Didactic Teaching and Its Contrast to Pedagogy Explained

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 21, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Teaching involves using diverse academic approaches to educate students according to their needs and the subject matter. Didactic teaching is one of two main teaching paradigms, focusing on teachers preparing lessons and delivering them through lectures. If you work as a teacher or plan to pursue this career, it helps if you understand didactics and how it compares to its counterpart, pedagogy. In this article, we define didactic teaching, explain its approach, and identify the differences between didactics and pedagogy.

What is didactic teaching?

Didactic teaching is an educational method where the teacher or lecturer gives lessons to students, usually in the format of a lecture. The word didactic refers specifically to the teaching process, relying on a knowledgeable and prepared instructor to provide information to students. Because it encourages organized lesson plans and a focus on lecture-based classes, teachers can easily accommodate provincial curriculums using this method. Didactic planning involves determining the subject matter to teach, establishing a lesson plan, and routinely assessing student progress.

The structured nature of this teaching approach makes it ideal for instructing large classes. It is suitable for any subject that's data-oriented and objective. With fact-based, empirical information, the lecturer can control the flow of the lesson without student interaction. It's an efficient method of instruction that many teachers use to address fundamental topics taught in secondary school. In post-secondary education, this method remains common in foundational science, math, and engineering courses.

Read more: How to Become a High School Teacher (With Common Duties)

Didactic education approach

Didactic education relies on direct organized instruction that accommodates the course syllabus by sorting it into a series of lectures and lessons. This popular teaching approach has many identifying traits, including:

Established syllabi

Didactic education relies on each course having a fixed syllabus, the exact material the course covers. This practice accommodates academic standardization and supports transfer credits both for interprovincial secondary schools and when transferring to a different university. For instance, completing a first-year chemistry course that relied on didactics allows you to prove to a different institution exactly what the class taught. Therefore, if that syllabus aligns with the other school's course outline, the credit can transfer. The fixed syllabi allow students to prepare for the course by listing expectations and creating an objective way to succeed.

Fixed lesson plans

Teachers that use a didactic approach use the course outline to create lesson plans for the duration of the course. Most of the lessons rely on instruction, requiring little interaction with the students. Students listen and take notes while the teacher speaks or uses a visual aid, such as a video or slideshow. Each lesson lasts for a fixed length of time and usually follows the same format. The teacher introduces the topic, provides information on the subject, and concludes the lesson. These fixed lesson plans can encourage success by creating a routine for students.

Learning objectives

As didactic instruction spends the most time with students listening, setting learning objectives is important to ensure that the class is actually learning. Teachers that rely on didactics usually include set learning objectives when providing the course outline to students. Learning objectives include a list of essential topics accompanied by a schedule for the student to follow. It allows the teacher to maintain the fixed lesson plan while also providing the student with a comprehensive outline of how to succeed in the class.

Regular evaluations

Didactics involves regular evaluations to check how students respond to the teaching style and that they understand the material. They are useful for students because they give them the chance to apply the coursework and track their own development. These same evaluations help teachers understand how to educate students successfully. The results of the tests may show the teacher areas that would benefit from a change in approach. Conversely, if most students score well in evaluations, it shows the teaching method suits that specific topic and class.

Lecture-based lessons

The most definitive characteristic of didactics is its lecture-based lessons. Students listen to the teacher, take notes, and ask questions either during the lecture or at the end, depending on the teacher's preference. Most didactically taught classes include pre-reading, issued at the end of the preceding class. Students arrive for the lecture prepared with a basic understanding of the topic, and the lecture typically comprises more detailed information. In most cases, the teacher concludes by taking questions. Because of the pre-reading and active listening throughout the lecture, students have the opportunity to form questions and receive answers promptly.

Consistent schedules

Didactics is a predictable teaching approach, something that helps create a comfortable learning space for students. Lessons last for a fixed period, at a pre-set time, and follow a consistent process. Knowing what to expect makes it easier for students to schedule pre-reading, come to class prepared with note-taking supplies, and gain more from the class. When students know what to expect from the class and what the teacher expects in return, the objective criteria can help maintain focus and promote academic success.

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Differences between pedagogy and didactics

Pedagogy and didactics are the two main teaching dynamics, used widely in almost every academic setting. While many instructors incorporate pedagogical methods in didactic teaching, there are important distinctions between the two teaching types. These include:

Strategy vs. content

Pedagogy and didactics differ significantly in their approach to course material and how it relates to students. Pedagogical teaching places a greater emphasis on strategic instruction, using different tools and techniques to communicate the course information. Conversely, didactics focuses on the content of the curriculum and relaying that information concisely for students.

For example, if teaching a biology lesson on ecosystems, a didactic teacher speaks on the subject while students take notes. It ensures that the class addresses all curriculum-mandated information. A pedagogical approach to the same lesson could involve taking the class outdoors to observe the ecosystem. There is less guarantee that the class covers all the curriculum material, though students may appreciate the interactive learning approach.

Why vs. how

Pedagogical teaching maintains its focus on the philosophy behind education, thinking more about the reasons for teaching rather than the material. Didactics relies on a fixed manner of teaching, focusing on how to best translate raw course material into a lecture-formatted lesson plan. Pedagogy sets innovative teaching as a goal, considering motivation over method. Didactic instruction uses the curriculum to set a learning objective and predetermines how to achieve it.

For instance, if a lesson involves a piece of literature, a didactic lesson explores essential literary topics, such as tone, theme, and structure. Conversely, a pedagogical approach considers why schools teach literature and may, therefore, approach the topic through a dramatic presentation or creative project. Both methods have merit, though pedagogy is better suited for subjective course material, while didactics is suitable for fixed, objective topics.

Read more: Goal vs. Objective (Differences, Definition, and Examples)

Process vs. knowledge

Didactics considers knowledge ahead of all else when providing instruction, focusing on relaying complex concepts clearly. Pedagogy uses a creative teaching approach that considers the method of communicating knowledge before the actual information itself. For instance, if a lesson covers basic cross multiplication, a didactic teacher explains the topic, provides examples, and assigns questions. Students observe the teacher and practise the skills by completing assignments, then undergo an evaluation to determine learning success.

A pedagogical approach considers the way the instructor details cross-multiplication as a concept. Using pedagogy, the teacher may involve real-world examples or tactile aids. Instead of rote learning, this method focuses on the students' appreciation of the actual meaning of cross-multiplication, in theory encouraging a more holistic understanding of the topic. This approach can create an interactive experience for students, though it's more time-consuming and subjective.

Read more: Skills vs. Abilities and Knowledge

Learner vs. teacher

Pedagogical teaching prioritizes the learner, putting the student in the centre of the academic process. This involves modifying teaching methods based on the needs of the student. For example, pedagogy involves instructing a visual learner differently than a kinesthetic learner. A visual learner may use a video to study a chemistry subject, while a kinesthetic student may choose to create a physical chemistry mode. While time-consuming, pedagogy individualizes the learning experience and can be effective in small classroom settings.

Didactic teachers focus on the information and approach teaching in an egalitarian manner. The method of teaching, usually by lecture, remains consistent for all students. It allows the teacher to control the narrative of the class, which can be a useful approach in large classroom settings. When the course covers a wide syllabus, didactics allow the teacher to create a structured lesson plan that accommodates the entire curriculum.

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