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Problems of Didacticism in the Learning and Teaching Process

Rhylee Suyom has hopped in three different worlds: the academe, the corporate, and the media. He enjoys being with nature and his family.

Problems with Didacticism


Problems of Didacticism in the Learning and Teaching Process

The goal of any institution of learning is to instill instruction to students specifically to all learners. A variety of techniques, methodologies, theories, principles, approaches, and styles are incorporated in teaching that it is almost impossible to identify which is the best and the least in effectiveness and efficiency. The Greeks and the Chinese were the firsts to establish formal schooling although once only made available to the elite and nobility. Over the course of millenniums, centuries, and decades, man has learned to use the scientific basis of things especially in the field of education (Hirst, 1983). This led to the use the philosophy of didacticism in instilling instruction in the institutions of learning. Whether this philosophical approach to learning is a success or may just be the one best way towards the most effective and efficient way to learn remains to be seen. For this purpose, this paper is written to understand and show the impact and effect of didacticism in the learning process of education. It also attempts to highlight some of the key suggestions how didacticism can be most beneficial in the learning process.

What is Didacticism?

Didacticism came from the Greeks which literally translate to ‘related to education and teaching.’ It is a philosophy that focuses in the informative and instructional qualities of the arts and literature. This Greek philosophy signifies learning in an intriguing and fascinating manner. In fact, the main thrust of didactic art or skill was solely made to instruct and entertain (Pumila-Gnarini et.al., 2012). Over time, this philosophy was later changed or came to be known as a criticism for works that are overly factual and instructive which become disadvantageous to the reader’s enjoyment. In The Poetic Principle penned by Edgar Allan Poe, he regarded didacticism as the worst of heresies. However, it seems that there is much void as to what is the true nature, meaning, and purpose of didacticism in teaching and learning processes (Hirst, 1983).

The fundamental theory behind didacticism resides in the quality of instruction or attitude of someone giving instruction or advice to a lesson, idea, literary piece, song, and many more. Almost anything can be the subject of didacticism since anything can be the subject of teaching and/or learning. This simple meaning of this theory allows us to venture into the two divisions or distinctions of didacticism: general and specific. With little effort, one can easily understand the difference between the two: general didacticism focuses on the big picture such as the overall instruction or attitude while specific didacticism deals with the minute or components of the general didacticism. Simply put, one aims at the macro level of the overall purpose, presentation, attitude, methodology, or approach used in the instruction or advice while specific didacticism deals with the minute micro parts of the general such as what was wrong with the setting in the literary piece and what could have been done to bring out the best in it instead of what was presented by the author. General didacticism may examine the many special viewpoints and the interrelatedness of the actions involved while specific didacticism may resort to focusing on a singular action or viewpoint and emphasize its error or role in the other actions and viewpoints (Hirst, 1983).

Didacticism in Schools

In simple discussion, didacticism or the idea that the quality of advice and/or instruction has a direct relationship to one’s teaching and learning is purely common sense. When we meet someone with charisma, eloquence, relevant experience, ample knowledge, and good character, we easily refer to the person as a great individual. Imagine if all these qualities are housed in a single person who gives instructions or advice, we can say that the teacher is a great one. The problem in the scenario is not about the teacher but the perception of the people around the teacher.

Didacticism focuses on the quality of instruction and advice, not at the teacher (Repp, 2012). If we are to create a social experiment asking a student to choose between a friendly teacher who is not-so-good at teaching and a rather strict moody teacher yet has great instructional ability in the classroom, chances are, most students will choose the former. This is where our senses will fail us. While we personally like the former for the amiable attitude towards students, didacticism dictates that the latter is a better teacher because he is objective in teaching. This difference in perspective in the eyes of philosophy is the focus of didacticism.

Dissecting Instructions

There are numerous factors which can improve and ruin the quality of instruction or advice. First, the audience and the instruction must be parallel. If the instruction or advice is too difficult to understand from the perspective of the learner or student, there will be no learning. In fact, the instructions are meant to inspire or activate the enthusiasm and curiosity of students so that they will participate, follow, and learn from the instructions. In this first factor, the intellectual capacity, delivery and clarity of the instruction and willingness of the learner or students must all be aligned to create the right atmosphere to learn. Compounding this problem is the common folly in communication. Note that the first problem is the inability of the receiver of the message to digest and understand the instruction. This will eventually lead to misunderstanding creating an instructional dilemma where the intended action of the instruction will not be fulfilled. Well, the problem then may be the intellectual capacity of the receiver, unclear instruction from the source, the language used did not match the language of the receiver, noise or distractions, willful neglect of the instruction, or insensibility of the sender. In all these cases, much of the blame is still on the sender. Second, there must be a variety of ways to instill instructions. Since all learners and students are different, it is impossible to use a single style in facilitating instruction; it will eventually become monotonous even when it is the best method. In fact, owing to the Contingency Approach in management, there is no one best way in doing things. This problem with the concept of the management by extrapolation which suggests that what worked best yesterday still works best today and will still work best tomorrow is a fallacy. Everything changes and so will people’s preference so all must need to adapt, or we will be left behind. Third, good and clear instructions can best be utilized in fields of learning where instruction plays a critical role in the success or failure of a lesson. Areas where applied didacticism may be of great worth will be in military science, martial arts, physical education, arts and dance, sports, gymnastics, and labor-intensive occupations such as auto-mechanics, bartending, housekeeping, and many more. Certainly, applied didacticism or the quality of instruction to help, assist, guide, train, and motivate people through action supported instructions will be the core competencies of the learner. These core competencies are easily seen as competent skills. These types of skills can only be learned over time and from careful procedural instructions. In these cases, didacticism plays a significant role in the development of the learner especially the acquisition of knowledge and skill bases over training sessions simultaneous with the quality of the given instructions (Elbaz, 1983). Considering that didacticism has its strong points in the facilitation of proper instructions leading to a great teaching and learning experience, it also has its fair share of criticisms and disadvantages. Some of the weaknesses of didacticism are so obvious that any student would have no difficulty finding one. For the benefit of this paper, the following paragraph presents what may have been overlooked in the practice and theory of didacticism.

Didacticism in the Learning Process

In an article written by Pertti Kansanen and Matti Meri titled “Didactic Relation in Teaching-Studying-Learning Process,” they presented some startling discoveries and proposal some of which are highly relevant in our perspective of modern learning. Their research suggests that: there must be ample time given to research and diligent study the difference between theoretical and applied didactics; the need to focus on other aspects of teaching and learning that are neither general nor specific didacticisms such as leisure didacticism, content didacticism, memory, leaner motivation, etc. (Elbaz, 1983). In all these cases, notice that teaching and learning still rests on the shoulders of the teacher. As a matter of fact, even without the topic of didacticism, it is but commonality that people (whether from an outside or inside perspective or bottom-to-top or top-to-bottom perspective) will see the importance of the teacher in the picture. Suffice to say, didacticism in both its general and specific still rely heavily on the attitude of the teacher which will determine the didacticism in instruction to the learner or student.

By isolating the didacticism problem generally on the part of the teacher, we can identify the common problems associated with this condition. First, every teacher is expected to decide or cope with didacticism in the teaching-and-learning process. A teacher simply cannot swap or trade places with his students or learners because he is lost in the instruction. This is not relationship between teacher and student or student and learner. The teacher is supposed to be the maker and facilitator of instructions, so the didacticism begins with the teacher. Failure of the teacher means failure of the entire process. In other materials, such phenomenon is referred to as the concept of teacher’s practical theories which states that, again, didacticism begins and should end with the teacher. Second, didacticism is not a science but a philosophical thought or theory making it very fluid. This means that it is relative: what may be didacticism for me may not be with/to another. The absence of specific rules governing what is really general, specific, content, leisure, or other types or forms of didacticisms makes it all the more difficult to understand, employ, and measure. Perhaps the measuring part is the most difficult because it is relative and there is no set standard for this school of thought yet. Third, there are too many factors which can be considered under the practical didacticism. In contrast with the specific type, all other types of didacticism involve the utilization of numerous factors such as environmental, social, psychological, experiential, and even religious or cultural considerations (Pumila-Gnarini et.al 6). Remember that general didacticism focuses on the macro level of instruction or attitude; if this is the case, and then there will be more than a bagful of factors acting as variables in the equation. It would also become very biased knowing that there should be a dynamic approach to the situation, yet the focus will even delimit certain factors for ease. This criticism was presented by Adolf Deisterweg who suggested the inclusion of outer conditions (environmental, social, cultural, etc.) in the student of didacticism. Third, the scope of didacticism should also be studied as to what is best for any type. If the case is a general one, there should be a prescribed effectiveness based on scope and number of people/participants involved. The concept of maximum number of students per teacher as described in many educational researches measuring quantitatively the performance of classroom instruction vis-à-vis student turnovers can be used as a guide. Fourth, management schools of thought have long realized that there is no one best way towards managing. Since managing is no different from instilling classroom order and instruction, didacticism may just be too farfetched for the regular school (Repp, 2012). Perhaps, the applicability of didacticism can be found in the teacher-to-student ration; perhaps in the amount of support the school gets from the local or national government. Maybe it will work with a specific economic, political, or religious model. Probably it would do well on certain considerations with demographical links and similarities. Whether or not it will really work well on the general or specific approach remains to be seen. The real challenge now is to give this philosophy the chance to thrive and work in the classroom setting. It is too early to decide on its fate although admittedly it is rather confusing and at times irrelevant to even think simply due to common sense. Nonetheless, if given the opportunity to be studied and researched, perhaps we can see the reason behind why the Greeks thought of it in the first place. Surely there must have been something beautiful about it since philosophy is the pursuit of something beautiful. Whether the quality of instruction is the key to learning or not, we can always hope that someday we can value the importance of didacticism in our everyday lives and in our pursuit of learning.


Elbaz, F. (1983). Teacher Thinking: A Study of Practical Knowledge. London: Croom Helm. Pp. 198 – 221.

Hirst, P. (1983). Educational Theory and Its Foundation Disciplines. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Publishings. Pp. 213 – 256.

Pumilia-Gnarini, P., Favaron, E., Pacetti, Elena and Bishop, Jonathan. (2012) Didactic Strategies and Technologies for Education: Incorporating Advancements IGI Global. Web. Pp. 4 – 6. Retrieved from: < http://www.eironeia.eu/PDF/Caianiello-Why-this-Silence_1-6-.pdf>

Repp, C. (2012). “What’s Wrong with Didacticism?” academia.edu. British Journal of Aesthetics Vol. 52.N3. Web. Retrieved from: < Teacher Thinking: A Study of Practical Knowledge>