J. F. Herbart's Art of Teaching: Bildsamkeit and Pedagogical Tact in Education

  • Christine Salmen (Vortragende*r)

    Aktivität: VorträgeVortragScience to Science


    Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776-1841) was one of the most influential and renowned education philosophers of late Eighteenth Century Germany during German Enlightenment. His work marks the beginning of education as a science and embeds pedagogy, i.e. the art of teaching as a profession, between education theory and practice. As such, Herbart's work on the conditions of educative teaching (erziehender Unterricht) as well as possibilities and limitations of education theory for practice in view of the enlightened student remains at the core of German-speaking education and pedagogy today. Because Herbart's distinguished education and his experiences as a house teacher molded his body of work, I open my contribution by first introducing Herbart as philosopher of his time along his biography to then sketch educability (Bildsamkeit) and pedagogical tact as foundational concepts of Herbart's theory.
    The concept of educability as the human ability for self-formation, learning and self-development existed long before Herbart, but it was he who placed it at the foundation of pedagogy. Educability guides the teacher in prompting the emergence of educative experiences from the subject matter by making it, i.e. subject matter, questionable through questions. Educative teaching, hence, expands the student's immediate experience of the world artificially by teaching what cannot be learned in the world, yet what must be learned to lead an individual, participatory life, for example cultural techniques of reading and writing, poetry, the sciences, etc. Fostering the student's interest in the world as a whole guides the teacher in relating the knowledge and culture of humankind to the student so to aid self-directed, autonomous inquiry (Selbstätigkeit) that eventually becomes self-development and self-fulfillment (Selbstentfaltung).
    Herbart's first lecture on pedagogy (1802) opens with an explanation of pedagogical tact as the experience manifest, the grown intuition of an experienced teacher, a skill that allows for theoretical knowledge to be applied to each concrete educative instance. It is theory that prepares the teacher in the art of teaching and so it is the teacher's reflective stance grounded in consideration and science that guides professional teaching. Rather than a method, teaching is first and foremost about the teacher, the specific pedagogic disposition (Sinnesart) that results from ideas and convictions about nature and human educability. In his 1806 work, Herbart then ties teaching unequivocally to subject matter and proper sequencing of contents in a way that is relatable and connected for the student. The considered, well-defined intention (Wollen) of teaching in view of the teacher's larger purpose, their ultimate aim (Gesichtskreis) in educating a student is the core of pedagogy as a profession. I base my elaborations on the original German text of his first lecture on pedagogy (1802) and extracts of his General Pedagogics Derived from the Purpose of Education (1806), as well as two secondary sources offering interpretations of Herbart's concepts that differ from my reading. A contrastive analysis of these readings concludes my talk.
    Herbart's work informs scholars of education history and historiography that seek to understand the foundations of modern German-speaking Education. Scholars interested in education reform find guidance and clarity in Herbart's uncompromising commitment to pedagogy for and with the enlightened human being. This is of particular relevance in view of the current policy developments in the German-speaking world that move away from the roots of Didaktik and toward systems of accountability reminiscent of the past 40 years of US education policy.
    Zeitraum24 Juni 2020
    Gehalten amSociety for the Study of Curriculum History (SSCH), USA / Vereinigte Staaten