Didactic Approach (1) - Jon Amos Comenius

Week 4: Didactic Approach (1) - Jon
Amos Comenius
Attacking the Didactic
• ‘… learning that takes place “from the neck
up.” It does not involve feelings or personal
meanings; it has no relevance for the whole
person’ (Rogers and Freiberg, 1994: 35)
• ‘Thus, education becomes the futile attempt
to learn material that has no personal
meaning’ (Rogers and Freiberg, 1994: 35)
What is Didactic Teaching? (1)
• Didactic teaching involves following a
presentational method of knowledge transfer.
• For example, me speaking to you and telling
you what didactic learning is, is didactic.
• Many lessons you would have had in school
would have been didactic. Perhaps you
remember history lessons being told about
The Second World War, or biology lessons
explaining the details of photosynthesis.
What is Didactic Teaching? (2)
• The value of didactic teaching is generally
perceived as being in transmitting facts, which
will increase a student’s knowledge and therefore
their ability to succeed in the world.
• As opposed to experiential learning, didactic
teaching is teacher-centred rather than childcentred.
• The education does not look to the child for
guidance in how to teach them.
• Rather it looks to the teacher for facts, which the
child would benefit from attaining.
Comenius and The Great Didactic
• Didactic teaching is essentially liberating, in
that it aims to liberate man from ignorance
and thus inequality.
• Traditionally education, whether considered
experiential or didactic, was reserved for the
• Jon Amos Comenius changed this with the
ideas expounded in his book, Didacta Magna,
or The Great Didactic.
John Amos Comenius (1592-1670)
Do you think…?
• Before we begin talking specifically about
Comenius, I would like you to consider whether
or not you think education is still reserved for the
• If so, how do you think this perpetuates
inequality in Britain and across the world?
• Does a lack of knowledge decrease your chances
of success in the world?
• What do you think the best modes of
disseminating knowledge equally are?
Universal Education
• Comenius’ idea was that:
…not the children of the rich or the powerful
only, but of all alike, boys and girls, both noble
and ignoble, rich and poor, in all cities and towns,
villages and hamlets should be sent to school.
(Comenius, 1910: p. 66)
• And that, ‘…everyone ought to receive a universal
education, and this at school.’ (Comenius, 1910:
Comenius and Curriculum
• We can perhaps see resonances of our own ideas of
curriculum when he writes that for a method of
teaching to be successful:
‘The tasks are mapped out for each year, day, and hour,
and if these divisions are duly observed no classroom
can fail to reach the necessary standard at the end of
each session.’ (Comenius, 1910: p. 292).
• Of course this presumes that all children’s and/or
adults minds are equally capable of learning the same
things at the same speed. Do you think this is the case?
Efficient Teaching
• For Comenius, the ideal situation would be
where: ‘…one master may teach hundreds of
pupils at the same time, with ten times as little
trouble as is now expended on the teaching of
one.’ (Comenius, 1910: p. 82)
• And therefore that: ‘Even [teachers] who have no
natural aptitude for teaching will be able to use
it… since they… will only have to take knowledge
that has already been suitably arranged… and
pour it into their pupils.’ (Comenius, 1910: p.
Efficiency and The Dead Poet’s Society
• However, who would decide on what information
students should learn and what the programme of
their education should be?
• And if learning becomes too systematised, would it
become far too removed from life?
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpeLSMKNFO4&fea
• Would it be better that everyone learned from the
same, institutionally sanctioned, book, or that teachers
were more sensitive to the individual methods of
learning specific to each individual pupil?
The Metaphor of the Printing Press
For Comenius, with the:
…proper method [of education] it will be no harder to teach school-boys, in any
number desired, than with the help of the printing press to cover a thousand
sheets daily with the neatest writing. (Comenius, cited in Bantock, 1980: p. 195).
The art of printing involves certain materials and process. The materials consist of
the paper, the type, and the ink and the press. The processes consist of the
preparation of the paper, the setting up and inking of the type, the correction of
the proof, and the impression and drying of the copies… [In education] instead of
paper we have pupils whose minds have to be impressed with the symbols of
knowledge. Instead of type, we have the class books and the rest of the apparatus
devised to facilitate the operation of teaching. The ink is replaced by the voice of
the master, since it is that which conveys information from the books to the minds
of the listeners; while the press is school discipline, which keeps the pupils up to
their work and compels them to learn (Comenius, 1910: p. 289).
Problems of the Didactic
• The type is the didactic method, the ink is the teacher, the printing
press is the discipline and the paper is the pupil.
• What do you think about these metaphors?
• What kind of hierarchy does this imply between teacher and
• And if education becomes the like the art of printing, is there a
point at which we should be worried about what is being printed?
• The system may well be worked out perfectly but what if it is
material that is being printed, via the ink of the teacher on to the
paper of the student, is not that of equality?
• What if it is racist, fascist, homophobic or classist?
• Do you think that your own experience of the education system
either excluded you or perpetuated suspect ideas?
• Bantock, G.H. (1980) Studies in the History of
Educational Theory Vol 1, London: George
Allen and Unwin
• Comenius, J.A. (1910) The Great Didactic
London: A&C Black

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