Contrasts between didactic and Deweyan approaches to health education

Corey H. Brouse (Department of Health Promotion and Wellness, SUNY Oswego, Oswego, New York, USA)
Charles E. Basch (Department of Health and Behavior Studies, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, USA)
Michael Kubara (Department of Philosophy, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada)

Health Education

ISSN: 0965-4283

Publication date: 1 December 2005



Over the past few decades, several theories and models have evolved to guide health education practice. Some of these models are participatory and democratic; nevertheless, much health education practice is based on achieving goals established by “health authorities,” which are called here the didactic model. The purpose of this paper is to consider that model and contrast it with a Deweyan model, based on the pragmatist philosopher, John Dewey.


First provides a historical perspective on the didactic and Deweyan models stressing their implications for health education. The didactic approach is contrasted with a dialectical approach implied by the Deweyan model. Then briefly discusses pragmatism and cognition noting the importance of emotions in the learning process and consider the implications of various philosophical perspectives for understanding human behavior. The final two sections discuss the goals of health education and the role of the health educator based on the essentials of pragmatism—in which health education is value‐laden and lifestyle specific


Concludes by advocating for a greater emphasis on a Deweyan philosophy in public health education practice and research.


Over the past several decades, theoretical frameworks for health education have evolved and a wide variety of educational, social‐psychological and program planning frameworks have been proposed and utilized to guide practice, but none specifically follow the philosophy of John Dewey. This paper is original in that it outlines the Deweyan philosophy and relates it to health education. If that philosophy were to guide health education practice and research, it would improve our service to the community as well as our understanding about why people make the choices they do.



Brouse, C., Basch, C. and Kubara, M. (2005), "Contrasts between didactic and Deweyan approaches to health education", Health Education, Vol. 105 No. 6, pp. 467-476.

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