Volume:8, Issue: 1

May. 1, 2016

Prerequisites for a pedagogical support concept in the research and practice of Oleg Gazman
Mikhaylova. Nina N. [about] , Polyakov, Sergey D. [about]

KEYWORDS: O.S. Gazman, a pedagogical support, social education, ability for freedom.

ABSTRACT: The paper provides a brief report about the research of one of the most prominent Russian educators of the late 20th century – Oleg S. Gazman. It describes Gazman’s research search, which brought him to the understanding of the ability for freedom and pedagogical support.

Oleg Semenovich Gazman (1936-1996) is one of the most prominent Russian researchers and experts in the sphere of the personality-oriented education in the 1980-1990s.

Gazman graduated from Novosibirsk Pedagogical Institute, a well-known Russian school of education, which trained such renowned scholars and researchers as N.P. Anikeeva, E.N. Goryukhina, and S.A. Shmakhov. Oleg Gazman belonged to this group. A significant part of Gazman’s research career was his work on the dissertation supervised by L.I. Novikova. She introduced many new names and trained a great number of gifted and well-known scholars, who made an enormous contribution to the Russian social education theory and practice. As is well-known now, L.I. Novikova headed a research team focusing on the problems of the collective and personality including opportunities of an individual’s development in a group and in conflict situations between an individual and the group.

Later, in the 1990s, Gazman considered the aforementioned problems to be some kind of a source in developing his ideas of an individual ability for freedom, which is understood as a an ability to make an intentional and responsible step away from the imposed beliefs and attitudes, into the zone of the so-called moral choice. Gazman’s primary interests correlated with historical and educational issues, a research of the collective as a subject of social education, and the development of a game theory within the theoretical education boundaries. Gradually, all those ideas helped Gazman develop his own original concept of ‘a pedagogical support’ [1,2]. This concept, developed by Gazman in the 1990s, proved a major theoretical and practical achievement as well as the discussion site in the new (Russian) education reality.

A pedagogical support implies the possibility and necessity of a special pedagogical work aimed at developing students’ abilities to solve their life problems or, in other words, to become subjects (constructive and active initiators) when facing life challenges. That was quite a new idea in the 1990s.

If to consider Gazman’s previous research interests, it seemed rather unusual that the scholar turned his attention to issues of students’ individual problems. Gazman’s most crucial theoretical and practical results, obtained by the early 1990s, focused on the issues of collectiveness, which included the analysis of the early 20th century papers related to the spirit of camaraderie and the development of a temporary children’s collective as a subject of social education; educational potential of group games; development and conceptualization of collective creative educational practices (the so-called “communards’ pedagogy”[4]). However, a closer look at Gazman’s publications of that time shows that the ideas of the personality, individuality and students’ subjectness were always present in his team-oriented research and practices.

While analyzing publications of the early 20th century educators, Gazman paid attention to the “empathy method” discussed by V. Dering. However, while Dering implied empathy in the atmosphere of the school class, Gazman used this concept in the student’s condition during a problem situation.

Appealing to Anton S. Makarenko, Gazman brought back for further research ‘the feeling of self-respect’ and ‘the ability for orientation’ [1, 115]. Again, if Makarenko means the characteristics of style and tone of the collective, Gazman goes beyond it to describe the characteristics of the personality aimed at solving his/her problems.

In the 1970s Gazman was Head of the Mayak (beacon) youth camp. Describing his youth camp experiments, Gazman repeatedly came back to the idea that children’s desire to change something in their lives needs ripening, so sometimes we have to wait for such ripening. That idea was also applied in the method of an individualized work with a child in the context of a pedagogical support.

The Mayak-based experiments emphasized one more idea related to a pedagogical support. In his opinion, it is necessary to create situations for the development of children’s personalities. Such situations will be perceived by children as situations of freedom. According to Gazman, that was the main purpose of games.

Speaking about pedagogical support and an ability for freedom, it is not a subject of a game but, rather, of an innovation, which is born when a child develops subjectness when relating to his or her life.

Records of pedagogical discussions of Mayak teachers provide (although just randomly) quite a few ideas which later became part of ‘an ideology’ and ‘a methodology’ of a pedagogical support: “Each child… should be given personal goals”, “learn to analyze his/her own actions,” and the idea of agreement [1, 160-161].

In the late 1980s – early 1990s Gazman was actively participating in the movement of creative educators, first uniting around Uchitelskaya Gazeta (Teachers' Gazette), later around the Shkola (School) temporary research team and the Pedagogical Innovations Institute of the Russian Academy of Education where Gazman headed the Social Education Innovations Laboratory.

In his papers of those years the theme of a personality development or the development of individuality gained its priority while the theme of collectiveness became a background, a tool, a form, which encompasses the development of a personality.

It is in those years that we witness the emergence of Gazman’s key pedagogical maxims correlating with the ideas of the creative educators’ movement leaders: “the meaning of education is to help a child in his/her self-determination,” “a respect for dignity and personal identity of an individual, and attention to his individual fate,” “to be independent in choosing one’s way of activity,” “willingness and ability for self-determination in life,” “developing a man’s culture to his own self…, his health and way of life” [1, 48-51].

These quotes require three additional remarks.

Firstly, these are the quotes from Gazman’s 1989 paper, which was published only in 2002. It is not clear why it was not made public in those years. The ideas from this paper probably did not get their development until the 1990s. Actually, in 1988 and 1989 some other themes were more appealing in Gazman’s public discourse: a renewal of creative collective social education, civic education, and creative democratic self-governance.

Secondly, in the second half of the 1980s the growing popularity of self-determination reflected the shared interest of Russian psychologists and educators focused on psychology and excited by Abraham Maslow’s and Carl Roger’s ideas of “humanistic psychology”.

Thirdly, the ideas of self-determination and support in one’s individual development were studied by some scholars from Novikova’s scientific school – in the 1970s, K.V. Verbova and A.V. Mudrik and, later, O.S. Gazman.

However, that was not the “mainstream” of the Soviet-Russian theory of education research. Those papers could most likely be the forerunners or precursors of something which could be used as a starting point in the renewal of the scientific education discourse in the situation of the 1990s.

The activity models of a full-time homeroom teacher, developed by Gazman’s research team and then experimentally tested in a number of Russian schools in 1991[1, 183-205], created a specific bridge to the support pedagogy. The initial concept of a full-time homeroom teacher meant that if, according to new social value-based orientations, a “shift to individualized personal work with each student, protecting his/her interests and help in solving the student’s problems” is promoted as one of the key aspects in social education, then it is necessary that such work be among the teacher’s functional responsibilities and become an essential part of his/her standard activity.

When describing various spheres of such an educator (health, fellowship, learning, leisure, lifestyle), Gazman introduces “individualized work of the homeroom teacher” into each sphere. The preface to The Guidelines for a Full-time Homeroom Teacher contains a generalized formula that correlates with the 1988-1989 publications: “To create conditions to develop… abilities for self-determination, self-realization, and self-development” [1, 193]. However, some sections of the Guidelines also contain another formula, which would play the key role in the concept of a pedagogical support: a homeroom teacher “strives to understand, identify his/her [child’s] problems and help to solve them” [1, 195].

Now there was only one step to the idea of a pedagogical support as a special social teacher’s activity, properly equipped in terms of its methodology. That step was probably taken in 1993-1994. At least, the 1994 publication, Social Education as the Development of the Personality provides an accurate definition of a pedagogical support as a separate teacher’s activity:

“As individualization becomes prioritized, there appears the need to single out a specific pedagogical process to ensure such individualization, i.e., to help a child and support him/her in his/her individual development and self-development. The system of a pedagogical support should also include psychological, social and medical support as all of them are integrated by educational institutions...” [1, 67].

In later publications (starting from 1995-1996) a pedagogical support, its foundations, methodology, and practices were increasingly becoming a more, if not the most, crucial ones in the general field of Gazman’s theoretical and practical interests.

Here are a number of some latest results of Gazman’s scientific and public activity:

  • He was one of the first Russian educators who drew attention to the dialectic contradiction between socialization (inclusion in…) and individualization (withdrawal from…).
  • School as the key institute of children’s socialization is focused on the processes of inclusion into socialization and, according to Gazman, demonstrates a painful reaction to the individualization results.
  • Education and child’s development are above any political interests; so it is dangerous to involve children into any political events and adults’ movements.

A significant achievement of Gazman’s research team was the implementation of the TRIO international project (Russia, USA, Netherlands, and Great Britain) to study educational  activities to solve children’s problems. The project made it possible to correlate the ideas of a pedagogical support with the contexts of somewhat similar work in other countries and thus, obtain a better understanding of its foundations and opportunities for development.

After Gazman passed away, there were still quite a few unanswered questions related to pedagogical support left. What is the methodology of a pedagogical support? Who and how should be prepared for it?  How can it be combined with other pedagogical activities, say, academic and social education?

During the period from 1996 to 2001, already without Oleg Semenovich Gazman, his colleagues took part in a new international project, ARTE. Actually, those were the same people who, together with teachers from experimental schools, participated in the TRIO. The new project was aimed at the attempt to understand how to teach educators that they would fully accept the notion of children’s right and ability for freedom and also provide support to children in problem situations [2; 3].


  1. Gazman, O.S. (2002). Neklassicheskoe vospitanie: Ot avtoritarnoy pedagogiki k pedagogike svobody [Non-classic social education: From authoritarian pedagogy to the pedagogy of freedom]. Moscow: MIROS.
  2. Mihaylova, N.N., and S.M. Yusfin  (2001). Pedagogika podderzhki [Pedagogy of support]. Moscow: MIROS.
  3. Mikhaylova, N., Yusfin, S., and S. Polyakov (2002). Using action research in current conditions of Russian teacher education. Educational Action Research, 10 (3), 423-448.
  4. Polyakov S.D. (2015). Kollektivnoe tvorcheskoe vospitanie: perezagruzka [Collective creative education: a reboot]. Moscow: Sentyabr'.

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