Teaching as a Reflective Practice: The German Didaktik Tradition

Teaching as a Reflective Practice: The German Didaktik Tradition

Teaching as a Reflective Practice: The German Didaktik Tradition

Teaching as a Reflective Practice: The German Didaktik Tradition

Synopsis

This volume presents a mix of translations of classical and modern papers from the German Didaktik tradition, newly prepared essays by German scholars and practitioners writing from within the tradition, and interpretive essays by U. S. scholars. It brings this tradition, which virtually dominated German curricular thought and teacher education until the 1960s when American curriculum theory entered Germany--and which is now experiencing a renaissance--to the English-speaking world, where it has been essentially unknown.

The intent is to capture in one volume the core (at least) of the tradition of Didaktik and to communicate its potential relevance to English-language curricularists and teacher educators. It introduces a theoretical tradition which, although very different in almost every respect from those we know, offers a set of approaches that suggest ways of thinking about problems of reflection on curricular and teaching praxis (the core focus of the tradition) which the editors believe are accessible to North American readers--with appropriate "translation." These ways of thinking and related praxis are very relevant to notions such as reflective teaching and the discourse on teachers as professionals. By raising the possibility that the "new" tradition of Didaktik can be highly suggestive for thinking through issues related to a number of central ideas within contemporary discourse--and for exploring the implications of these ideas for both teacher education and for a curriculum theory appropriate to these new contexts for theorizing, this book opens up a gold mine of theoretical and practical possibilities.

Excerpt

Several years ago one of us (Ian Westbury) shared with an American colleague, Walter Doyle of the University of Arizona, a copy of a paper by Arnold Kirsch (see chap. 15, this volume) on "simplification" in mathematics teaching that he had been given at a seminar in Germany, and had found to be quite fascinating. Doyle got back to Westbury quickly, agreeing that the paper was indeed very interesting, but he went on to ask where it came from and what it represented. Westbury told him that the paper had been described to him as a model of classical "Gymnasium didactics"--although he was later to understand that it was more correctly seen as an example of Fachdidaktik, that is, subject Didaktik. Predictably the question that followed was "What is 'Gymnasium didactics'?" and Westbury had to say that he didn't know.

At that time Walter Doyle was working on the kind of understanding that needs to be developed within curriculum studies of the issues around the transformation of concepts and bodies of content as they are moved from a curriculum to the classroom. For Doyle, Kirsch's paper was to become a key exemplar of and support for his emerging idea, and he was to cite it several times. But the question he had asked when he first read Kirsch's paper nevertheless remained. What was this "Gymnasium didactics" that we were told Kirsch's paper represented?--with the implication that there might be much, much more written on "transformation" and "simplification" in the German literature on didactics than was available in the English-language literature on curriculum.

Eventually, at a conference at the University of Oslo in 1990, Westbury was able to ask "What's didactic?" in a conversation with Bjørg Gundem of the University of Oslo and Stefan Hopmann, a speaker at the conference and then a member of the research staff of the Institut für die Pädogogik der Naturwissenschaften (IPN), the Institute for Science Education, at the Christian-Albrechts Universität, Kiel. They told him that didactics, or Didaktik, was the long-standing heart of thinking about teaching and teacher education in Germany; that "Gymnasium Didaktik" was one, but only one, part of the tradition; that it was a body of thought that had had, in recent years, a complex relationship with the "curriculum" tradition as that tradition had been imported into Germany in the 1960s; that in the . . .

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