Differences Between Pedagogy and Didactics

Pedagogy and didactics are two very important concepts in education, but they don't mean the same thing. Discover the difference!
Differences Between Pedagogy and Didactics
Ana Couñago

Written and verified by the psychologist Ana Couñago.

Last update: 14 November, 2022

When talking about education, mentioning pedagogy and didactics is inevitable. Many people believe that these concepts are synonymous, but this is not the case, although they’re closely related. Below, we’ll explain the meaning of each of these terms and the differences between them.

But before going deeper into this topic, it’s worth clarifying that one couldn’t exist without the other, as didactics is a fundamental part of pedagogy. Do you want to know what we mean by this? Go ahead and keep reading!

The definition of pedagogy and didactics

Pedagogy is the social science that aims to study everything related to education, relying on knowledge from philosophy, anthropology, history, sociology, psychology, etc.

Parents helping their daughter with her homework.

The word pedagogy, etymologically, comes from the Greek word paidós, which can be translated as “child” and agogía, which means “to guide”. Therefore, we can say that this concept literally means “to guide the child”.

On the other hand, didactics is the discipline that focuses on the study of the teaching-learning process, based on pedagogical theories. Therefore, didactics is considered a branch of pedagogy.

Etymologically, this word comes from the Greek didaskein, which means “to teach”, and tekne, which means “art of”. In other words, didactics is “the art of teaching”.

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.”

-Mark Van Dore-

So, taking all the above into account, we can affirm that the ultimate goal of pedagogy is to form human beings. And for this, didactics is necessary.

Differences between both concepts

Now that you know the definition of pedagogy and didactics, it’s time to see what the many differences between the two concepts are.

On the one hand, pedagogy:

  • Studies education in a broad and global sense
  • Responds to the question: How to educate
  • Focuses on guiding the educator
  • Is focused on all people, regardless of their age
  • Is reflected in a specific educational program or project
  • Is a theoretical-practical knowledge

On the other hand, didactics:

  • Studies a specific part of education; specifically, it studies the set of methods, techniques, and strategies to promote teaching and learning
  • Responds to the question: How to teach”
  • Focuses on guiding the teacher
  • Is focused on children and adolescents studying within an educational system
  • Is reflected in the educational curriculum that’s put into practice in the classroom
  • Is totally practical

It’s worth noting that psychology plays a fundamental role in didactics, as it provides the fundamental concepts to understand the learning processes in the different stages of life.

On the other hand, didactics:

  • Explores the mechanisms and principles of learning, and ways to become more effective
  • Studies the principles of educational action and how students learn
  • Develops methods and recreates conditions for teaching for the best results
  • Analyzes and suggests models that govern the organizational forms of educational work in schools

The relationship between education, pedagogy and didactics

To understand the relationship between education, pedagogy and didactics, you need to know the definition of education. Therefore, education is the multidirectional process through which the aim is to develop people’s potential throughout the life cycle and within different contexts (family, school, neighborhood, etc.).

A young girl smiling at her dad as she does her homework.

But education, in order to be effective, requires a science that studies it, and this is pedagogy. Likewise, this science needs to be applied, and for that, there’s didactics, which puts the theories of pedagogy into practice in the school environment.

In short, talking about education implies talking about pedagogy, and, in turn, talking about pedagogy implies talking about didactics. Therefore, these three concepts should never be separated. In fact, this same idea is reflected by the outstanding Cuban pedagogue, Justo Alberto Chávez Rodríguez, in the following sentence:

“If practice and theory can’t be separated, neither can pedagogy and didactics.”

In short, anyone who’s dedicated to education and the world of teaching, or intends to be in the future, must have this and all of the above very clear in order to be a good professional in the field of education and development.

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