Educational research: in a teacher’s shoes

An urban exhibition invites passers-by to take on the role of a teacher in a vocational training school. The objective is to demonstrate the challenges in a tangible way and to explain methods developed for overcoming them.

Young apprentices are not always wild about going to class: more often what motivates them is the practical aspect of their future occupation. But to obtain their CFC (Federal Certificate of Capacity), they have to attend class at a vocational training school once or twice a week. For their teachers, the challenge is daunting.

New research hopes to help teachers to attract students’ attention and get them to participate. A team headed by Jean-Louis Berger, professor and specialist in vocational training at the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET), investigated the issue. Between 2015 and 2016, the researchers surveyed 94 classes of apprentices at six institutions in western Switzerland. The goal was to identify the most motivating attitudes and methods among teaching staff.

The findings from this work are currently being exhibited in the context of an urban exhibition titled FOCUS. The exhibition is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation’s Agora programme, which encourages scientists to share their research with the public. Consisting of ten boxes that look a bit like pinball machines, the exhibition invites passers-by to step into a teacher’s shoes. Between September 2018 and May 2019, the exhibition will be travelling to different vocational schools and several cities in the six French-speaking cantons.

Understanding conflicts in the classroom

“Each box presents the public with a challenging teaching situation,” explains Berger. “The issues range from the use of smartphones in the classroom, to conflict between students, to low class participation. Wooden flaps display various solutions that visitors can choose. By lifting the flaps, visitors discover how their choice will affect the students. This is an innovative way of revealing the findings from our research on motivational instruction.”

In Lausanne, at Place de la Louve, the exhibition is stoking curiosity. “For us, the reason for presenting FOCUS in cities is also to bring the education debate out into the open. Moreover, it serves to make parents of students, students themselves and teachers aware that research is being carried out in this area and that teaching is evolving.” It is also aimed at the vocational school community, where teachers are deeply interested in how their behaviour influences students’ motivation.

From time to time the exhibition organisers will also hold roundtable discussions to discuss the issue with teachers, apprentices and the public.


The SNSF’s Agora programme has been supporting dialogue between researchers and the public since 2011. Public events organised as part of Agora projects can now be viewed on a map. Link Icon