A didactic method (Greek: διδάσκειν didáskein, "to teach") is a teaching method that follows a consistent scientific approach or educational style to engage the student’s mind. The didactic method of instruction is often contrasted with dialectics and the Socratic method; the term can also be used to refer to a specific didactic method, as for instance constructivist didactics.
Didactics is a theory of teaching, and in a wider sense, a theory and practical application of teaching and learning. In demarcation from "Mathetics" (the science of learning), didactics refers only to the science of teaching.
The theory of Didactic Learning methods focuses on the baseline knowledge students possess and seeks to improve upon and convey this information. It also refers to the foundation or starting point in a lesson plan, where the overall goal is knowledge. A teacher or educator functions in this role as an authoritative figure, but also as both a guide and a resource for students.
Didactics or the didactic method have different connotations in continental Europe and English speaking countries. For the Anglo-Saxon tradition, the didactic method still carries the original meaning of teaching moral contents, and is therefore associated with unfavourable views opposed to the teachings of a true art or science. The Oxford dictionary merely defines didactics as a particularly moral instruction. Didacticism was indeed the cultural origin of the didactic method but refers within its narrow context usually pejoratively to the use of language to a doctrinal end. The interpretation of these opposing views are theorised to be the result of a differential cultural development in the 19th century when Great Britain and its former colonies went through a renewal and increased cultural distancing from continental Europe. It was particularly the later appearance of Romanticism and Aestheticism in the Anglo-Saxon world which offered these negative and limiting views of the didactic method. In continental Europe those moralising aspects of didactics were removed earlier by cultural representatives of the age of enlightenment, such as Voltaire, Rousseau, and later specifically related to teaching by Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi.
The consequences of these cultural differences then created two main didactic traditions: The Anglo-Saxon tradition of curriculum studies on one side and the Continental and North European tradition of didactics on the other. And still today, the science of didactics is carrying much less weight in much of the English speaking world.
With the advent of globalisation at the beginning of the 20th century, however, the arguments for such relative philosophical aspects in the methods of teaching started to diminish somewhat. It is therefore possible to categorise didactics and pedagogy as a general analytic theory on three levels:
- a theoretical or research level (denoting a field of study)
- a practical level (summaries of curricular activities)
- a discursive level (implying a frame of reference for professional dialogs)
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