Volume:7, Issue: 2

Aug. 1, 2015

Lyudmilla Novikova’s Scientific School
Mudrik, Anatoly V. [about] , Selivanova, Natalia L. [about]

KEYWORDS: a theory of the collective, school collective, character building, systems’ approach, synergetics, schools of young researchers, theory of educational systems.

ABSTRACT: This essay is devoted to the late Lyudmilla Ivanovna Novikova, an outstanding Russian scholar and a wonderful personality. Her colleagues, renowned educators, former students and followers talk about the formation of Novikova’s scientific school, its challenges and professional achievements.


In many respects, an individual life is influenced by meetings with other people who might make a serious impact on their professional career and relationships with friends and colleagues. But there are some special people meeting with whom might define your destiny. One of such destiny-makers was Lyudmilla Ivanovna Novikova (1918-2004).

Lyudmilla Novikova was born on January 22, 1918 in the town of Gorky, Byelorussia. She graduated from the Mechanics and Mathematics School, Moscow State University. After the graduation and until the end of her life she was closely connected with public education. Novikova began her career as a teacher of mathematics. During the Great Patriotic War she was evacuated to the Altai region where she taught mathematics, physics, astronomy, field hygiene, and German at one of the local schools. She was constantly trying to be enlisted in the army as she had completed the program for military field nurses. However, due to the lack of teachers her request was rejected. In 1944, she was appointed Principal of a secondary school in the Moscow region.

Since 1951 Lyudmilla Novikova worked at the Russian Academy of Education. She literally climbed the career ladder all the way up starting from postgraduate classes and finishing as an elected active member of the USSR Academy of Education (in 1990) and later on, starting from 1993, as an active member of the Russian Academy of Education.

Lyudmilla Novikova remained a recognized and noted leader of a scientific school that was originally started in 1964 at the Collective and Personality research department within the Research Institute of Theory and History of Pedagogics of the USSR Academy of Education.

In 1997, Novikova became one of the first laureates of the RF President’s prize in education. Her awards include medals of Konstantin D. Ushinsky and Anton S. Makarenko, the Labor Vetaran medal, the Pedagogical Society of Russia badge of honor, and the USSR Expert Educator title. The Russian Government commended Novikova’s achievements in science by awarding her the Second Degree Order of Merit for the Homeland.

Lyudmilla Novikova was always known for her passion to innovative ideas, often taken from other areas of human social sciences. She got immense help and support from her close co-worker and friend, Alexander Timofeevich Kurakin, and her sister and philosopher Lydia Ivanovna Novikova. Alexander supplied Lyudmilla with ideas from books written during the end of the “Khrushchev thaw” in the 1960s. Lydia, being part of the research environment, was constantly bringing home “latest news” from philosophers, methodologists, and historians of science.

Whenever Lyudmilla Novikova found an idea, relevant and worthy for education theory, she would focus on it, take pains to explore all its educational aspects, write papers and brochures, hold panels and symposia, and overcome any possible barriers to make herself heard at the Institute’s Board of Academics, department meetings, and even the Presidium of the Academy of Education.

It should be noted that alongside with studying the theory of the collective, Lyudmilla Novikova also actively used it in practice, creating a strong collective out of her fellow researchers. Not a single day would pass away without discussing some research problem or somebody’s thesis, etc. There used to be a certain order of discussion: the first-year doctoral students would start, followed by the second- and third-year students, and only afterwards the floor would be given to junior and senior researchers. Lyudmilla Ivanovna would conclude the discussion usually with some unexpected and thought-provoking idea.

As early as in 1967-1968, Lyudmilla Novikova and Alexander Kurakin began to study the systems’ approach and the principles of management in education, culture and character building (in terms of cultural studies), interrelation of theory of education and Jean Paul Sartre’s existentialism. Indeed, the life of their innovative ideas is truly impressive and worth mentioning. As a rule, the first reaction would be an active disapproval. But later on, the situation would develop according to a well-known joke: first, everyone would say that it was nonsense, then – harmful, and finally there would be a unanimous “Hurray!” and “Of course, we knew it was great from the very start!” (If we look at papers and books published on the topic of a systems’ approach from the mid-1970s, we will find any name but Novikova and Kurakin).

There was an even more ridiculous situation with synergetics. During a discussion of Novikova’s paper on this subject at the Presidium of the Academy of Education, one philosopher was indignantly reproaching her for “dragging “energetics” into education. In fact, he was not alone. However, after the 1990s, judging by the doctoral research papers, practically everybody was exploring that subject but for… Novikova.

Novikova spent a lot of time and effort trying to set up various relationships between individual scholars and research teams. Her research laboratory often gave the floor to the systemologist Erik G. Yudin, sociologists Vyacheslav L. Glazychev, Igor S. Kon, etc. She managed to invite guest speakers who were rather “exotic” for those days: Manfred Vorwerg, a well-known social psychologist from Eastern Germany, or Alicia Kuchinsky, philosopher from Poland. There was a close and institutionalized cooperation with Russian psychologists as well. In the early 1970s, the Presidium of the Academy of Education set up a Scientific Council focusing on the “collective and personality” issues. The Council’s co-chairmen were Heino Liimets and Artur Vladimirovich Petrovsky (the latter was an active Academy member and a secretary of the Psychology Department). They were later on replaced in both positions by Alexey Aleksandrovich Bodalyov.

Being a deputy for the aforementioned chairmen, Lyudmilla Novikova, served as a true engine of the Council which held regular symposia and gathered teachers, psychologies, sociologists, and philosophers from Moscow, Leningrad, Tartu, Tallinn, Kiev, Minsk and a good dozen of regional centers in Russia and Ukraine. The first and probably most significant symposium, entitled Issues of communication and Education, took place in 1974 in Elva (a town and a municipality in Tartu County, Estonia). For a long time the symposium and its proceedings (2 volumes) remained exceptionally valuable. The second symposium, under the title Assessments in education (with a subsequent book of proceedings), took place in the city of Uman (Ukraine). In the second half of the 1970s the symposium in Tallinn became annual, and each time they were devoted to a new issue within the field of character building, collective, and personality.

Lyudmilla Ivanovna was fond of those symposia because they were organized in a very unusual way. There were no speakers. Instead, a group (4-5 people) of discussion moderators would be sitting at the table facing the audience (up to 100 people or more) and share their opinions (in turn, 5 minutes each, sand-glass was used to limit time) and then answered questions. Immediately after that the listeners were invited to speak out. The discussions were usually lively and dynamic, and they usually covered the announced subject. Such a format made it possible to create a genuine dynamic dialogue; any attempts to start a monologue that would mean to ignore other opinions would sound ridiculous.

Lyudmilla Novikova had another “favorite child” – her Young Researchers’ Summer School, which was open for doctoral students, researchers from Novikova’s laboratory, young teachers, and even undergraduates. The School would always invite renowned guest speakers: philosopher Boris Yudin, theoretician Boris Gershunsky, journalist Yuriy Shchekochikhin, sociologist Ülo Vooglaid. The discussions were held in such a way that everybody could voice his/her opinion.

In late 1960s – early 1970s, a common point of criticism directed against Lyudmilla Novikova implied that all those theories of the collective, individuality, interaction or collective cognitive activity were of no practical value. Indeed, the only person from the then educational and Komsomol “establishment”, who believed in such ideas was Mrs. Lyubov Balyasnaya, deputy Minister of Public Education of the Russian Federation. Inspired by Novikova’s ideas, she held a number of All-Russian research conferences (1970-80s) under the auspices of her Ministry. Conference attendance exceeded several hundred participants (which needed a special resolution to be issued by the RSFSR Council of Ministers). All the materials and organizational issues were supervised and resolved by Novikova’s laboratory. The conferences took place in Kazan, Kursk, Sverdlovsk, Kostroma, Lipetsk, and Kemerovo. Publications included selected papers, conference proceedings and papers in educational journals.

It is worth noting that those conferences were run in a very unusual way with no traditional concurrent sessions. Three or four key problems were explored by all the participants at panel discussions. Such a format, which has become almost annual, is currently preserved by the Laboratory for Education of the Institute for Strategy and Theory of Education, Russian Academy of Education.

In fact, Lyudmilla Ivanovna did not write many papers of her own, and there were even less books published. Most of her works were coauthored, as she was an active proponent of team research and cooperation in virtually every field. A great many papers, article collections, and collective monographs were published under her supervision and editorship. Each collection of articles would usually present a thorough research of one specific idea. Some of the publications have been translated into foreign languages: Bulgarian, Chinese, German, and Polish.

The development of the collective and an individual child’s personality were central to Novikova’s research activity. Practically all the ideas coming from Novikova and her research team are still highly valuable and relevant for the current educational practice. These ideas were born in a difficult fight for maintaining the laboratory’s own view on the collective and its role in a child’s life. The following concepts and theories have not lost their relevance and vitality: a dual character of the collective as an organization and a psychological unity; a collective as a tool for shaping such character traits as self-assertion, self-awareness, creative individuality, sociability, and individual interests.

In the wake of the sweeping criticism of collective education in the late 1980s – early 1990s this concept was neglected and abandoned.

If to use a modern expression, Novikova had her brand name and that was her theory of educational systems, which laid down the foundations of the educational environment concept. In fact, it was the 1990s search for universal methods and techniques in education that explains Novikova’s return to the ideas of systemacy in education (the first steps in this direction were taken as early as in the 1970s by Fyodor F. Korolev, Alexander T. Kurakin, Anatoly V. Mudrik, and Lyudmilla I. Novikova).

Following the example of Gavriil Popov (a Russian liberal politician in the 1980-90s) who, for the sake of criticism, coined the term “an administrative-operative system of the economy”, all systems in education were considered harmful and pushing children’s development into the rigid regulations. Still, some educational researchers and practitioners do not recognize the necessity of educational systems; do not accept its very notion, using instead the term “school ethos”. Though a closer look at this latter term reveals characteristics of the same systems’ approach. Against that background, it was not easy to stand up for the idea of systemacy in education. However, in 1989 Novikova’s laboratory published a small book entitled A School educational system: Problems and solutions. A character-shaping system was characterized as being “soft” and able to create favorable conditions for school students’ development which always served as the primary goal of creating such systems.

The theory of educational systems received its most complete and detailed representation in the book entitled Education? Education … Education! Theory and practice of educational systems while its authors, Vladimir A. Karakovskiy, Ludmilla I. Novikova, and Natalia L. Selivanova, became the laureates of the Russian Federation President’s Award in education.

Lyudmilla Novikova was always interested in the following problems of methodology: systems’ approach in education (Novikova’s role in initiating and researching this subject has been already mentioned above); understanding and setting an educational experiment (a really vital issue today when we observe an intensive search for innovative ways to develop public education), research planning and arrangements, especially when it is about a collective type of research in the sphere of character shaping (many chapters of the book The road to creativity are still highly relevant), and, finally, a character-building paradigm shift (the problem has recently gained popularity in many institutions, including the Center of the theory of education; in fact, Lyudmilla Novikova published a paper on this subject in 1999).

In conclusion, we may say that Lyudmilla Novikova’s scientific school was formed around the following theoretical concepts:

  • Character building is a process of management of the personality development through creating favorable conditions.
  • A child’s personality development is mediated by the children’s collective which constitutes a complex social and psychological system characterized by an interrelated organizational and psychological unity.
  • A school collective is a differentiated complex of heterogeneous communities of children and adults together. A school collective is the nucleus of the school educational system.
  • A character building system is an interrelated social body born in the process of integration of basic character building elements and possessing such integrative characteristics as the school ethos and its psychological climate.
  • Along with a character-building system, a character-building environment is the most effective instrument of personality’s development for both children and adults.
  • A character-building activity is a professional teacher’s activity aimed at creating favorable conditions of a child’s personality development. It requires that a teacher possesses a strong personal and professional position.

Research in these areas has been conducted and extended by Novikova’s colleagues and followers for over 40 years. This fact by itself proves that her scientific school has gained its strength and importance. The Institute for Strategy and Theory of Education of the Russian Academy of Education still considers the research laboratory of the theory of education one of its leading research groups.

Today, dozens of scholars and hundreds of practitioners proudly call themselves students of Lyudmilla Novikova’s “invisible college”. All-Russian Pedagogical Readings which are held to promote her legacy (initiated in 2006 by the Vladimir Regional Institute of Professional Development and Re-Training of Education Professionals) have become quite regular. Two research symposia took place in the Moscow secondary comprehensive school #825 (for over 30 years the school was headed by V.A. Karakovsky, Novikova’s former student and follower, the People’s Teacher of the USSR, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Education). Novikova’s laboratory is launching a tradition of theoretical seminars related to the issues of education.

The diversity and complexity of problems researched by this school of thought makes it necessary to set specific priorities. They include research devoted to the problems of methodological effects of an educational paradigm shift on the theory of education, study of the personality as an object, subject, purpose and result of education, study of children’s community as a subject of education and socialization, analysis of a character-building potential in the sphere of children’s additional education, and, finally, search and analysis of innovative character-building instruments.

Lyudmilla Ivanovna Novikova was an amazingly positive personality. She loved life and valued friendship, she was always ready to help anybody, and she respected the views of her opponents. She devoted her whole life to the theory and practice of education.

Lyudmilla Novikova’s selected works:

  • Organizatsija i vospitanie shkol'nogo uchenicheskogo kollektiva [Formation and development of school students’ collective]. М., 1959.
  • Put' k tvorchestvu [The road to creativity] М., 1966 (co-author: A.T. Kurakin).
  • Pedagogika detskogo kollektiva [Pedagogy of children’s collective]. М., 1978.
  • Voprosy vospitanija: sistemnyj podhod [Issues of education: a systems’ approach]. М., 1981 (ed.).
  • Kollektiv i lichnost' shkol'nika. Osnovy teorii vospitatel'nogo kollektiva [A collective and a student’s personality. Theoretical foundations of an educational collective]. Tallinn, 1981 (co-authors: A.T. Kurakin and Kh.I. Liymets).
  • Shkol'nyj uchenicheskij kollektiv: problemy upravlenija [The school educational collective: problems of management] М., 1982 (co-author: A.T. Kurakin).
  • Shkola i sreda [A school and an environment]. М., 1985.
  • Samoupravlenie v shkol'nom kollektive [Self-government in a school collective]. М., 1988;
  • Vospitatel'naja sistema shkoly. Problemy i poiski [School educational system. Problems and solutions]. М., 1989 (co-authored).
  • Sovremennaia shkola: problemy gumanizatsii otnoshenij uchitelej, uchaschikhia i roditelei [A modern school: problems of humanistic relationships among teachers, students, and parents]. М., 1993.
  • Teoriia i praktika vospitatel'nyh sistem [Theory and practice of educational systems]. М., 1993. (ed.).
  • Karakovsky V.A., Novikova L.I. , Selivanova N.L. Vospitanie? Vospitanie... Vospitanie! [Upbringing? Upbringing… Upbringing!] М., 2000.

Home | Copyright © 2021, Russian-American Education Forum