definition “Institutional pedagogy”


Institutional Pedagogy

in Encyclopédie  Universelle. Paris : 2005, 2 p.

    The institutional pedagogy was born in 1958. At least its “guaranteed vintage”, by Jean Oury and Fernand Oury, at the congress of the Freinet movement that took place that same year in Paris. Jean Oury then explicitly referred to “institutional psychotherapy” (1952) and to this historical thought movement that aims to relocate the human being at the core of institutions that found and regulate society (1936).

    “I want to remind a remarkable event that contributed to transform the hospital radically: when we introduced a Freinet press, of a small size, borrowed from a neighbouring school.  With the help of a few patients, we started to print a bulletin.  The few points I mentioned : press, club, workshops, will be sufficient, I hope, to picture for you the frame of our everyday tasks.It is in this state of mind that I proposed, a few years ago, the term “institutional pedagogy”, thinking it is not by accident that these big architectures pose the same problems at the same time…”Jean Oury).

    Actually, we must consider that success and failures of each of us are built at three identity levels: family and social history, “institutional” situations, of course in the family, the school and the professional environment, and individual personality, its psychology and its behaviours. And that institutional situations concentrate the psychic and social daily problematic of the human being. From there, the simple and structuring idea of considering the institutions themselves as psychic places, and afterwards come back to them, “rectify” them, “asepticise”(clear) them (Célestin Freinet), in order to make them less harmful and, hopefully, to authorize subject and speech to merge.

    “What do we mean by “institution”? The single rule that makes it possible to use a soap without quarrelling is already an institution.  The whole of the rules allowing to define what “can or cannot be done” in this peculiar place, at this precise moment, what we call the laws of the classroom, is another one” (Fernand Oury).

    Institutional pedagogy and psychotherapy are determined to make life places out of our institutions, each of these institutions being specific, to educate, to teach, to train, to product, to serve, but at the same time remaining the real ordinary context of professionals and users.

    Fernand Oury, a teacher who had not been trained in a normal school (teachers school), happens to be teaching after World War Two, from one day to the other, in the Parisian suburbs, where he was born (1920).  In the excitement of liberation, he will be trained on the job, using what he knows, expression techniques, group work, group dynamics, known in the holiday camps and validated by the success of institutional psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.  The school, the classroom are institutions like the others, where it is necessary to remain specific, as we said, but without forgetting that there is a group there, micro-groups of interests even, human groups, and that conscience and reason don’t allow to escape to the eruption of the unconscious.

   To learn is never given, it is not enough to teach. What kind of acknowledgement is supporting the “badly cultivated “pupil in the master’s school? Who knows where motivations and desire are hidden?  Even at school, we remain in society.

    Techniques, groups, unconscious! One can measure what a complex knowledge is requested nowadays to teach and educate.  Institutional pedagogy, indeed, overlaps the school and the classroom and is located in social work and educative institutions as well. Its solid frame and organisational strength make it a pedagogy of violence contention as much as of protection of the individuals, allowing and liberating learning, training, work.  It tells us that Spaces, Limits and Laws, shared, allow a common Language.  Intelligence feels better if there is security.  Desire, paradoxically, likes law.

    The “active” classrooms initiated by the Freinet movement (using the cooperative board, the journal, correspondence, free text, going out of the classroom for surveys (interviews), trades), get “into analysis” with institutional pedagogy, leaving plenty of room to the group and the individual.

    There are nowadays thousands of classrooms in Europe, and even worldwide, that are inspired by the Freinet pedagogy and by Fernand Oury.  There are also schools, like La Neuville (Seine-et-Marne).  And training groups keep proposing workshops, follow-ups, interventions.

    French school and institutions go through a crisis and must more than ever rethink their work ethic and their life quality from a social point of view.

   Because, as says Jean Oury, head doctor of the clinic of La Borde (Cour Cheverny), institutional psychotherapy and pedagogy “are the same thing”.                      For sure, to treat mind and thought is to treat everyday life.


Starting from institutional pedagogy and psychotherapy,

1-Prevent and manage the violence situations in re-educative and social institutions.

2-Understand and situate the institutional system (plan of action) in re-educative work as a first term in the management of everyday violence situations.



The notion of institution is historical and problematic.

Triangulation.  From dual relationship to mediating third:

The institutional relationship is a social relation (connection) mediated by educative, therapeutic, administrative instances.


The founding law of respect is so to speak statutory and associative.

The collective:

Social groups and professional categories of the institution cooperate to the mental and healing health of everyone.

Reference theories:

Institutional psychotherapy (1952)

Institutional pedagogy (1958)

Institutional analysis

Work tools:

The council – the culture of speech:

Institutions talk (speak) insofar as there exist places of listening.

Places – Limits – Rules – language:

Places built and protected by limits authorize ordinary everyday life rules in society; from there speech can raise and make sense

Zero degree:

No one is beyond his institutional status.

As such:

    It is from this status that the role can take place and decide.

Negotiable-non negotiable:

    The principles and ethics of the institution are not negotiable.  The procedures, the method, are.


    The concepts are exposed, transposed and adapted to the everyday functioning of the institution, and appropriated by the team members at their own level.

    They will be dealt with in micro-monographic studies restudied internally and re-dealt with in the intervention.

    The point is to make the team members aware of the link between concepts and practice, in a collective efficiency.

Institutional Pedagogy as answer to violence?

Institutional pedagogy allow to content violence and violent situations, by using frame, laws and rules, and by organizing human relationships through Institutional structure and mind, giving place and space to everything and everybody.

    Violence : etymological variations.

Let’s differentiate and bind three notions :

aggression, aggressiveness, violence. 

What is common is an attempt to reach someone else.
    Aggression etymologically comes from this movement that carries us to something, or someone, from the step that brings us on the other’s territory, to say this tension (and the fear) of the encounter.  Nothing problematic in itself but the strength and fragility of the human relationship just freed from animal condition. One knows it needs rituals, procedures, boundaries and respect.  Otherwise it becomes an “aggression”, instead of a step towards.  But etymology (agredire) gives us at once the two opposite anthropological sides of the “relationship”.

    By aggression, following an American synthesis, I mean the “vital assertiveness of the self” when, at the same time, one has to deal with others, with “otherness”.  It has to do with “ethodefense”.   So, we can see that aggression will be played in a precise situation, in the psychosociology of a particular moment, and that it marks the limits of human beings and an archaic, more than instinctive come back.  It is reaching under influence, under conditions, a gesture to get in touch with the other. It implicitly gets its evocative power into the supposed roots of mankind, and that is precisely its problem.  Therefore, it is a bald fact, a fundamental.

    Aggressiveness nowadays means everything and nothing, and has become banal to a point where it tells more about the social climate than anything else.  I see it as the capacity of aggression, so to speak the potential of self-assertiveness in a given situation. As usual, it’s neither totally positive nor negative; there is as much assertiveness as brutality.  Aggressiveness is a reactional attack relation, and simultaneously disengaging, in the human proximity.  It is vital, of a factual vitality taken at her centre.

    The notion of violence, for its part, could at first sight seem clear.  Etymology gives “use of strength”; use of physical strength; physical use of strength.  In the root of the word itself, there is, again, a positive connotation: a radically human energy, in particular that of mankind, this straight animal, standing, voluntary, vulnerable.  But using this strength is another story, the whole history of humanity, where violence is constant, conscious, organised, in most of the cases.  Violence is a culture, with its rites, its rituals, its norms, its figures, a properly human culture, where desire denatures aggression, in order to destroy better. 

    Violence is a conscious attack of the other, beyond specific ethodefense : socially, it always tends towards destruction, consciously or unconsciously.  Violence is a pathology of aggressiveness.

    Thus, aggression is related to the maintaining of identity, to assertive repetition, functioning blindly, whereas violence belongs to the enterprise and intention of harming, within an intersubjective culture of destruction.  These are thresholds of “relationship” and society  that allow understanding.

Coming back to bullying, I’ll say that “violence, it is abuse of power at school, at home, at work” or, more radically, that “violence is abuse in any way and in any place” (Pain, 1998)

… We will define as violence, violent actions or attitudes, or experienced as violent, i.e. using direct or indirect strength, constraint, or allowing them.  Or also actions or attitudes, open or diffuse, of “institutional maltreatance” (abuse) (Pain, 1987, 1992, 1997, 1999).

Towards a reference scale of violence (2004)

Penal violence                                                    Attitudinal violence


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