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Les experts du BIEF
Xavier ROEGIERSPrésident
Alexia PEYSERExpert senior en éducation et en gestion de projets

Implementing a pedagogy of integration: some thoughts based on a Textbook Elaboration Experience in Vietnam

Planning and Changing, Volume 37, N°1&2, 37-55 / PEYSER, A., GERARD, F.-M. & ROEGIERS, X. / 2006

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A major trend in current pedagogicthinking, and in its corresponding implementing practices, is based onthe fundamental concepts of integration and competence.

Thisevolution is the logical outcome — as demonstrated by a member of ourteam (Roegiers, 2000; 2nd edition 2001) — of several pedagogic trendsthat have influenced the teaching practices of the 20th century. Inparticular, educators have endeavored to respond to the main criticismto pedagogy by objectives which was that it disintegrates a subjectmatter into isolated objectives, a process some call - not withouthumor - the saucissonnage (slicing a sausage). The greatmerit of pedagogy by objectives is its emphasis on the fact that thestudent can learn to "do" something, beyond the simple acquisition ofknowledge and facts. The risk, however, is that it may lead to learning(mastering) of a series of individual know-how, all equally importantbut isolated from each other, while failing to form an integrated wholethat may prepare the student to cope adequately with real-lifesituations.

Competence and Integration

Hereis where the concepts of competence and of competence and integrationfit in. After decades of wavering with the concept of competence ineducation, most authors today tend to agree in the definition ofcompetence as the spontaneous mobilization of a set of resourcesin order to apprehend a situation and respond to it in a more or lessrelevant way (Crahay, 1997 ; De Ketele, 2000, 2001 ; Dolz &Ollagnier, 2002 ; Fourez, 1999 ; Jonnaert, 2002 ; Le Boterf, 1994 ;Legendre, 2001 ; Rey, 1996 ; Perrenoud, 1997 ; Roegiers, 1996, 2000,2003 ; Tilman, 2000).

This definition indicates that a competence can only exist in the presence of a specific situation, through the integration of different skills, themselvesmade up of knowledge and know-how. These three elements are essentialto develop a competence. For example, to be able "to drive to work", anindividual may have acquired the necessary skills (he/she knows how toshift gears, slow down, assess distances...), but has not attained therequired competence because these skills are not integrated. If he/shelacks one of the required skills, he/she will be equally incompetent.In short, the person may be competent in a specific situation (i.e.,driving under normal conditions), but incompetent in a different one(i.e., driving in snow-covered roads).

After DE Ketele (1996), the following formula can illustrate the components of competence:

                     Competence  = {capacities x content} x situation
                                               = {objective} x situation

In the equality of de Ketele, we add accodances {}, to insist on the fact that it is about an integrated unit:it is not enough — to master competence — that the objectives arejuxtaposed, it is necessary that they interact to form a unified whole.The use of the sign "x" goes in the same direction: it is enough thatone of the terms has a zero value so that competence is null.
Anobjective is the exercise of a capacity (or activity) on contents. Forexample, to trace (capacity) two perpendicular lines (content).
An education focused on learning (mastering) competences, as opposed tothe simple juxtaposition of skills, is a requisite for theimplementation of a pedagogy of integration(Roegiers, 2000; 2nd edition 2001). The goal of such pedagogy is toenable the learner to master those situations he will have to deal within his professional and/or private life.

To this effect, pedagogy of integration has objectives:

  • Making sense of the learning process,by placing the learning process within a meaningful context that makessense to the student in relation to the real-life situations he needsto face in life, we will come back to this aspect later on;
  • Differentiating matters by relevance,focusing on the important, either because it is necessary and practicalfor daily life, or because it may become the basis for future learning;
  • Applying the learning to practical situations. Thismeans not just filling the student's head with knowledge, but teachinghim/her to relate the learned material to values - the learningobjectives -, such as becoming a responsible citizen, a competentworker, an independent individual. The student will consequently beevaluated within a complex scenario (Roegiers, 2004);
  • Associating the learned elements,and thereby responding to one of society's major challenges, which isto provide a child with the capacity to mobilize his/her knowledge andskills to deal effectively with daily situations, and hopefully evenwith unexpected ones. This fourth objective is based on the closeinterlinking of the preceding three objectives mentioned (process,relevance and application).

Some background: Two schools of thought about the pedagogy of integration

Thisis not the only way pedagogy of integration has been seen and developedby the different pedagogical communities throughout the world. In fact,there are at least two clear schools of thought about the subject.Their main differences relate to the emphasis given to either verticalor horizontal transfer of achievements. This is not a new debate andwas initially proposed and developed by Gagné in 1962. The verticaltransfer proposes that a student is not able to learn higher-orderskills without the previous mastery of their elements (Gagné, 1962 ;White & Gagné, 1974). The horizontal transfer, on the other hand,proposes that by solving several similar-level complex situations,provided they are presented in different contexts, the students learnto transfer.
In fact, Anglo-Saxon experts have mainly proposed anapproach based on the idea of performance, on students achievements.This school of thought emphasizes the importance of the verticaltransfer of contents more than any global integration in within theclass (Anderson, Reder & Simon, 1996, 1998).

On the other hand, in within the French-speaking school of thought ,there are two perspectives on the subject. Even though everyone agreesthat the "learning situations" are the center of the educationalprocess, in the two coexisting views inside this school of thought,different importance is given to the timing of these integrationsituations and their place in the whole learning process.

Forone of this two French-speaking pedagogical views, the importance ofteaching the student to learn through complexity will be mainlydeveloped through on-going "active" methods. The transfer effort hereis achieved in a global way and needs little structuring. (Fourez, 1999; Jonnaert, 2002 ; Jonnaert & Masciotra, 2004 ; Legendre, 2004 ;Meirieu, 2005 ; Meirieu & Develay, 1992).
In other words, themain idea here is to confront the child to a meaningful situation tomake him mobilize the skills he has, or is learning, all through outthe process. The focus is in the process of learning and applying theknow-how and other elements in permanent confrontation to meaningfulsituations, i.e., search for information, analyze information, explaininformation. Is what one of us calls "learn to dive before to swim"(Roegiers, 2005), mainly teaching the student through the use ofcomplexity based on a global and non structured horizontal transfer ofachievements.

Thesecond perspective in the French-speaking pedagogical community, is theone based on a more structured transfer, which highlights the linkbetween the different levels of complexity and the need of integrationas well (Péladeau, N., Forget, J. & Gagné, F. (2005).
Thisproposal is focused in the expected final profile of each studentrather than in the process itself (De Ketele, 1996 ; De Ketele &Gerard, 2005 ; Gerard, 2005 ; Miled, 2005 ; Roegiers, 2000, 2003, 2004). It aims at a structured and useful use of the integration situations.In fact, there is a structure to the learning path proposed and aspecific timing in which these integrative situations should appear.They are not an ongoing school activity, like in many experimentalschools of the previous view, but rather emerge at "key moments" tointegrate the learnt elements.

So, there is a first vertical transfer of contents and resources that is led and organized by the teacher and will normally follow a cognitive complexity schema.
In a second moment, and not before the previous content-transferringprocess has been successfully achieved, integration situations appearto facilitate the horizontal transferin specific contexts. These specific moments are what is called"integration week(s) or module(s)" and are proposed every 5 or 6 weeksof regular classes, the latter taught in a more or less "classic" waydepending on the teaching style of the teacher.

In these"integration week" the student is confronted to a series of integrativeactivities or situations aiming to help him transfer, acquire and keepthe contents, know-how and resources learnt in the previous weeks .The integrative situations can be presented in an individual or smallgroups-solving format for practice purposes, even thought eventually,they will all be evaluated in an individual way .
In a schematic manner, we could see the different approaches like this:

Figure 1: Main schools of thought and transfer emphasis

Some relevant and practical consequences

Knowingthat one of the main possibilities and problems of any pedagogicalreform or change is the resistance of the stakeholders involved, namelyteachers, this last implementing proposal allows certain changes totake place at their own pace.

In this last approach, based on an articulated integrative combination of both vertical and horizontaltransferring (View N°2), the importance of the role of the teacher, therespect for his/her particular pedagogical practices, is not at first,undermined. This is true at least in the first, more decisiveeducational reform or change stages. Teachers can, and do, continue toteach the way they are used to those first 5 or 6 weeks, whereas onlythe "integration module" is really new.

Even though withinthe competence approach this new integration modules are imposed, theyshould not represent a threat, neither to the teachers authority northeir identity. Their identity and legitimate role in the class room isnot questioned, each one developing the transferring part of theprocess in their own way .

Moreover,the cognitive objective of complexity acquirement through a verticaltransferring device is also assured given the fact that there is animportant part of the whole process allocated to that aspect. So, thelearning process of higher-order skills takes place in a specific,oriented manner and the integration of these skills and resources isprovided by more global, general and meaningful, integration modules.

Needlessto say, these are brief ideas that point out to the practical andconcrete possibilities and obstacles such a reform sometimes confronts.The effort of an educational reform based on the competencies approachshould consider not only methodology and integrative situations-basedpedagogy, but also adequate teacher training and textbooks development.Only the coordination of these several elements can assure a successfuland sustainable reform.

Having seen and reviewed the maindifferences in the articulation of some elements of the pedagogy ofintegration, the goal of the second part of this article is toillustrate - through a specific example - the practical possibilitiesand difficulties that such an implementation entails . The followingcase study is based on our experience e concerning the elaboration of aschool textbook under the pedagogy of integration logic in Vietnam.

A textbook: An obstacle to implement the integration approach?

Thetraditional textbook image is just about the opposite of theintegration concept. In fact, most people — teachers, parents,students, even authors — used to consider textbooks foremost and almostexclusively as a means of knowledge transmission. In this context, itwould suffice for such a textbook to merely state a number ofcontent-matters, one after the other, for the student to assimilatethem by simple memorizing and/or learning through a series of more orless similar exercises.

Knowledge transmission is, ofcourse, a function of textbooks. But they can — and must — fulfillother functions, to help in the integration of skills. A textbook canthus pursue seven different, complementary functions (Gerard &Roegiers, 2003):

Learning-related functions:

  • Knowledge transmission, e.g., communication of information to the student;
  • Development of skills and competences, to help acquire methods, attitudes, working and living practices;
  • Consolidation of achievements, via exercises;
  • Evaluation of achievements,not only to certify actual mastering, but also, from a formative pointof view, to diagnose difficulties and recommend corrective actions.

Functions related to domestic and professional life

  • Assistance with integration of achievements, so that the learner can extend his/her achievements to situations different from those faced during training;
  • Reference, i.e., to become a source of information for the student to resort to;
  • Social and cultural education, including achievements related to behavior, personal relationships and social life in general.

A textbook pursues several of these functions in a more or less clear way. Thus, a textbook oriented primarily to knowledge transmissionwill perform mostly as a reference function, and certainly as a tool ofsocial and cultural education in the long run. It will be mainlyoriented to reinforce vertical transfer of knowledge. If it alsointroduces practical exercises, the achievement of consolidation function will be present as well as the possibility to be used more as an horizontal transfer tool.

Froma pedagogy of integration point of view, a textbook should primarilypursue the function of development of skills and competences, as wellas contribute to the integration of achievements. It should berecognized that if such a textbook exists, it is in a minority ofcases. Here is at the same time a great research opportunity and aninteresting ground to build from!

Case study: The elaboration of a textbook in Vietnam


Froma quantitative viewpoint, the matter of textbooks in Vietnam isadequately developed. Textbooks are edited by the Education PublishingHouse, an agency of the Ministry of Education and Training. Every year,the Vietnam Education Publishing House issues 1.500 differenttextbooks, covering all the school cycle and all topics, for a totaledition of 90.000.000 units (Gerard & Roegiers, 1997). For the mostpart, these textbooks are written by authors from the Vietnam EducationPublishing House, or from the Educational Sciences National Institute.
According to officers from the Vietnam Education Publishing House, thetextbooks' pedagogic quality needs improvement in two aspects, e.g.:
on the one hand, current textbooks are almost exclusively oriented toknowledge transfer, with no links or relations among them;
on the other hand, there is a textbook for each topic for each schoolyear, a fact that does not facilitate creating links among thedisciplines and, moreover, leads to a plethoric multiplication oftextbooks.

In this context and within the framework of its co-operation program with Vietnam, in 1995 the European Commission assigned the Bureau d'Ingénierie en Education et en Formation(Education and Training Engineering Bureau BIEF, Louvain-la-Neuve) withthe mission to help develop a textbook implementing the principles ofpedagogy of integration.

The Vietnam Education PublishingHouse opted for a textbook on the topic of Discovery of Social andNatural Sciences, for the 4th basic grade (Dao, Bui, Nguyen, Nguyen,Gerard & Roegiers, 1996). The choice was based on the fact thatthese topics were covered in an experimental program, with an outlineof integration of disciplines. In fact, this program includes naturalsciences (physics, chemistry, biology) as well as "social" sciences(history and geography). Nevertheless, these topics remain partitioned— both in the program and in the schedule organization —, and if theprogram includes general objectives in terms of know-how and knowledge,it is essentially structured based on content, on knowledge to betransferred.

The textbook drafting process was entrustedto a multi-disciplined team integrated by a chemist from the ResearchDepartment of the Education Publishing House, as team coordinator, andby three researchers (a biologist, a geographer, and a historian) fromthe Educational Sciences National Institute.

Integrated textbook on social and natural sciences: a challenge

Theinitial approach was to increase the program's integration perspective.It was not a matter of fully redesigning this experimental program, butto reinforce and increase the scope of integrated development of skillsand competences.

In essence, this task has fine-tuned thegeneral objectives in terms of know-how and know-being, and hasstructured the program in terms of five core skills to be developed,plus the corresponding discipline.

These five core skillsstem from the typology of intellectual processes defined by D'Hainaut(1983), and may be considered essential in the development of ascientific approach:

  • being curious, asking questions;
  • seeking information (investigating);
  • processing the information;
  • communicating the information;
  • acting upon, realizing the projects.

Introducingthese capacities is interesting insofar as it enables the program tohave the two elements needed to define an objective, since — let's notforget — an objective is the exercise of a capacity upon content.

Definition of core competences and objectives

Onthe basis of this analysis, the team then defined the core competencesto be developed in the textbook. These core competences aimed atintegrating different fields and the contents of the program and wereassociated to a class of situation. Five competences were thus defined,with the fifth one formulated as follows

5.From a real-life experience or from a drawing depicting severalhealth-related problems, the student should be able to identify them,recommend adequate solutions, both curative and preventive, and relatethem within an environmental perspective.

The informedreader may think this is only one set of teaching objectives in theclassical sense of the word. Let's remember indeed that a competence isan integrated set of objectives that enables responding to anintegrative situation in a relevant manner. In order to master thiscompetence, the student will need to acquire a series of capacities(identify, recommend, associate) to be applied to the content(health-related problems, preventive and curative solutions,environment,), vis-à-vis a situation (presentation of a real-lifesituation, a complex drawing or another support).

Theobjectives that form the competences are shown in a specificationtable, as proposed by Bloom (Bloom, B.S., Hastings, J.Th.H. &Madaus, C.F. (Eds), 1971). A specification table shows the objectivesthat form competence. This is a double-entry table crossing on one handthe skills, or skill fields, necessary to master a competence, with, onthe other, the contents, or content fields, upon which these capacitiesare applied.

For example, Table 1 depicts the specification table that's was defined for the fifth core competence.

Table 1: Specification table of the fifth core competence




Light, water, air, and minerals

Plants and animals

The human body

Nature and the Vietnamese man

Vietnamese History

Being curious, asking questions

2. Explain what would happen to man if there were no light, water, air or minerals (salts)

1. Identify what makes a plant or animal to be healthy or unhealthy, and what are its needs.

3. Explain what happens when someone is sick

8. Explain, from geographical and/or historical elements, why it is important to live and dwell within a community.


4.Investigate how the human body can benefit from these external elements(living and inanimate) and from the exchange with the environment

9. Investigate if hygiene and health conditions are the same everywhere.

10. Investigate if hygiene and health conditions have always been the same.

Processing information

7.Explain what is necessary for man to keep in good health, at the levelof these elements and of the human body (pollution-free environment,hygiene, a healthy diet...)

11. Explain what happens in the human body, particularly at the nervous system level

Communicating information

5. Make a diagram showing the exchange between the human body and the environment
6. Make a diagram depicting the relationship in nature between organicand inorganic elements; and among organic elements

Acting, realizing projects

12.Develop posters with the 10 basic hygiene rules (researched by thestudents), and post them at school, the neighborhood, the village,... 

    Note: The heading of the objectives illustrates only imperfectlythe bond with the capacity concerned. Thus the verb "to explain" isconnected at the same time to the field capacities "being curious, toask questions" and with that "to process the data". It is of course themanner of implementing this objective which makes it possible todevelop one or the other capacity.

This specificationtable — whose level of difficulty should not be underestimated by itssimplicity — shows how developing core competences requires theintegration of the various skill fields aiming in that way at variousfields of contents. Indeed, to master competence, the student will needto perform a series of activities to help him/her master the skills ofthe different fields bearing on the contents of the various fields.

Likewise,the specification table also helps in the organization of thetextbook's sequence. The numbers place the objectives in sequentialorder according to a pedagogic teaching logic. "Stages of competence"were also defined for each competence — on the basis of a logical aswell as pedagogic analysis — in order to increase the integrationperiod. For example, for the fifth competence, the six prime objectivesform a major stage of competence.

When this task was completed, the authors defined the final integration objective .Indeed, the mastering of core competences should not be achievedseparately, i.e., not only each one individually, but also in anintegrated manner. In other words, the wholeness of competences shouldbe the ultimate integration objective, as defined by De Ketele,Chastrette, Cros, Mettelin & Thomas (1988).

The term "ultimate" means that the intention is to develop a synthesis for a full year or a full cycle.
The ultimate integration objective for the Discovery of Social and Natural Sciences textbook was defined as follows:

By the end of the 4th primary year, the child should be able to:
describe a situation relating to his/her local or regional environment;
with the use and support of charts, tables, diagrams, containing:
some geographical characteristics (climate, relief, pollution),
some human characteristics (economy, social organization, hygiene, human biology, historical elements),
some natural characteristics (plants, animals, minerals) ;
describe how some of these characteristics interact;
explain some of these characteristics in relation with past events, showing their importance for the Vietnamese people;
explain, through examples, how man can intervene to improve upon these situations.

Ideally,the ultimate integration objective should be defined before, and notafter, (defining) the core competences. It should be included in theprogram, developed from an integration standpoint. When such is not thecase, it is advisable to define it in the textbook.
The componentsof this ultimate integration objective were confronted with the fivecore competences to determine the extent in which their developmentallowed for its achievement.

Sequence Development

Thehandbook of discovery to social and natural sciences was divided into 6modules, corresponding to 5 basic competences and the final objectiveof integration. Each module itself is divided into "sequences" whichapproach each one a particular objective. These sequences cover one tothree work periods in the classes.

When thisparticularly difficult task was completed, the main textbook design wasdone by elaborating sequences respecting the work structure. To thatend, each objective was developed within one or more sequences. Forexample, Table 2 shows how the initial sequences for the fifthcompetence were structured.

Table 2: Sequence schema of the fifth core competence

Corecompetence: From a real-life situation or of a drawing showinghealth-related issues, the student should be able to identify them,recommend adequate preventive and curative solutions, and state themwithin an environmental context.



1. Identify what makes a plant or animal healthy or unhealthy and what it needs

(1) What plant does it need to live and develop normally?
(2) What animal does it need to live and develop normally?

2. Explain what would happen to man if there were no light, heat, air, or mineral substances (salts)

(3) What does man need to develop normally?

3. Explain what happens when someone is sick

(4) How do we feel when we are sick?

4.Investigate how the human body can benefit from these external elements(inanimate and alive) and exchange with the environment

(5) What does the human body use from the environment, and what does it reject from it?

5. Draw a diagram showing the exchange between the human body and the environment

(6) How is the metabolism scheme between the body and the environment?

6. Draw a diagram depicting the relations in nature between organic and inorganic elements, and among organic elements.

(7) What is the place of the food chain scheme in nature?.
(8) : Based on a drawing, identify health-related problems



Finally, it is all about one "table of contents" organized according to competences.

Thiswould be meaningless without implementation of the sequences where theskills and competences will really be able to develop. Essentially,each sequence contains a research activity drawn from all sort ofdocuments, containing precise instructions. This intends to mobilizethe student into an active process, individually or in small groups.Depending on the sequence, this introductory activity may be isaccompanied by a group discussion, structuring information, a summary,a game, by questions that make the student evaluate his/herachievements, or even by complementary information.

Thissequence structuring process facilitates the development of skills;that is, the progressive advancement towards achieving the objectives.But to develop the competence, it is still necessary to integrate them(the objectives). In addition, a sequence of integration is proposedafter a certain number of objectives, forming a "competence stage". Forexample, sequence 8 of module 5 proposes the following drawing,wherefrom pupils must identify several health-related problems:


Is it a necessarily contextual procedure?

Forthe Vietnamese education system, this textbook development stagerepresents a almost revolutionary innovation. During the 1996-1997school year, the Discovery of Social and Natural Sciences integratedtextbook was tested in several Vietnamese classrooms. A preliminaryevaluation (Gerard & Roegiers, 1997) revealed the relevance andeffectiveness of this pedagogic procedure, while simultaneouslydisplaying feasibility difficulties in the Vietnamese context, as wellas hints for the textbook's improvement. Responsible parties from theNational Institute of Educational Sciences were particularly insistenton the need to "vietnamise" the ideas underlying the textbook'sconception, both in its vocabulary and its approach to some concepts.This is about a major need to ensure survival of the procedure, beforeeven imagining its generalization.

It is particularlyimportant to be aware that — whatever the context of a reform — the‘entrance' by means of textbooks is not enough. Even when experienceshows that textbooks are one of the most effective means to renovate aneducational system (Braibant & Gerard, 1996 ; Mingat, Tan &Sosale, 2003), it also indicates that this cannot be separated from areflection on the curricula and the evaluation, not to mention theteachers' training. The link with the curricula is particularlyimportant: how can we develop textbooks that do not consider theofficial programs, or that may even be in contradiction with them? Thiswas a permanent concern in the projects' life, insofar as neither theconcepts of skill or competence, nor that of integration, are includedin the current Discovery of Social and Natural Sciences program. Inorder to privilege the essential over the accessory, the procedurerequires making some choices. It was with great relief that the authorsreceived the results of the preliminary experimental stage indictingthat the textbook did, in fact, considered (included) the officialprogram objectives.

It must also be recognized thatthis process is a true cultural shock. This is evident in a country asVietnam where - as stated by the chief editor of the Vietnam EducationPublishing House at the closing of the course evaluation seminar ,- until then, educators have been more concerned about what needs to betaught than how do it. Vietnamese educational practices are founded ontransmitting knowledge and expecting the student to be able toreproduce. In this context, the teacher is foremost one who explainsthe topic and makes demonstrations. The experimental application of thetextbook had an upsetting effect: a ‘material" upsetting because schoolbenches had to be redistributed to allow for team work, and "pedagogic"upsetting because — as they themselves admitted — the teachers had tochange to "organizers" and "discussion moderators". After a month'sexperience, they also noted that students were reluctant to work underthe "old" method, even when this applied for other subject matters.

These changes in teaching practices are not always easy, and the Vietnamese experience is certainly no exception.

A textbook that favors competence integration?

Thisprocedure seems to indicate that it is feasible to design a textbookoriented to the integration of competences. Such textbook can beanalyzed in terms of the four aforementioned integration pedagogyobjectives.

Making sense of the learning process

Throughoutall sequences, the student is confronted with actual, real-lifesituations to which he/she is expected to react. The textbook continuesto be a substitute for reality. It should not be forgotten, also, thatrarely can a competence be exercised in a classroom. The schoolprepares the student for the mastering (learning) of the competence,but seldom can it mobilize, and to an even lesser extent, evaluatethem. The school continues to be the par excellence place to ‘preparefor life', but never ‘real life"... (Gerard, 1997). However, a textbookcan have as goal to be as close to reality as possible, presentingmeaningful situations, that require the student to react to them eitherby analyzing them, transforming them, making sense of them, or assumingthem,...

Differentiating the essential from the less important

Oneof the major difficulties encountered by the authors was to identifyand select the truly relevant content matters. This was particularlythe case with History. The official program is built in achronologically, and — it must be recognized — is based on a war logic,or rather on a logic of occupation ,that includes all events and all characters that participated inVietnam's Independence fight. It was very difficult to approach thehistorical aspects from a thematic scope: for example, which were theevents or characters that took Vietnam to its current level ofprosperity?

We were able to develop the textbook froman integration viewpoint, and therefore, to choose "historical"options, because the group member who was a historian was convinced ofthe importance of these choices. However, there were several reactionsof clear reserve to the experimentation -- we were dealing with analmost sacred subject!

Practicing pedagogy ofintegration implies the need to make choices. And even if thisprinciple is evident in theory, it is not so at a practical level,because — ultimately — the question to be asked is: What is reallyimportant? And then, under which criteria? An evident subjectivitydoses intervenes at this level.

Learning to apply knowledge to practical situations

Atextbook on Discovery of Social and Natural Sciences is particularlysuitable to this objective. Helping the student to elaborate aboutpollution problems, health matters, economy, helping him/her toidentify environmentally sound solutions, helping him/her react in aconcrete manner to change his/her context... These are the privilegedobjectives of a course on discovery.

But pedagogy ofintegration should pursue this goal through the so-called "classical"subject matters, while simultaneously implementing "transversal",integrative activities so as to confront "classical" knowledge withreality.

The first aspect, based on the "classicalsubject matters" is addressed when — for example — a math textbookrequires that the student determine if a child should stay at school orgo home at lunch time (Gerard & Roegiers, 2003). To solve thesituation, the student must take into consideration economic and evennutritional criteria, and must also look at it from a value systemlevel. There are no absolute "good" answers. Isn't this "applyingknowledge in a situation"?

The second aspect, the"transversal integrative" activities include the many activities thathelp a student approach a situation as a whole, place him/herself init, and identify action alternatives by resorting to learnedinformation related to other fields, using mostly transversal skillsand competences. An interesting case is the development of activitiesthat pursue the goal of opening up to humanness, without limiting to a‘moral' or "religious" discipline, but by approaching this researchwithin the traditional curricula. Susan Fountain ‘s work "Education fordevelopment" (1995), is a good example of this approach.

Linking the learned concepts

TheDiscovery of Social and Natural Sciences textbook developed in Vietnamis a tool that takes this problematic to its limits. Indeed, thistextbook not only helps the student to develop links between variousconcepts, but these concepts are so basically interrelated that thedisciplines are successfully integrated. At no time, the student (oreven the teacher) knows if this is History, Geography, Physics,Chemistry or Biology,.... And these distinctions are of no importanceinsofar as what really matters is to approach an actual situation,analyze it, and create a response to the identified difficulties, byresorting to the whole series of knowledge and capacities.

Thispedagogic situation is certainly extreme. It can be explained by thefact that discovery of social and natural sciences is an ideal subjectto develop "interdisciplinarity", a concept originated in science(Lenoir & Sauvé, 1998; Maingain, Dufour & Fourez, 2002). Inorder to develop competence, to integrate knowledge, it is notnecessary to (absolutely) integrate all disciplines, even when doing soprovides clear and varied opportunities to develop competences.(Roegiers, 1997; 2nd edition 2004).

If subject matterintegration is not implemented at all cost in order to integrateknowledge, it is indispensable to stress the development of competencesthat enable students to confront situations of varied complexity,actual or simulated, that require interrelated mobilization of theacquired skills. That can be done not only through a textbook onDiscovery of Social and Natural Sciences, but also through textbooks onnative language, mathematics, foreign languages, etc, at all levels.

Is it a widely-applicable procedure?

Isthis a procedure liable to become general? We are far from thinkingthat all textbooks should be developed according to the model describedhere, since a textbook should also, and foremost, correspond to itsauthor(s)' actual project. It is however necessary to emphasize theimportance of competence development over the simple acquisition ofknowledge.

There are several ways of achieving thisobjective.. And the means to develop skills and competences, as well asto assist in the integration of achievements, are also multiple.

Two elements, however, are worth mentioning:

  1. Theconcepts introduced to the Vietnamese authors were entirely new tothem. Indeed, what was truly innovative were the practical procedureused to implement the theoretical concepts. Once the procedure wasintroduced, the authors were able to carry on with relative ease, ininterdisciplinary teams and with great satisfaction. This leads us tothink that this procedure can be easily transferable to many situations;
  1. AllVietnamese colleagues involved in the project, both from the VietnamEducation Publishing House and the Educational Sciences NationalInstitute, were unanimous in expressing their desire to extend theprocedure to all textbooks, not only to the Discovery of Social andNatural Sciences, but also to disciplines such as Vietnamese andmathematics. They also expressed, and with reason, the need to"vietnamise" the procedure (Gerard & Roegiers, 1997).

Forteachers, these textbooks become a chance of evolution in theirteaching practices in at least two ways. On one hand, these textbooksoffer concrete tips in how to decompartmentalize their teachings, often stillenclosed in a disciplinary logic. In the other hand, such textbooksgive concrete examples of integration situations, which can be sourceof inspiration for integrating other disciplines, and in so doing,sensibly improving the effectiveness of their teaching.

Lastly,it is important to point out the need to leave some degree of opennessin textbooks designed from the integrative point of view. We even thinkthat these textbooks should be as broad as possible. It is preferableto conceive them as a support, either to complement or to be used inmultiple ways, depending on the specific context. Textbooks shouldpropose situations requiring the contribution of elements from thestudent or the teacher for their solution. They should stimulateresearch and use of references. An open textbook is not used in alinear manner, from the first to the last page. It is designed to allowfor research and reference in one part or the other, according to need.
From this perspective, these textbooks are more a starting than an arrival point.


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     We understand French as the French-speaking countries (France, Belgium, Canada and Switzerland, among others).

  For more details about the Integration pedagogy and its methodology, please refer to Roegiers, (2000).

  Initial comparative analysis have already developed in terms ofeducational equity of the traditional and competence-based approaches(Letor & Vandenberghe, 2003).

Experience has shown that after this first stage, they progressivelystart to change their pedagogical practices on their own, to more(inter)active methods.

  The European Commission is the executive organization of the European Union. It is based in Brussels, Belgium.

  •   We present only some examples here in order to illustrate our matter.To situate it within the context , the other four core competencieswere:
  • 1) From a real-life experience or of adrawing depicting several pollution-related problems such as water, airand noise, the student should be able to identify them and recommendadequate solutions to this problems.
  • 2) Thestudent should be able to identify in a map of Vietnam weatherinformation given by the teacher such as temperature, wind directionand rainfall.
  • 3) The student should be ableto connect specific activities and characteristics of his/her regionand explain why he/she relates them.
  • 4) Thestudent should be able to describe the human, economic and culturalcharacteristics of his/her connecting them to historical events andgeographical conditions.
Also called Terminal Integration Objective (TIO).

  Evaluation Seminar organized by the Education Publishing House andsupported by the European Union, held in Quang Ninh, from the 18th tothe 20th December, 1996.

9  If the West still thinks the occupation of Vietnam was mainly Frenchor American, it is important to remember that for the Vietnamese, themain occupants have been the Chinese, who dominated them for more thanthousand years .