R. Andres1, S. Malpel2, N. Pinsard1, E. di Scala3, P. Ricaud2, S. Narbonnet2

1ESPE Institute (FRANCE)
2CIMEOS laboratory (FRANCE)
3CIMEOS Laboratory and ESPE institute (FRANCE)
There have been numerous studies on the representations of cancer among patients or the general audience [1,2] while on the other hand, only a few works specifically spoke about the school population. This study aims to question how the representations of cancer are developed among pupils, subject to both academic and extracurricular environments (familial and peer exchanges, media discourses).

The questioned sample is composed of 83 pupils in Year 12, then in Year 13 with a specialisation in sciences. The representations come from a corpus of 75 items identified through questionnaires. Their evolution was measured by counting up the number of times each item was quoted between T1 (before a lesson on cancer), T2 (right after the lesson) and T3 (one year after the lesson).

It was noticed in T1 that the existence of initial representations could only come from the extracurricular environment as cancer had never been tackled before at school. Moreover, almost half of these representations are still persistent in T3 despite the lesson on cancer. These representations reflect the pupils’ awareness on different types of cancer (bones cancer, breast cancer …). However, an erosion of this awareness is noted in T2 and T3 in favour of a less differentiated conception of cancer. Finally, new items appeared between T1 and T3 which can only be explained as a result of the academic environment.

These results showed that the academic environment is not the only factor that determines the pupils’ representations but that the discourses issued from the extracurricular environment also need to be taken into account.

The didactic model (aiming to substitute knowledge to representations) cannot explain by itself the representations’ genesis, neither the elaboration of knowledge nor their mutual relations. Thus, another model must rise and take into account the pupils’ cognitive environment beyond the academic sphere, including the information available in the media.

[1] Bacqué M.-F. et al. (2009). “Cancer : Images, croyances et représentations”. Contact Santé. N° 228.
[2] Guilbert P. et al. (2006). Baromètre cancer 2005. Editions INPES. 201 p.