Secrets of Harvard, the first universities

During graduation ceremonies in Cambridge.

Harvard, a myth! In 2011 again, the prestigious American university topped the Shanghai ranking. No fewer than 44 Nobel Prize winners, 46 Pulitzer Prize and eight Presidents of the United States emerged from its ranks. Harvard welcomes intellectual elite in its 10 faculties, ranging from medicine to art through the law and business. Sociologist Stephanie Grousset-Charriere worked there as a reader between 2004 and 2008, which enabled him to discover within the "Harvard system". And, first, that there are teachers.

Its own recruitment was immediately confronted with the requirements of the university. "My application was accepted after four interviews of more than half an hour each, with the director of the department and three teachers," said the sociologist, who has learned from this experience a book entitled The Hidden Face of Harvard (The French Documentation, 232 p., 19 €). Its mission statement was clear: "At Harvard, we do not form students, we also form their teachers, shaping the image they should back off. We do not have the right to be sick, and even with 39 ° C fever, it provides courses; must be well dressed, smiling, comely, and lead by example. Punctuality, friendliness, helpfulness, understanding, efficiency, availability, skills, performance, discipline are all qualities attributed to the character of the teacher. "

The course starts with a pre-back docking week intensive training of new teachers. The first course is filmed and analyzed: "We are taught to live in space, to put us in front of the office, scan the whole class." During a semester, beginning teachers receive training in science education. How interactive course, arise, raise questions, how to use documents and computer media. "The courts must please. It is not necessary that students get bored and we must always ask ourselves, how will received my course? This question I was ever asked me when I was teaching in France, concerned only the course content, "says Stephanie Grousset-Charrière.

After prérentrée, it's time for the shopping weekend, a week during which students make their market among the 900 courses offered. This is who will convince: "It is important to achieve during its first witness and to be chosen by enough students for the course to be maintained, otherwise it is deleted without hesitation." Each teacher must know all students by name and receive individually in his office. "During the interview, a link is created that breaks anonymity, but more importantly dropped shyness, on both sides, including that of the teacher, that my French colleagues have trouble recognizing. On this occasion, the student and the teacher choose and engage each other to provide the best to their joint success. "

At Harvard, teachers and students assess each other. At the end of each semester, students who have the power to record their teachers, they drop 4 or 4.5 out of 5, to see, too, bestowed a degree, the Derek C. Bok Award, presented during a ceremony with cake and champagne.

But the most confusing for a French or European teacher at Harvard, is the mode of scoring of student work. On the Boston campus, the notion of average does not exist and assessments must always be positive and constructive. "Never belittle students. The uncompromising tone, admitted in our country, is not practiced in the American system. We do not say: "No, that's wrong," but "here uneerreur interesting trying to understand where the confusion does not repeat," observes sociologist. I saw some of my colleagues disappointed that their contract is not renewed because they were deemed too harsh, too sharp, ie, too French, "she says.

Teacher of French civilization in the Department of Romance Languages, Stephanie Grousset-Charrière little observed link teachers with business at Harvard. However, Stephan Bourcieu, current CEO of the Business School of Dijon-Bourgogne, MDP graduate of Harvard Management department. He remembers the proximity of teachers with the economic environment. "The courses were taught by teachers very aware of the business, often also business consultants. These teachers obviously have their students real case studies. " One of the keys to teaching at Harvard by Stephan Bourcieu stressing that "when you look at five or six cases per day, you gain a real corporate culture."

The university has a capital of 30 billion managed by one hundred professionals versed in the intricacies of financial markets. Tuition fees are, of course, raised at a rate of 43,600 dollars per year, but the contributions of former students (Alumni) are generous. "In return implied, some of these children have in turn benefactors of education at Harvard. Unacknowledged privilege or typical pattern of social reproduction? "Asks Stephanie Grousset-Charrière. However, the university implements many methods of financial support for premium excellence in the selection criteria. This year, only 5% of applicants were admitted Harvard.

"What struck me was the excellent student-teacher ratio, with one teacher for 8-10 students in schools that are human-sized, welcoming between 2500 and 3000 students. The courses are very open, almost à la carte, with a large multidisciplinary curriculum leading to the original. This avoids specialize too fast for 18 year olds who are not asked to already have a professional project completed. Teaching methods are very interactive, "said the director of the ESC Grenoble, Jean-François Fiorina, who visited three of the 259" colleges "elite that provide undergraduate students by issuing" bachelor's "(equivalent to our licenses). He bases his observation on the Smith College, Amherst College and Wellesley College where he studied Hillary Clinton. The entrance is almost as selective as Harvard with 10,000 candidates for 500 to 700 seats.

Can we import this system in France? "Hardly, meets Stephanie Grousset-Charriere, but I realize that I used my teaching experience in my classes in Toulouse, sparking debate and interaction that students enjoy, as they are very demanding examples concrete and links to news. "

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