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Week 4: Didactic Approach (1) - Jon Amos Comenius.

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1 Week 4: Didactic Approach (1) - Jon Amos Comenius

2 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)

3 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.

4 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 child- centred. 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.

5 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 wealthy. Jon Amos Comenius changed this with the ideas expounded in his book, Didacta Magna, or The Great Didactic.

6 John Amos Comenius (1592-1670)

7 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 rich. 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?

8 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: p.70)

9 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?

10 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. 228).

11 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? ture=related ture=related 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?

12 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).

13 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 student? 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?

14 Bibliography 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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