New Learning and New Literacies
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‘New learning' is an approach to education that engages students as active designers and co-designers of their own knowledge. ‘New literacies' aims to expand learners' meaning-making modes and capacities, and uses digital media to enhance student learning.
Didactic Education[edit | edit source]
Didactic Education with Ferris Bueller's economics teacher[edit | edit source]
Didactic teaching at its most engaging! The film clip I have chosen is from Ferris Bueller's Day off. It shows Ben Stein as the Economics teacher.
As the teacher begins calling the roll the students are already disengaging.
The teacher seems to believe that as long as he is delivering the information, he is teaching (educating the students); the students fail to engage with the content and the type of teaching. The teacher does seem to be giving the students new information (experiencing the new). There is no student collaboration, activities or participation.
In fact many fail to stay awake. In this clip the didactic mode is displayed as boring, repetitive and predictable. Similar to Kim Laverty's post [] the physical environment, shows students sitting by themselves in straight lines. There is no way they are able to collaborate as collaboration is deemed to be chatting and learning only comes from listening (and repeating what the teacher has to say). There is no attempt to engage the students. However Ms Meddlers, unlike the economics teacher, does seem to believe in what she is doing; she does not come across as a caring teacher but it seems she believes she is doing the right thing. In the film clip the economics teacher seems to have lost the ability to teach or to care; he lacks passion, vitality and personality. He seems to be relying on the fact that at the end, as there is a test, the students will be self-motivated to listen or at least take notes.
The economics teacher does not display any of the knowledge processes that are a part of the Learning by Design process. He does not attempt to engage the students with experiencing the new/known but rather begins his lecture. For students to apply the known and to be successful learners in our classroom, we must fulfill our role as teachers and teach them how to apply this information in the correct way. Didactic teaching seems to be more about setting up the students as failures than giving them the agency.
Didactic Education in Ms Meddlar's Class[edit | edit source]
This extract is from the website http://www.cawstonparish.info/primary_school_1954_1960.htm . It is Michael Yaxley’s reflection on his school days at Cawston Primary, Norfolk, UK, 1954-1960. At the top of the webpage he writes, "It is history with memories we hold in our hearts." In the 1950s there was no national curriculum, with the exception of religious education, and teachers were very much in control in the schools and could develop lesson material as they pleased. “At Cawston school we were lucky as this led to a positive development. The teachers succeeded in giving us an all-round development, including knowledge, skills, concepts and attitudes and the way in which we were able to use our own unique tastes and talents in a useful and meaningful way.” Michael writes about each of his teachers and his fond and not so fond memories of school. Some of his teachers had new (different to the strictly didactic) ways of educating. However it is clear that his experience in Ms Meddlar’s class was “doing school”. She has a starkly different approach to what I believe is best practice in teaching and learning. It is interesting to note there is no appreciation of learners' cultural capital. The teacher is the knowledge provider.
Ms. Meddlar’s class
In Ms. Meddlar’s class we literally spent hours reciting our tables up to 12 x 12 is 144. At that time we were not sure what came after 144 as counting seemed to stop there. We also spent hours learning and reciting the “Lord Prayer” as Ms. Meddlar prompted us while we mumbled away. We also spent hours reciting the “Creed” which we all found much more difficult and most of us never learned it properly.
At this age of 7 we could write short sentences that we constantly practised under Ms. Meddlar’s strict supervision. Some of the writing paper we were given was without lines, so we had to draw straight lines with the aid of a12 inch wooden ruler. And then the regular spelling test would start. Ms. Meddlar ensured that no one ever got 10 out of 10 as she would always throw in a one or two syllable word that we had never heard of before. We were never allowed to check our own spelling tests but had to give our spelling books to the child sitting next to us. Ms. Meddlar always paid attention to our handwriting and ensured that bad writers improved their penmanship as quickly as possible by continuous practice.
In Ms. Meddlar’s class we would regularly be given books in large print to read at home. Ms. Meddlar would call each of us individually to her desk to tell her about the book. If you were unable to summarise the story you would not be allowed to exchange the book until you could tell her the story. It was really amazing for us to see how she could have read so many books and memorised all these stories. In all honesty, most of us were more interested in reading our weekly comics like the “Dandy” and “Beano”.
Many of us had childish habits like nose-picking and nail-biting. Ms. Meddlar would not tolerate this so it was done outside in a corner of the playing field or in the toilet where she could not see it. If a child in her class started picking or biting his or her finger nails Ms. Meddlar would immediately intervene and lecture us about body hygiene. I remember once that a girl came to school in a frilly blouse. This did not go down well with Ms. Meddlar. She told the girl not to wear the frilly blouse any more as she did not want her classroom turning into a fashion show. Ms. Meddlar, however, did not object to the boys coming to school with shiny hair after using brylcreem.
In Ms. Meddlar’s class we also started practising to sing hymns. Our minds were not always set on the hymns but more on the world shattering singalongs that accompanied television advertisements such as “Murray Mints, Murray Mints, the too good to hurry mints” and our favourite “The Esso sign means happy motoring”.
We were also given text books at school at the start of each term; many of which had been previously used. The kept the books in our desks and only took them home to do our homework. The text books had to last for many years and it often happened that you received a text book in a bad condition from a school boy or school girl who had already written some answers in it.
Behaviourism and Didactic Education[edit | edit source]
Rita van Haren
Behaviourism is a movement in psychology which has influenced traditional approaches to learning such as didactic education. Behaviourism is based on the idea that people, like rats and other animals studied in laboratory conditions, act according to what they have been reinforced to do. The external environment affects all behavior and anything that is not observable doesn’t exist or isn’t worth measuring. Learning focuses on the acquisition of skills and knowledge is linear, incremental and measurable (Kohn). []
Watson, Thorndike (who is sometimes referred to as the man who never met a test he didn’t like) and Skinner are three theorists who expounded behaviourism. Not all proponents of traditional approaches to education are behaviourists. Certain philosophical beliefs and religious beliefs may also promote didactic approaches in order to ensure order and obedience in the classroom and the greater goal of a submissive and homogenous society.
The following overview of behaviorism by M.K. Smith (1999) is available at .
The Behaviourist Orientation to Learning
The behaviourist movement in psychology has looked to the use of experimental procedures to study behaviour in relation to the environment. John B. Watson, who is generally credited as the first behaviourist, argued that the inner experiences that were the focus of psychology could not be properly studied as they were not observable. Instead he turned to laboratory experimentation. The result was the generation of the stimulus-response model. In this the environment is seen as providing stimuli to which individuals develop responses. In essence three key assumptions underpin this view:
• Observable behaviour rather than internal thought processes are the focus of study. In particular, learning is manifested by a change in behaviour.
• The environment shapes one's behaviour; what one learns is determined by the elements in the environment, not by the individual learner.
• The principles of contiguity (how close in time two events must be for a bond to be formed) and reinforcement (any means of increasing the likelihood that an event will be repeated) are central to explaining the learning process.
Researchers like Edward L. Thorndike build upon these foundations and, in particular, developed a S-R (stimulus-response) theory of learning. He noted that that responses (or behaviours) were strengthened or weakened by the consequences of behaviour. This notion was refined by Skinner and is perhaps better known as operant conditioning - reinforcing what you want people to do again; ignoring or punish what you want people to stop doing.
In terms of learning, according to James Hartley (1998) four key principles come to the fore:
• Activity is important. Learning is better when the learner is active rather than passive. ('Learning by doing' is to be applauded).
• Repetition, generalization and discrimination are important notions. Frequent practice - and practice in varied contexts - is necessary for learning to take place. Skills are not acquired without frequent practice.
• Reinforcement is the cardinal motivator. Positive reinforcers like rewards and successes are preferable to negative events like punishments and failures.
• Learning is helped when objectives are clear. Those who look to behaviourism in teaching will generally frame their activities by behavioural objectives e.g. 'By the end of this session participants will be able to...'.
Retrieved from "http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/New_Learning_and_New_Literacies"
Didactic Education as described by Charles Dickens[edit | edit source]
The following passage is the opening of Charles Dickens’ novel, Hard Times. Thomas Gadgrind is explaining his expectations to the teacher that he has engaged to teach at the school which he established. His ‘philosophy’ of education firmly places the teacher as the source of all information which must be imparted to the students in the same linear, incremental approach adopted by the Behaviourist approach to education. [] His focus on fact ignores the differences of individuals and the potential of imaginative and creative thought. It is as if the school is a human machine in which children are processed ready for use in society. Dickens uses this character and his view of education to draw obvious comparisons between the plight of the poor and the poverty brought on by the industrial revolution. Didactic education prescribed what each social class needed to know in order to take their place in the industrial world, therefore making it impossible to achieve or even dream of upward social mobility.
“NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!” The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a schoolroom, and the speaker’s square forefinger emphasized his observations by underscoring every sentence with a line on the schoolmaster’s sleeve. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s square wall of a forehead, which had his eyebrows for its base, while his eyes found commodious cellarage in two dark caves, overshadowed by the wall. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s mouth, which was wide, thin, and hard set. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s voice, which was inflexible, dry, and dictatorial. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s hair, which bristled on the skirts of his bald head, a plantation of firs to keep the wind from its shining surface, all covered with knobs, like the crust of a plum pie, as if the head had scarcely warehouse-room for the hard facts stored inside. The speaker’s obstinate carriage, square coat, square legs, square shoulders, — nay, his very neckcloth, trained to take him by the throat with an unaccommodating grasp, like a stubborn fact, as it was, — all helped the emphasis. “In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!” The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present, all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim.  http://www.online-literature.com/dickens/hardtimes/2/ Acessed Sunday, 2 November 2008
Didactic Education as shown in a 1947 McGraw Hill Teacher Education Video[edit | edit source]
J. Ryan Rimington
Maintaining Classroom Discipline: Good and Bad Methods of Disciplining Inappropriate Classroom Behavior, was an instructional movie for teachers released in 1947 by the McGraw-Hill company. The images presented in the film are directly correlated to what one probably considers to be a didactic educational environment: teacher as the authority and disciplinarian, precise rows of seated students, lecture style presentation, demand for student silence, bookwork, even the routine of students standing when providing responses to questions.
Presented in two parts with an occasional an overdubbed commentator, the film shows Mr. Grimes, a mathematics teacher, handling the same class using contrasting methods. First, we see him reacting to his students’ poor academic performance with phrases such as, “you don’t know for the word ‘study’ means, you haven’t the slightest idea.” He continues to lecture, “I tell you right now, unless you get over your lazy habits, and come up to the standards that I set for this class, many of you will have the pleasure of repeating this course next semester.” Mr. Grimes, moves on to threats, assigning multiple individual detentions, sends a student to the Principal’s office, even passes along a full-class punishment by demanding that they all report to his room at the end of the school day for a 45-minute session. Amidst the disciplinary tactics, the students remain disengaged, lack motivation, and resort to poor behavior. The contrasting presentation shows Mr. Grimes approach the same situations but now with a positive attitude, and even a consistent smirk and smile on his face. He accepts responsibility for the students’ poor performance on a recent exam regarding ratios by declaring “perhaps I didn’t do a good job explaining ratio”. He then proceeds to provide real-life, student-centered applications of ratio. During his students’ bookwork, we see Mr. Grimes now walking among the desks, providing positive reinforcement with comments such as “now that’s more like it” and “very good”. He even manages to get the class laughing, as the commentator describes Mr. Grimes as now having a “positive attitude with a sprinkling of humor.”
While the goal of the film is to introduce techniques for securing and maintaining class discipline (which may even have application today), the images and approaches, even those that are effective, are all revolving in the traditional didactic setting. While classroom environments and routines are refreshingly (and thankfully) different today, in many ways, the fundamental message of the film is the same: student engagement, achievement, and discipline are often a direct reflection of the teacher’s attitude and relationships with his or her students.
Forward...Into the Past[edit | edit source]
My excerpt comes from a book entitled The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and Tougher Standards by Alfie Kohn. Kohn is a teacher-turned-writer and he is a strong critic of the American educational system's dependence on grades and test scores. He supports educational reform that would put the emphasis on critical thinking rather than rote learning. The excerpt I have selected comes from chapter 1 which is entitled "Forward...Into the Past".
"Abigail is given plenty of worksheets to complete in class as well as a substantial amount of homework. She studies to get good grades, and her school is proud of its high standardized test scores. Outstanding students are publicly recognized by the use of horor rolls, awards assemblies, and bumper stickers. Abigail's teacher, a charismatic lecturer, is clearly in control of the class; students raise their hands and wait patiently to be recognized. The teacher prepares detailed lesson plans well ahead of time, uses the latest textbooks, and gives regular quizzes to make sure kids stay on track.
What's wrong with this picture? Just about everything.
The features of our children's classrooms that we find the most reassuring - largely because we recognize them from our own days in school -typically turn out to be those least likely to help students become effective and enthusiastic learners. That dilemma is at the heart of education reform - or at least at the heart of this book. On the relatively rare occasions when nontraditional kinds of instruction show up in classrooms, many of us become nervous if not openly hostile. "Hey, when I was in school the teacher was in front of the room, teaching us what we needed to know about addition and adverbs and atoms. We paid attention and studied hard if we knew what was good for us. And it worked!"
Or did it? Never mind all those kids who gave up on school and came to think of themselves as stupid. The more interesting question is whether those of us who were successful students achieved this success by memorizing an enormous number of words without necessarily understanding them or caring about them. Is it possible that we are not really as well educated as we'd like to think? Might we have spent a good chunk of our childhoods doing stuff that was exactly as pointless as we suspected it was at the time?"
Didactic Education of Educators[edit | edit source]
The following is an excerpt from a university article written by an undergraduate student shortly after his orientation for student teaching. In this article, he comments on the types of classes that we have probably all experienced: very didactic in style, repetitive and boring, where the main requirement seems to be showing up and trying to fight through your boredom. The relevance of his commentary digresses a bit at the end of the article as he makes his ultimate "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger" point. But the ideas that he discusses are very relevant, and I find myself frequently experiencing the same frustrations, as I am sure my students experience some frustrations during my lessons that may be overly didactic. His questions are similar to ones that I have frequently felt like asking during professional development sessions, especially those (explicitly or otherwise) dealing with strategies for making the classroom less didactic.
In this highlight of the most relevant part of his article, (which can be found in its entirety here: ) the young man is discussing his experiences in his student teacher orientation classes:
"I liked this the way oil likes water. 'Some kids are kinesthetic learners,' the special education instructor said, as we stared blankly at one of four walls. 'If they’re sitting in a chair for hours at a time and I’m just talking to the class like I am at you guys, my kinesthetic learner is freaking out. 'Pretty soon, he’s standing up and throwing things.' The leg of the guy next to me is jittering up and down. I’m pretty sure I’m ready to throw things, too. Who can blame us? We’ve been staring at the same part of the presentation for about half-an-hour now. It lists the required texts for the class. The titles looks like whoever wrote them was given a word limit and paid by the syllable. The prices look a lot like my quarterly income. Before taxes. After the first day of training, a professor in a later class explained how to use PowerPoint not as a form of torture. She introduced a series of rules, the first and most important relating to not having too many words on each slide. The first thing I noticed on the second day of training? There are a lot of words on these slides. Full, uneditited quotations of oversmart academic language, with uncondensed citations with every publication detail – down to the author’s shirt color. For whatever reason, why there’s such a teaching shortage is exceptionally clear. Putting up with the presentations for the first week is a Sisyphean ordeal. The comparison is appropriate to an absurd and unending uselessness, though I really just wanted to say “Sisyphean ordeal.” Just when it seems like we’re done with the meetings, PowerPoints and orientations, out comes another series. We’re 12 rounds against futility as it only now breaks a sweat, winding up for the knockout. At this point, I’m all for giving in. Unconsciousness would be an improvement."
During the few moments of PD where I have felt similar to this young man, I ask myself why the concepts being presented aren't being presented in a way that reflects those ideas of best teaching practice. Time probably has a lot to do with it, at least in my building. And certainly one of the benefits of didactic teaching is the ability to present large amounts of information in a short amount of time. But I can't help but go back to the idea that the strategies that were presented to me in my own undergrad classes that I currently use the most were those that were demonstrated as they were discussed.
Learning in the Museum[edit | edit source]
The book Learning in the Museum by George E. Hein was published by Routledge in 1998. In it Hein examines the role museums play in education and how different educational theories are used by exhibit designers. “Hein concludes that visitors best learn when knowledge is actively constructed in their own minds, and provides a model of the "constructivist museum"--one with exhibitions which are physically, socially, and intellectually accessible to every single visitor.”
This excerpt describes didactic learning.
Ask most people to describe what happens in “school” and they will usually describe traditional, didactic, expository education. The teacher organizes a lesson, based on the structure of the subject, and then “teaches” (that is, presents what is to be learned in a rational sequence) the students. The teacher presents principles, provides examples to illustrate these examples, and repeats to some extent to implant the material in the learner’s mind. Of course, the “teacher” need not be a human being—text, programmed instruction, a tape, a museum exhibition, or any material deliberately constructed to provide a “lesson” can teach. This form of education can also include any number of combinations of these delivery modes.
Museums that are premised on didactic learning will be organized in sequential order. Labels and even recorded headsets will be available to “implant” the material. Learners’ are not given the opportunity to interact kinesthetically with the exhibits.
The Wonder Years - Didactic Education[edit | edit source]
The two clips I have chosen are from the TV program The Wonder Years. This program is full of examples that illustrate the negatives of didactic education. There are some interesting episodes that depict how this method of education is disengaging and daunting for students. The clips I have chosen have a focus on Kevin Arnold’s new Mathematics teacher and the difficulties the students have with his style of teaching. There are also some short insights into Kevin's other classes where all his teachers appear to be using similar techniques.
This is Kevin’s first experience with his new teacher and it is less than positive. The Mathematics teacher delves straight into complex topics that the students have little understanding of. He is not interested in building relationships, discourages talking in his class and has little interest in the fact that the students are not engaged with their learning. He uses formal methods of testing where the grade/mark seem to be the most powerful form of feedback given. The teacher in this situation is the leader and the source of all knowledge and the students are only required to listen quietly and obey his instructions. The students have no connection with the learning and struggle to see the relevance. Kevin provides interesting commentary around his difficulties with the teacher and sees him as almost non human and providing little educational benefit to any of the students.
Didactic education seems to provide this class with low levels of motivation and connection to the curriculum and as a result students are not successful and have a poor attitude towards their learning.
The Wonder Years link
Tradition, Honour, Discipline and Excellence! Didactic Education![edit | edit source]
Dead Poets Society
The moral economy demands a traditional education that produces people who can absorb facts and present memory work; people who are compliant and ‘know as others say they should know;’ people who have the right answers and never question or challenge wrong answers; and teachers who verify students knowledge by a test of fixed content. Tradition, honour, discipline and excellence are expected of boys who attend the prestigious ‘fictional’ Welton Academy in Vermont. In 1959 the moral economy supported educational institutions that produced people with these qualities.
In the media clip titled “Instructional strategies: Finding Forrester and Dead Poets Society” http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=1ql-i6hyvvQ&feature=related Professor Crawford is presenting poetry to his class. His classroom seating arrangement ensures the students are making eye contact directly with him. When one student supports another student he is intercepted instantly to ensure student-to student contact is not encouraged and the teachers’ authority is heeded to. When in the ‘knowledge society’ is this physical setting beneficial for learners? Introducing a new topic - an experiential knowledge process - and presenting safety instructions prior to a science experiment or sporting game – a conceptual knowledge process.
The professor’s questioning is teacher dominated and supports the eerie kind of silence he received from his students because he expected ‘Coleridge,’ to know what was in his head. This didactic style of questioning ensures the students are silent unless they know the right answer. If fact, it ensures the students are silent even if they know the right answer. When is this didactic teaching strategy effective for learners? Expecting students to recount inappropriate behaviours and perhaps to recall facts to provoke discussion?
When ‘Wallace’ supports his friend in answering the professor’s question he is challenged by the professor to a dual of systematically arranged knowledge. The dual ends in ‘Wallace’ being asked to leave the classroom. The professor seems to have succeeded, through didactic teaching practices, to have imparted fixed content to this particular student. He now feels challenged that he is unable to win a knowledge dual with him. The disciplinary knowledge this student has gained is empowered by his ability to communicate on equal terms with his teacher’s authoritative knowledge.
In 2008 the knowledge society has redefined didactic teaching practices, created new qualities and expect educational institutions to produce thinking people, who can synthesise facts, experience the benefits of compliance, gain from the wrong answers and verify knowledge through self reflection.
How to speak Italian - A satirical look at the didactic classroom[edit | edit source]
I have chosen a brief clip by Monty Python. The premise is simple; a nice, personable Englishman is teaching Italian to Italians. The class is set out in the traditional manner of rows with the teacher up the front, asking questions, correcting students and dispensing information. As to whether the questions are relevant (ie how to say "spoon") or the information correct (the German student is in the wrong class and has to leave and go to the German class) is irrelevant. The fact that the they are students and he is a teacher is all that matters.
There is a lot invested in these roles. The didactic model relies heavily on the understanding of your place within their world. That is that you are a student and you will behave in this way, learn this way and think this way. The role of the teacher is less about learning and more about social conditioning. The didactic model does not address diversity in the classroom, it addresses conformity. It is the cookie cutter model, where everyone learns the same things, the same way at the same time and comes out at the end, the same. A true relic of a society that needs people who know their place in the world.
The element of this skit that I enjoy is that the students and the teacher are all willing participants in the learning. They don't see the absurdity of the situation because they know their place. Each student is desperate to answer questions in his mother tongue and the teacher struggles to understand when a student answers in Italian. However he has no problem correcting them when they use "comparatives", which hasn't been covered in the class yet. The lesson is pointless, gives no one anything and ends in a shambles, yet they all boldly go on with the lesson because no one knows anything different.
Teacher Training in Physical Education[edit | edit source]
My first wiki submission represents a practical example of didactic education as it relates to teacher training for physical education. The document details the requirements (e.g. time, credit hours) and expectations (e.g. desirable prior knowledge, favorable personal characteristics) for the educator interested in becoming certified to teach physical education. Information such as requirements for permanence, professional opportunities, and correspondence to other degrees is also considered. However, the heart of this practical example is the "STUDY PLAN" which details core subjects, obligatory subjects, and optional subjects for certification. The "subjects" list is exhaustive and potentially overwhelming, thus the didactic element. Overall the document seems sufficient in its effort to inform, educate, and provide factual information to a future phys ed educator; yet elements of the report could be synthesized.
To view the pdf document in its entirety, please click on the following link:
Learning In The Museum[edit | edit source]
My second wiki submission is a theoretical exposition of didactic education, from George E. Hein's book Learning in the Museum (1998). Hein says this about didactic, expository education:
"Ask most people to describe what happens in 'school' and they will usually describe traditional, didactic, expository education. The teacher organizes a lesson, based on the structure of the subject, and then 'teaches' (that is, presents what is to be learned in a rational sequence) to the students. The teacher presents principles, provides examples to illustrate these principles, and repeats to some extent to implant the material in the learner's mind (1998, p. 25-26).
Hein goes on to say that the teacher does not necessarily have to be a human being, but could include programmed instruction, a tape, text, or anything constructed to provide a "lesson" can teach (1998, p. 26).
From this excerpt of Hein's book, I posit that didactic education is basic, predictable, depository, lacking engagement, standard, and repetitive.
Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed[edit | edit source]
My third wiki submission for didactic education is also a theoretical exposition, as described by Paulo Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Freire discusses in great detail the "banking" concept of education in which the teacher (subject) narrates to the "patient, listening" students (objects) (Freire, 1970, p. 71). Chapter 2 of this book is a great read for anyone concerned about didactic education and its implications.
The Didactic Education of Mona Lisa Smile[edit | edit source]
The scene that I have provided a link to is a clip from the movie Mona Lisa Smile. This example takes place in college, unlike all of the other examples provided in this wiki. However, the characteristics of this teaching style coincide with the dimensions of didactic teaching even though it takes place beyond the high school years. It is a fictional story and the setting is at Wellesley College in 1953.
The new professor (Julia Roberts) gives her first lecture in art 100 where the students are seated in a lecture hall that is not conducive to lateral learning as they must face the teacher, and the teacher to them; the “all to one” and “one to all” setting. She gives a slide show and asks her students to recite historical data regarding the art she is displaying. The students readily regurgitate the information they have all faithfully read in their texts and remain unengaged. There are no conclusions drawn about the meaning and relevance of the works to the students in the class, simply a recitation of facts.
The students who have entered into this college have “played the game well.” They are successful because the have mastered the game of reciting facts and have therefore been deemed the “best and the brightest”. The students, who are all female, as Wellesley is historically, are expected to become subservient members of a marriage, encouraging them to stay at home and not become working professionals. The accepted paradigm of didactic teaching perpetuates this status in society because its result is personalities that are passive and conforming. The professor is later reprimanded by the administration for her lack of discipline, which by today’s standards was excellent.
Didactic Education & Stand-up Comedy[edit | edit source]
Jeff Dunham – Compilation - watch the video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTtR-GSGZOQ
Students often complain that school is boring and that teachers don’t ‘entertain’ them. Didactic education – lecturing on a theme or being stuck in ‘transmit’ mode is a sure fire way to ensure that we ‘bore’ students. This snippit of Jeff Dunham’s work as a ventriloquist is designed to demonstrate that although it is incredibly funny, addresses current social issues and contexts and he has a visual component to his performance or ‘lesson’, he is still in lecture mode!
There is no student or audience ‘agency’. The audience is not being asked what they already know about his themes of terrorism or the aging population. There may be some in the audience who experienced first hand the horror of the 9/11 attacks or who had relatives killed. So not only has Jeff picked a controversial topics but he hadn’t investigated the emotional state or experiences of his class, he hasn’t worked out religious or racial sensitivities that may be present, or how people's sexual identities might be challenged. I can hear you say, “But that’s why it is funny!” and I agree; I cried laughing the first time I saw this particular video but as an example of didactic education it is just entertainment not transformation!
Harry Potter - Didactic Education[edit | edit source]
The clip I have chosen is from the movie ‘Harry Potter: The Order of the Phoenix’. The Harry Potter series is set, for the most part, entirely in a school classroom setting. Harry’s days involve attending class after class of subjects that are taught primarily by ‘old school’ teachers that are somewhat stuck in their ways and intent on teaching on their terms. The clip I have chosen focus’s on Harry and his student peers attending their first lesson with the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge.
This is the first time being taught by Professor Umbridge and the students find that things are going to be changing from their normal ‘Defence’ experiences. The new teacher makes it very clear that the class will no longer be taught in a practical, experiential style. Instead, it will revert to theory. A safer, more controllable way that follows step by step the content of a department approved textbook. The students express their concern that this will leave them in a vulnerable position, as they will not know how to deal with the Dark Arts situations if they ever arise. They are then told that they have nothing to worry about because the dark wizard they fear is contained and is of no threat to them. They know this to be wrong, but are told their prior knowledge is a lie and effectively teacher knows best - believe what I tell you, you are wrong. Harry challenges this, standing firm on his own experiential knowledge, but it counts for nothing and results in detention with the punishment: Writing lines. Fortunately for Harry and his Hogwarts classmates, the school headmaster also questions this didactic form of education.
Didactic education leaves these students feeling that they are at a disadvantage. As if their education has been compromised and the outcomes they will achieve from the class will not be useful to them in the ‘real’ life.
Harry Potter: The Order of the Phoenix link