Philosophy of Music Education Review 13.1 (2005) 5-19
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Didactology as a Field of Theory and Research in Music Education
Frede V. Nielsen
Two problem areas which both concern the question of music pedagogy as a field of theory and research are addressed in this paper. The first one concerns the question of the normative and prescriptive versus the descriptive and analytical aspects of music pedagogy. The second is about the theory of and the criteria for the selection of content in music education. In order to address these problems it is necessary to formulate certain preconditions, each of which comprises important distinctions.
Preconditions and Problem Areas
German pedagogical tradition features the term Didaktik, and when the area in question is placed in relation to an educational subject, such as music, the word and the concept of Fachdidaktik (subject-oriented Didaktik) arises. In Scandinavian countries corresponding concepts can be found.1
Two features of the German concept of Didaktik should be emphasized. First, it denotes both the theory and science and the planning and decision-making of teaching and learning. Thus it refers to the theoretically oriented as well [End Page 5] as the practically directed concerns in pedagogy. Second, from the point of view of disciplines, Didaktik is part of the discipline of pedagogy, but there are diverging conceptions and theories of how it is to be delimited in relation to other subsections of pedagogy (such as teaching methodology). Roughly speaking, there exists a narrow or specific conception of Didaktik, which is first and foremost concerned with the question of the content, aim, and rationale of teaching and learning, together with the criteria for the selection of content, and a wide conception, according to which practically all problems regarding teaching and learning are viewed as didaktisch (including questions of teaching methods, forms of organization, and the choice of media).
Significant arguments can be put forward in favor of the specific concept of Didaktik because it provides the opportunity (and actually the compulsion) to focus distinctly and separately on the fundamental issue of educational content and its selection. From this specific point of view, Didaktik can be defined as dealing with the theory and science, together with planning and decision-making, about the rationale, aim, and content of teaching and learning. The most central didactic question may then be formulated in this way: What is essential to learn, and therefore to teach, and why? In the present context it is important to note that this definition comprises both a descriptive/analytical and a prescriptive/normative determination of Didaktik. Hence arises the first of the problem areas I intend to address in greater detail, that is, the question of the normative and prescriptive character of pedagogy versus its descriptive, analytical, and scientific standing (in the present case that part of pedagogy which I have termed Didaktik).
Several types of high-level rationale for the selection of teaching/learning content can be established. For general education in a subject like music (yet with application to other subjects as well) I have formulated four such types, which I also refer to as paradigms.2 Here I use the word "didactics" in the sense of the German Didaktik. The first type I call "basic subject didactics" in which the point of departure is the subject itself and its structure, in our case the subject of music. There is more on this point below. The second type is "ethno-didactics" in which the point of departure is pupil culture and the everyday experience of the pupils or criteria arising out of current local culture. It represents a micro-cultural position in post-modern style. The third type is "challenge didactics" in which the point of departure is the great social problems, such as environmental issues, global North-South relations, conditions of democracy, or for that matter terrorism. This position may be said to have a macro-cultural, problem-oriented, and inter-disciplinary bias. A theory of social criticism is a frequent theoretical anchoring point...