The Contradictions of ‘Didactic’ Exhibitions (2023)

Why our desire for teacherly curation risks becoming an aesthetic fetish

The exhibition guide handed out at the entrance to Recycling Beauty at the Fondazione Prada in Milan tells us that the show is presented in a ‘didactic landscape’. Showing is no longer telling; information panels attached to plinths do the heavy lifting. Classical artefacts – mainly marbles, and some mosaics – are displayed on office desks, with swivel chairs inviting visitors to sit and study the objects. Rem Koolhaas/OMA’s overtly pedagogical exhibition design stages a ‘thesis’ emerging from pieces curated by, among others, the illustrious Italian art historian Salvatore Settis. But the self-consciously studious setting also speaks to a contemporary cultural climate in which didactic exhibitions are in demand. These days, even those who argue against restitution of, say, the Parthenon marbles or Benin Bronzes – which were both in the news again this winter – cling to a ‘retain and explain’ approach (often with the help of dense wall labels). In the case of Recycling Beauty, such context itself becomes the main thesis – here focusing on the reuse, misinterpretation and adaptation of Greek and Roman sculptures in the Middle Ages through to the Baroque.

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The Contradictions of ‘Didactic’ Exhibitions (1)

The exhibition makes good use of the plinths. A sculpture of Minerva, loaned from the Louvre, is put on a pedestal made of five separate materials, layered like geological strata. It speaks to how the figure itself was originally made entirely from onyx in the Hadrianic period; the surviving torso was then given a bronze head, hands, and feet in the 1630s – before these were replaced with marble in 1766. Meanwhile, the fourth-century BCE Lion Attacking a Horse – borrowed from Rome’s Musei Capitolini and placed on high during medieval times in the spot where the city’s death sentences were carried out – is sunk into the floor, where it rests on a block. That changed perspective, lowered then raised, now inverts the statue’s once political installation when it symbolised the power of justice. I think so, anyway – in the contextual panel, details are glossed rather than properly explained. (More information is given in the pricey catalogue.)

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Labels and notes are crucial to understanding these exhibits, yet also spell out the exhibition’s limitations. What of the desks and chairs? You can take a seat and reflect on antiquity, repurposed, though there are no informative papers scattered about, nor drawers of discovery to delve into – ways and means that might have encouraged us to try out the role of scholar rather than spectator. Instead, it is the performance of studying that is fetishised. The exhibition’s second half moves into a renovated cistern, and onto three detailed case studies that include a reconstruction (and part replica) of the fourth-century Colossus of Constantine, towering at 11 metres – complete with a ‘making of’ video. A standard retort to Walter Benjamin’s lament about technology’s capacity to destroy art’s aura through reproductions argues the reverse: that replicas, in fact, build up the allure of an original all the more. But in Recycling Beauty’s voyeuristic form of didacticism, it is the idealised image of the antiquarian and researcher that radiates an aura.

The Contradictions of ‘Didactic’ Exhibitions (2)

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Across town, Milan’s newest art museum, Fondazione Luigi Rovati, is an even more sensual delight that similarly cuts through linear history and makes reinterpretation its guiding theme. But it forgoes the footnotes and explanations that define Recycling Beauty. The Luigi Rovati opened its doors to a permanent collection last summer, having acquired a late nineteenth-century palazzo near Porta Venezia in 2016 that has been redesigned with verve and flourish by Mario Cucinella. Ancient objects, most notably Etruscan pots and figurines, are placed alongside works made as recently as 2022. The exhibition space below ground is sombre, taking its cue in layout and materials from Etruscan tombs. Upstairs, the piano nobile – the rooms in which guests would originally have been entertained – takes a design-conscious, pick-and-mix approach to history and culture. It’s camp, fun, if at times garish. In a striking room painted azure (the original colour of what was once the sitting room and library), Andy Warhol’s The Etruscan Scene: Female Ritual Dance (1985) gestures to the neighbouring antique bucchero vases on show in ornate, eighteenth-century cabinets. These display cases are recycled originals, added in the 1960s to the building that dates from 1871. In this standing exhibition, times clash without much context – though colours complement each other throughout.

The Contradictions of ‘Didactic’ Exhibitions (3)

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It would be easy to criticise the Fondazione Luigi Rovati for privileging aesthetics above the didactic purpose of an exhibition. Historical reappropriation and creative playfulness with the past, in which the really meaningful context is the ‘now’, is seen as less spectacular and more insensitive nowadays. The exhibition reminded me of Gucci’s jewellery collection, Hortus Deliciarum – the third series of which was revealed in the summer. The fashion powerhouse’s artistic director Alessandro Michele incorporated historical pieces – such as micro-mosaics of the Colosseum and the Pantheon made for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century aristocrats on their travels – into his creations and took inspiration from the grand tours of old. As he told Vogue, ‘I like history because it’s like a vault. You can pick up things and put them in the present.’ Upcycling the past for aesthetic ‘aura’ is not unusual for luxury brands, yet feels as anachronistic as grand tours or their latter-day versions: do-gooding gap years in which young people find themselves abroad.

Gucci’s big reveal was set in the neoclassical Roman Villa Albani-Torlonia, which was a well-suited location: there, ancient friezes and sculptures sit alongside eighteenth-century frescos and – let’s say idiosyncratic – interior design (a classical bas-relief of Antinous is set into a modern, marble cenotaph, while kitschy candles stand watch). The Albani villa is testament to the fact that neoclassicism was founded on eclectic aestheticism. And yet, it also housed the German eighteenth-century art historian Johann Winckelmann, who wrote the ground-breaking History of Ancient Art in 1764: a book he called a ‘Lehrgebäude’ (a ‘didactic building’). In fact, the catalogue to Recycling Beauty claims Winckelmann mentioned its statue of Minerva in an early draft of that book. Winckelmann argued that history should be divided into discrete periods, and its art contextualised historically; he initiated the didactic, historical approach to understanding art. At the same time, Winckelmann’s ideas were shaped by overtly aesthetic premises derived from the houses where he looked at antiquities. The tension between an aesthetic gaze and didactic presentation has remained in place ever since – still found in Rome, Milan, and beyond.

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The Contradictions of ‘Didactic’ Exhibitions (4)

Exhibitions, whether Recycling Beauty or the Fondazione Luigi Rovati’s collection, are inherently decontextualising: they display fragments of history wrenched from their original epochs and often also their places of origin. The Luigi Rovati arranges its objects according to an aesthetic grand design. When the predominant trend is didacticism, though, an aesthetic approach may risk appearing ostentatious and empty – or, more positively, it might be received as welcome light relief. But we would do well to acknowledge that the didactic alternative, such as at the Fondazione Prada, can turn out to be primarily aesthetic in its effect, too. The desire to be didactic can bring such a colossal weight to bear on an exhibition that didacticism actually becomes an aesthetic conceit: a fetish.

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Is group discussion an example for didactic method? ›

Group discussions: In the didactic teaching approach, group discussions often follow a lecture or reading. Teachers can guide discussions by asking open-ended questions about the lesson and encouraging their students to think critically.

What are the essential principles for an effective teaching and learning environment? ›

Findings Based on the literature and the experience of the teaching faculty, ten principles of effective teaching were recommended: 1) create an active learning environment, 2) focus attention, 3) connect knowledge, 4) help students organize their knowledge, 5) provide timely feedback, 6) demand quality, 7) balance ...

How can teachers create effective learning environments? ›

Promote positive interaction amongst your students. Allow them to share their feelings, and encourage them to listen to each other, give compliments, express gratitude and practice problem solving together. As teachers, we can present topics and help initiate discussions, but then let students guide the conversation.

What is the preferable time for any students to ask question during teaching interaction? ›

Asking questions after class

Sometimes your question may not get answered during class time because the teacher is busy presenting. After class is the best time to have these questions answered.

What is a didactic example? ›

Didacticism is defined as the type of literature that is meant to instruct or teach something. Textbooks are, of course, didactic, as are recipe books, fables, parables, and instructional manuals. Didactic literature can take many forms, from philosophical to spiritual.

What is meant by didactic approach? ›

A didactic approach to teaching refers to a manner of instruction in which information is presented directly from the teacher to the pupil, in which the teacher selects the topic of instruction, controls instructional stimuli, obligates a response from the child, evaluates child responses, and provides reinforcement ...

What are the 3 most essential elements in the teaching/learning process? ›

Effective teaching involves aligning the three major components of instruction: learning objectives, assessments, and instructional activities.

Which principle of teaching is most important and why? ›

The most important principles of teaching are to be passionate about it and help students to acquire the knowledge. It should be all about developing curiosity, knowledge, and a genuine love for learning in the students.

What learning strategies are the most effective? ›

The Science of Learning: Six Strategies for Effective Learning
  1. Spaced Practice. ...
  2. Interleaving. ...
  3. Retrieval Practice. ...
  4. Elaboration. ...
  5. Concrete Examples. ...
  6. Dual Coding.
May 13, 2020

What 3 strategies help all educators create a supportive learning environment? ›

  • Supportive learning environments can validate the presence of individuals and encourage participation and involvement. ...
  • Be Constructive.
  • Suggestions for Students. ...
  • Make Yourself Available. ...
  • Offer Review Sessions Out of. ...
  • Post Past Exams on a Class.

How long should teacher wait for an answer to a question? ›

Rowe found that teachers typically wait between . 7 seconds and 1.5 seconds before speaking after they have asked a question. However, when teachers utilize wait times of 3 seconds or more, Rowe found that there were demonstrated increases in student creativity and learning.

What advice would you give a student on how do you interact successfully with an instructor? ›

Guidelines for Communicating with Instructors
  • Prepare before going to the instructor's office. ...
  • Don't forget to introduce yourself. ...
  • Respect the instructor's time. ...
  • Realize that the instructor will recognize you from class—even in a large lecture hall. ...
  • Don't try to fool an instructor.

What is the best way for teachers to communicate with students? ›

5 Ways to Establish Effective Communication in the Classroom
  1. Create a safe environment.
  2. Encourage teamwork.
  3. Don't stand at the front of the classroom.
  4. Use some active listening exercises.
  5. Be sure to give positive feedback.
Jan 10, 2022

What is the purpose of didactic? ›

Something that is didactic is intended to teach people something, especially a moral lesson. In totalitarian societies, art exists for didactic purposes. Someone who is didactic tells people things rather than letting them find things out or discussing things.

Is didactic positive or negative? ›

Didactic is often used in a negative way. If you heard that a movie is overly didactic, that's probably not good. Most people want to see a story and be entertained when going to the movies, and if it feels like the movie is just telling you what to think, that's didactic in a bad way.

What is the opposite of didactic teaching? ›

Both words relate to teaching, but didactic teaches a lesson and pedantic just shows off the facts.

What are the disadvantages of didactic method? ›

It can be tedious for students to listen to the possible lectures. There is minimum interaction between the students and the teachers. Learning which also involves motivating the students to develop an interest towards the subject may not be satisfied through this teaching method.

What is the opposite of didactic? ›

Antonyms for the word ''didactic'' include unenlightening, uninformative, and undidactic.

What are the 4 P's of teaching? ›

There are also the current academic gap between the teaching constructs and efficacy. This study has compared how these and other teaching strategies have evaluated the efficacy of creativity derived from the 4Ps model (person, process, press, and product).

What are at least 3 things a great teacher must do in order to have excellent classroom management? ›

  • Develop Effective Working Relationships With Your Students. ...
  • Train Your Students on How Learning Takes Place in Your Classroom. ...
  • Protect and Leverage Your Time. ...
  • Anticipate Your Students' Behaviors in Well-Written Lesson Plans. ...
  • Establish Behavioral Standards.
Sep 2, 2016

What are the 4 pillars of teaching? ›

A central argument is that if education is to succeed in its tasks, curriculum as its core should be restructured or repacked around the four pillars of learning: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be.

What is the most important value in a teacher? ›

Some qualities of a good teacher include skills in communication, listening, collaboration, adaptability, empathy and patience. Other characteristics of effective teaching include an engaging classroom presence, value in real-world learning, exchange of best practices and a lifelong love of learning.

What makes students learn effectively? ›

Effective Learning by Students Requires Feedback

The mere repetition of tasks by students—whether manual or intellectual—is unlikely to lead to improved skills or keener insights. Learning often takes place best when students have opportunities to express ideas and get feedback from their peers.

What is the most important thing in teaching? ›

Building relationships with students is by far the most important thing a teacher can do. Without a solid foundation and relationships built on trust and respect, no quality learning will happen.

What are the most important teaching methods in the delivery of the curriculum? ›

6 effective teaching methods and how to use them
  • Online learning. ...
  • Experiential learning. ...
  • Differentiation. ...
  • Blended learning. ...
  • Game-based learning. ...
  • Student-centred learning.
Oct 27, 2021

Why is teaching strategies important in affecting learning? ›

Teaching strategies play an important role in classroom instruction. Without the use of a strategy, teachers would be aimlessly projecting information that doesn't connect with learners or engage them. Strategies help learners participate, connect, and add excitement to the content being delivered.

Which kind of method is Group Discussion? ›

Group Discussion (GD) is a method of learning where students discuss issues and ideas together. In GD, students work in groups to solve problems and learn from each other. It helps students develop their critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and communication skills.

What is the method of Group Discussion? ›

They include setting, or helping the group to set the discussion topic; fostering the open process; involving all participants; asking questions or offering ideas to advance the discussion; summarizing or clarifying important points, arguments, and ideas; and wrapping up the session.

What is Group Discussion method of teaching? ›

[4] Small-group discussion is a student-centered methodology, that allows students to actively involve and be partners in the teaching-learning process. Students interact with peers and instructors, discussing, and sharing ideas. They develop the ability to build consensus in a group.

What type of assessment is Group Discussion? ›

Many in-class activities and outside class assignments such as quizzes, small group discussions, and weekly homework assignments can be considered formative assessments if students receive timely feedback on their performance.

What are 4 types of discussion? ›

The Four Types of Conversations: Debate, Dialogue, Discourse, and Diatribe. When talking with someone, it is helpful to know what type of conversation you are in. You can do so based on a conversation's direction of communication (a one-way or two-way street) and its tone/purpose (competitive or cooperative).

What are the 3 types of group discussion? ›

Answer: GD can be divided into 3 categories: - 1. Topical, 2. Case Study Based, 3. Abstract.

What are the three types of discussion? ›

These different types of discussions serve different purposes, are useful in different phases of a lesson or unit, and have different characteristics depending on their purpose.
  • Discussion Type Summary. Initial Ideas Discussions. ...
  • Building Understanding Discussion. Purposes/Goals. ...
  • Consensus Discussion. ...
  • Consensus Discussion.

What are the 3 C's of group discussion? ›

The three "Cs" which rank you high on this parameter are clarity (the main points to be discussed), content (the vertical depth in each point) and confidence.

What are the five types of discussions? ›

Description These five types of open-ended, level three questions (enduring, critical, hypothetical, metacognitive, & socratic) provide students with structured ways to format ideas and facilitate higher-level discussion.

What should be avoided in a group of discussion? ›

To help you clear this step successfully, we take you through 5 things you should avoid during a group discussion.
  • Allowing emotions to take over. ...
  • Prioritising quantity over quality. ...
  • Being overconfident or under-confident. ...
  • Cram too many statistics in your points. ...
  • Ignoring your body language. ...
  • 29 August, 2022.
  • 19 October, 2022.
Oct 4, 2022

Why discussion is best method of teaching? ›

Discussion is important to learning in all disciplines because it helps students process information rather than simply receive it. Leading a discussion requires skills different from lecturing. The goal of a discussion is to get students to practice thinking about the course material.

What are the pros and cons of group discussion? ›

Comparison Table for Advantages and Disadvantages of Group Discussion
More interactive than a lectureCan get very confusing
Students have a tendency to stay focusedNot everyone will get a chance to express their views
Can improve gradesMay not be as effective as a lecture
2 more rows
Mar 9, 2022

How many types of discussion method of teaching are there? ›

Kochhar (1985) identifies two major types of discussion which are formal and informal.

How do you pass a group discussion interview? ›

  1. Awareness of Topics Relating to Your Background Is Crucial. ...
  2. Take the Lead. ...
  3. There Is No Place for Aggression in Group Discussions. ...
  4. Communicate Effectively. ...
  5. Listen Carefully, Do Not Just Hear. ...
  6. Work On Your Body Language. ...
  7. Avoid Deviating From the Topic. ...
  8. Be the First to Summarize the Discussion.
Nov 8, 2022

How do you pass a group assessment? ›

How to perform well in group exercises
  1. Manage your time effectively. ...
  2. Speak up. ...
  3. Collaborate with your group members. ...
  4. Recognise others' contributions. ...
  5. Encourage quieter members. ...
  6. Don't dominate. ...
  7. Be positive. ...
  8. Research.
Jan 14, 2020

What are the 4 types of assessment? ›

A Guide to Types of Assessment: Diagnostic, Formative, Interim, and Summative.


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