment to inclusion
The value of lab schools lies in the dialogic relationship between pedagogy and research. Currently, this collaboration model is not implemented in France, nor is there any university department hosting schools. Therefore, the adaptation of the model to the French context is yet to be done. The Lab School Network has led this reflection for more than a year, engaging researchers, teachers and parents. This on-going work will continue in the coming month, as we design the Lab School. Unlike its North American equivalents, the Lab School of Paris will not operate with a lab specialized in education sciences, but within an interdisciplinary research network. They bring together the knowledge of Psychology, Sociology, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Anthropology and Edtech. The school, by its democratic structure will operate as a lab in and by itself: a cooperative between students, teachers, researchers and parents, organized in councils. Each stakeholder takes their part according to their abilities. General well-being, creativity, inclusiveness and sustainable development are at the core of the school's project. In the long term, we would like the school to be recognized by National Education (as a private accredited school) and to support other schools to be created on the same model. The Lab School of Paris is a pilot school in which everyone has a part to play: students and teachers, of course, but also parents and other school staff members. It functions on fundamental principles:
- Every child is unique: they have their own learning style, interests and abilities; the school’s role is to take all these elements into account to help them discover and harmoniously develop their potential.
- Teachers need to be aptly trained in order to accompany each child in the best possible way. The ratio of staff to students has to remain small in order to allow a personalized approach.
- Education is not limited to acquiring knowledge, but also has to allow children to:
- Know themselves
- Regulate their emotions
- Develop social skills
- Learn how to learn
- Know how to welcome and be respectful of differences
- Develop their self-confidence and self-esteem
- Develop their capacity for criticism and self-criticism
- The fundamental attitudes of the educating community are kindness and absence of judgment. Everybody has the right to make mistakes, because they are considered as an opportunity to learn. Disagreements and conflicts are a part of human relationships: the curriculum includes developing non-violent communication and mediation skills.
- Co-education: parents' 'expertise' about their own children is recognized and valued. They are invited to contribute to the life of the school.