Subject didactics

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Subject didactics refers to the scientific disciplines whose research, teaching and development objects are subject or domain-specific learning and teaching processes.


Subject didactics in German-speaking countries are usually organized according to the school subjects ( e.g. physics didactics , history didactics ). However, there are also didactics that combine several subjects ("area didactics"; e.g .: didactics of social sciences, natural science didactics, foreign language didactics ) or only deal with certain aspects of a subject ( literature didactics , language didactics ). Area didactics (e.g. science education ) are more widespread internationally .

Position in the science systematics

The concept of subject didactics (instead of mere methodology ) was first used by the mathematics didacticist Walther Lietzmann around 1921.

The understanding of the subject didactics that are assigned to the school subjects or derived from them can be explained by their emergence from subject methodologies , but is now outdated. In the course of the scientification of many subject didactics into scientific (sub) disciplines with their own research fields, this conventional link has increasingly given way to an independent justification of the subject areas. Especially since the debate about educational standards and competencies and the increasing "empirical turn" in didactic research (cf. Heinrich Roth ), it can also be argued that school subjects are "merely" contingent organizational units that are more or less based on systematic or pragmatic definitions of areas of knowledge and / or "domains" of world exploration are defined. In this sense, subject didactics can also be understood as domain-centered scientific disciplines which research conditions, logics, forms, etc. of "subject" or "domain-specific" learning and teach on the basis of this research (especially in teacher training ).

In the modern understanding, subject didactics are neither derivations or implementation or application disciplines of "their" subject (" image didactics") nor technical specifications of "general didactics". They are viewed more as separate disciplines that are closely related to various related sciences. In addition to the specialist sciences, these are "general" educational science and general didactics, development and learning psychology, as well as areas such as socialization research etc.

In the " image didactics" that was prevalent in the past , the main task of subject didactics was to select subject-specific "content" (or "objects") and prepare it in a way that is appropriate for the target group. Accordingly, the main scientific task of many didactic specialists was to write school books. It is still one of the important tasks of subject didactics, curricula and teaching / or. To reflect on and justify learning objectives for technical / domain-specific learning processes as well as to develop and evaluate principles and forms of their thematization and methodization. For these tasks, the knowledge researched and provided by the respective specialist science remains an indispensable basis. Objectives, objects, media and methods of imparting knowledge are not primarily reflected on in relation to the subject, but with a view to the functions and forms of subject-specific or domain-specific knowledge and skills for learners in their present and future lives.

In this sense, many subject didactics nowadays reach beyond school subjects and teacher training in their research and teaching interests and are devoted to researching the functions and forms of social use of subject / domain-specific knowledge, the processes of subject-related social communication and in teaching also the (training ) Formation of extracurricular "intermediaries". Also, some subject didactics meanwhile see themselves as reflection bodies, which also reflect the scientific treatment of "their" domain by the specialist sciences.

Wolfgang Klafki

Wolfgang Klafki dealt with subject didactics from the perspective of general didactics . For him, subject didactics is centrally related to school subjects:

The object of investigation in subject didactics is the planning, implementation and analysis of teaching and reporting in the respective subject. You :

  • describes the historical course of their subject,
  • researches, reflects and justifies all aspects of teaching in the respective subject,
  • explores the actual lessons taking place and its results,
  • introduces the practice of teaching and
  • develops and reviews teaching models in practice.

Didactic study components

Subject didactics is an essential part of teacher training courses at German universities. However, the structure and scope of these studies as well as the content are very different between universities and colleges of education as well as between the individual universities and among the various subjects. The study of the respective subject didactics is compulsory in the courses preparing for the profession of teacher and in connection with the chosen subjects, the offers at the universities are extremely different and vary between "not available" and a scientific, research-based and empirical offer . The subject didactics plays an important role in the second training phase, in the study seminar . There are also controversies and contradicting approaches, since “the” subject didactics in the sense of a binding methodology does not and cannot exist.

In addition to the methodological approaches, the various subject didactics are also very different in terms of content, depending on the subject matter, and must therefore be considered more closely in their respective characteristics.

Current trends

Subject didactics can also be viewed as a meta-scientific discipline that can only be developed on the basis of a subject discipline (“subject”). Nonetheless, there are general didactic trends that are reflected to a similar extent in very different subject didactics. For example, constructivist principles currently play a major role both in foreign language didactics and in the didactics of natural science subjects ; they are expressed in didactic concepts such as action orientation and learning orientation . A methodical implementation of the constructivist approach in practice is provided by the method of learning through teaching , which was developed in French lessons and can be transferred to all subjects . Overall, in the methodological area, eclectic concepts are preferred over closed models (see also list of teaching methods ).

Another current development is the development of a "general subject didactics", in the description of which both what the subject didactics have in common (e.g. dissociation from the respective subject, orientation on an educational concept, development of competence models, etc.) as well as what distinguishes them professionally in Outlines becomes visible. Learning in the subject and in the subject can be differentiated in such a way that a common self-image of the subject didactics with regard to the intended contribution to general education emerges (cf. Bayrhuber et al. 2016).

The teacher as a specialist didactic

The teacher, as a didactic specialist, is to be described in terms of the following dimensions and brought together to a theoretically coherent didactic concept: He constructs a structure of the matter based on knowledge of the matter (knowledge architecture, didactic epistemology) and knowledge of his own knowledge structure (knowledge biography). He is also the interpreter between the structure of the thing created (knowledge architecture), his own structure (knowledge biography), his didactic communication strategy, the structure of the learner's chreodes (subjective knowledge logics, subjective brain structures), the media and symbolic bridges. In addition, it is a processor in the midst of a state-influenced learning culture.

  1. The teacher knows and takes into account, as far as possible, the framework conditions of human learning and teaching abilities (his own and that of the learners) as an anthropological reference (theory of living systems, theory of autopoiesis), individual knowledge potentials, knowledge histories as the epistemological timeline of teachers and learners.
  2. He is the interpreter of the respective sign system used and its logics. He is the initiator and bearer of meaning for this system (e.g. mathematics, foreign languages, chemistry, art, etc.), he is the designer and mediator of his respective logics and the individually or socially determined media structures and their symbolisms (pictures, school books, diagrams , Metaphors, functions, structures, writing, language, signs, images, text, maps, comics, photography, film, computer etc.).
  3. It depends on which options and options he decides for himself in this context: This depends, among other things. a. on its own personality structure (alpha, beta, gamma, delta dominance), the mainstream of the respective subject didactics and the media templates.
  4. It depends on which knowledge architecture the didactic specialist uses (which knowledge contexts, knowledge logics, types of knowledge, fields of knowledge) are used? Which are excluded?
  5. The teacher is embedded in an organization that imposes a number of restrictions on him or grants him privileges (civil servants, government guidelines, education exchange market, scarcity of resources, top-down membership, etc.).
  6. Which freedom (contingencies) does the lecturer decide? What epistemological risk does he take in his constructions?
  7. Ultimately, his didactic action is also significantly influenced by the framework conditions of the surrounding learning culture with its everyday rules, norms and preferences and was accordingly also in the service of prevailing ideologies.
  8. Which action theory is provided by the respective subject didactics. Didactic action follows its own logic and individual survival conclusions.

The following research areas for all subject didactics are derived from this:

  1. Which general and special theories about social awareness of education, about people in general and learners and teachers in particular are relevant for the respective subject didactics?
  2. Which knowledge architectures are there within a subject didactics (knowledge concepts, knowledge types, knowledge logics, knowledge contexts and knowledge fields)? How does the respective subject didactics prepare the learners for an intellectual qualification in the face of a strongly changing world?
  3. Which knowledge architecture develops a subject didactics in the sense of a solid didactic relativism (construction, negation and exclusion of knowledge, elements of knowledge construction)?
  4. Which subjective constructions does the teacher make (knowledge biography, knowledge constructions based on personal dominance of personality)?
  5. Which structures of consciousness and behavior are there in learners (specific structures of consciousness in the area of ​​learning, such as types of representation, structures of consciousness and behavior)? How does subject didactics respond to the structures of consciousness of learners?
  6. Which didactic communication media are suitable for which types of learners (representational dominance, profiles of different ways of thinking and perceiving learners, the topological representation of the subject structure)?
  7. Which postmodern learning cultures exist and how is the respective subject didactics classified there (preference order of the subject in an existing learning culture, prestige value, product value, accounting in the education exchange market, etc.)?
  8. Which action theories does the respective subject didactics have?
  9. Which teaching and learning strategies are relevant for the respective subject didactics?

The theory-practice problem

The theory-practice problem for specialist didactics that exists in all sciences is particularly acute. In the colleges of education, didactic concepts were tried and tested for a long time, but the theoretical frame of reference was missing. In the 1970s, subject didactics was expanded significantly in order to better prepare university-trained teachers for the reality of their profession. The technical theory should be supplemented by the didactic practical relevance. Specialized didactic positions have been created at universities across Germany and filled with particularly qualified practitioners or committed habilitates. However, a lively theory development was developed by the new appointments in order to find connection within the university to the respected specialist sciences. This step into abstraction often took place at the expense of the practical relevance, which can be seen from the occasional demarcation between subject didactics and methodology, particularly pronounced in history didactics . In the last thirty years, subject didactics has only been able to find a connection to the established sciences to a limited extent on the one hand, and on the other hand to satisfy student teachers and practitioners. In view of this situation, efforts can be seen at universities to reduce professorial positions in specialist didactics and to replace them with practice-oriented mid-level positions. At the same time, teacher training centers are being set up at universities to improve training.

The theory-practice problem has recently been taken up again: The previous view that a good theory also entails good practice and vice versa is, according to Kösel, a fallacy. It is not for nothing that thousands of young teachers who have just completed their theoretical training at universities fall into a deep hole (practical shock) when they are suddenly faced with a class and a teaching staff. There are completely different laws and norms than the novice learned and believed. The promise that a good theory would be the best basis for didactic action turns out to be wrong at this point. This myth is still being spread. It is misunderstood that theory is relevant for reflection and the description of a phenomenon and that didactic action is determined by a large number of other factors that the theory in its current form cannot capture.

Any subject didactics cannot only relate to the structure of the matter. An appropriate theory of action is also decisive, which takes into account the many factors of everyday school life and the corresponding actions of the teacher and the learner in the midst of a societal approval of a subject didactics.

In the meantime, however, other versions of the "theory-practice problem" are also being discussed, taking into account psychological research, which critically question the strict distinction between the two terms and, especially in the context of teacher training, an integral understanding of "theory" and "practice" as look more suitable.

The individual subject didactics


  • Karl-Heinz Arnold (Ed.): Quality of teaching and subject didactics. Klinkhardt, Bad Heilbrunn 2007, ISBN 978-3-7815-1431-7 .
  • Subject didactics in dialogue. Contributions from the lecture series of the Didactics Forum at the Philipps University of Marburg. Tectum, Marburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-8288-2226-9 .
  • Horst Bayrhuber et al. (Ed.): Empirical foundation in the subject didactics. Waxmann, Münster a. a. 2011, ISBN 978-3-8309-2448-7 .
  • Horst Bayrhuber, Ulf Abraham , Volker Frederking, Werner Jank, Martin Rothgangel, Helmut Johannes Vollmer: On the way to general subject didactics. (= General Didactics. Volume 1). Waxmann, Münster 2016, ISBN 978-3-8309-3532-2 .
  • Marko Demantowsky , Volker Steenblock (Ed.): Self-interpretation and foreign concept. The didactics of the cultural studies subjects in conversation. Projekt Verlag, Bochum / Freiburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-89733-241-6 .
  • Marko Demantowsky, Bettina Zurstrassen (Hrsg.): Research methods and research status in the didactics of cultural studies subjects. Projekt Verlag, Bochum / Freiburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-89733-318-5 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Scientific didactics at the university. Monthly magazine for secondary schools, 1921.
  2. ^ H. Glöckel: Contribution to the discussion. Spring 2001.
  3. ^ Karl Otto Sauerbeck: Didactics in the Third Reich using the example of the biology textbook by Steche-Stengel-Wagner. In: Specialized prose research - Crossing borders. Volume 8/9, 2014, pp. 391-412.
  4. W. Jank, H. Meyer: Didaktische Modelle. 5th edition. Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-589-21566-6 .
  5. Cf. Marko Demantowsky: Praxis vs. Theory and Rüsen's New History. In: Public History Weekly. 1, 2013, 14, doi: 10.1515 / phw-2013-889 .