Teacher Bricoleur or Teacher Entrepreneur

Are the teachers mere followers of innovative trends in the classroom or true entrepreneurs that deeply transform education everyday? Are they artisans that are reinventing their work everyday or visionaries that use technology to change the way we learn?

Are the teachers “bricoleurs” or “entrepreneurs”?

Bricoleur is a French word described by Claude Lévi-Strauss in ‘The Savage Mind’ as “someone who works with his hands, using devious means. His universe of instruments is closed and the rules of his game are always to make do with ‘whatever is at hand’”.


bricolage Levi Strauss

Alex Beard from TeachUK once argued that “teachers will be bricoleurs” and that by 2030 “adaptations, mash-ups and bricolages will be the norm”. The teachers-bricoleurs will be “continuously using, adding to or adapting new resources for new learning needs, inviting peer-review and providing evidence of learning results”.

“Whatever is at hand” is exactly what the Israeli artist and educator Hanoch Piven experiences when engaging teachers in thinking about their practices as if they were bricoleurs experiencing the art of mash-up with everyday objects. Hanoch asks teachers to use objects in a distorted way in order to think creatively about what they do in the classroom, and why.

Hanoch and Alex reinvent Huberman’s vision[1] of a teacher “who is always busy, creating or repairing learning activities of different kinds with a distinctive style or signature”.

Bricolage is not  a second best solution neither for the teachers or the students but has to be central to creative thinking. In the words of Seymour Papert, “bricolage is a way to learn and solve problems by trying, testing, playing around”.

How do we combine “bricolage” and technology?

The bricoleur-teacher stimulates creativity in the classroom, in a much more powerful and sustainable way than through the use of technology alone. Jim Groom, in his evocation of The Glass Bees, reminds us that “teaching and learning are not done by technology, but rather people thinking and working together”.

In his article ‘Mashing up the Institution’, Hanley argues that the bricoleur-teachers will have to disrupt existing representations of teaching and learning by asking “students to make meaning through new conjunctions of sound, image, and text”.

Hanley asks what happens when teachers within public school systems think of themselves as bricoleurs rather than the users and clients of sophisticated Learning Management System that are increasingly used in schools to connect with students and parentsAnd he answers: “we’ll have to abandon our institutional identities as users and clients to embrace more inventive, experimental, self-conscious identities”.

The bricoleur-teacher will emerge as a strong figure in these times of changes when technology tries to make its way in the classroom and when at the same times schools face lack of resources and “the daily scramble for a dry-board marker that still has some ink in it.”

Teachers can no longer be seen, as Eileen Honan states it, as “policy-users who compliantly follow instructions and programs laid down by policy developers” but as “bricoleurs” that design artisanal solutions that will fit individual and community needs.

In the end the teacher bricoleur is the true innovator, the closest representation of a teacher entrepreneur.

And the good news is that there are many of them!


 [1] Huberman: the model of the independent artisan in teachers’ professional relations in: J.W. Little & M W. McLaughlin (Eds) Teachers’ Work : individuals, colleagues, and contexts (New York, Teachers College Press) 1993

This post is a revised version of a text published in this blog in June 2013.

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