Didactic transposition: definition and examples


Chevallard’s didactic transposition consists of transforming scholarly knowledge into knowledge that must be taught in textbooks, and then into knowledge that can be taught in classrooms.

Didactic transposition: summary

Indeed, didactic transposition is one of the important skills of students in the sciences of education. It effectively helps teachers to design lesson plans on topics that are not in current educational programs and to develop the school curriculum. It is necessary to develop the capacity of didactic transposition of students in university training. However, in order to effectively promote the capacity for didactic transposition, it is necessary to clarify its structure, its components, its elements and the criteria for realizing these elements. This article proposes a didactic transposition capacity structure and analyzes an example of didactic transposition of physical knowledge for students of physics pedagogy.

Didactic transposition rules

In order for knowledge of a subject to be taught in school, it is necessary to select, arrange and restructure it according to a logical and intentional link that can serve a specific educational objective . There must be a “didactic transposition” so that pupils can really acquire knowledge from scholarly scientific content to general scientific content (knowledge of natural and social sciences). 


The transposition of scientific content to didactic content has its own rule. This “didactic transposition” contains not only the transition from scholarly knowledge to knowledge to be taught, but also the transition from knowledge to be taught to knowledge taught in the classroom. This should ensure the freshness and timeliness of science, and the teachable contents should simultaneously meet the requirements of the training objectives and the teaching objectives, in accordance with the circumstances and conditions of the country. 

In addition, the didactic transposition is also an important step in the design of educational activities to achieve the training objective, the development of student skills. The teacher is the key person who carries out the pedagogical transposition in the educational and teaching activities at school. The transposition must be made according to time, space, subjects and pupils for whom the teacher is responsible.

 Enabling students to convert scientific knowledge into disciplinary knowledge at school is also one of the important tasks in the process of teacher training. This also means that the pedagogical training process must equip students with the capacity for didactic transposition.

Studies on didactic transposition

Several studies have mentioned research on the structure of didactic transferability. We detail below three specific studies. 



First of all, the research of Chevallard (1985) approached the concept, the role of the didactic transposition in general, but does not concern itself with the didactic transposition of specific subjects.  

The research of Develay (1992) also mentioned the diagram of the didactic transposition in which the process of transposition consists of two main phases: the external didactic transposition (period of transition from knowledge to science) and the internal didactic transposition (transition between the knowledge to be taught and the knowledge taught in class). 

The study by Philippe Perrenoud (1998) considers that the determination of the knowledge to be taught is made according to the context, the social needs, the characteristics of the learners, etc. This is consistent with the idea that teaching takes learners into account, that essential knowledge can be applied and used to solve problems/tasks in life, in the professional practice of learners. 

The two stages of didactic transposition

Didactic transposition is the work of transforming scholarly knowledge into knowledge to be taught in textbooks, then into knowledge to be taught in classrooms. This transformation must ensure that the knowledge to be taught and that which can be taught are consistent with the educational objectives and the cognitive characteristics of the learners. 

According to Develay (1992), the process of didactic transposition comprises two stages, internal transposition and external transposition.

External didactic transposition 

External translation is the stage in which scholarly knowledge (or expert knowledge) is transformed into knowledge to be taught (knowledge identified in the school curriculum or manifested in textbooks). This step is generally carried out by those in charge of the school program.

Internal didactic transposition

 Internal translation is the stage in which the knowledge that must be taught is transformed into knowledge that can be taught in the classroom. The person who does this work is the teacher (lecturer, instructor) and the educational researcher. Based on the knowledge of the program, the characteristics of the learners and the school conditions, a teacher can choose different to train the learners.  


At this point, there is a clear distinction between transposition for primary learners and transposition for high school students. In the process of training students of education in general and students of physics in particular, there are two chains of transposition. The first is done by teachers on learners who are students of education. The second is carried out by the students in pedagogy on the learners who are pupils. 

The two stages of didactic transposition

The concept of didactic transferability

The capacity for didactic transposition refers to the capacity to analyze the transformation of scholarly knowledge into knowledge taught in textbooks. But also to the transformation of knowledge in textbooks that can be taught in classrooms in specific curriculum circumstances.

This didactic transposition must be adapted to the learners and to the school conditions.

However, it is not always easy for teachers and students of pedagogy to access the original materials of scholarly knowledge, especially the very old claims of scientists, in order to analyze the passage from scholarly knowledge to knowledge. that needs to be taught and then to that which can be taught in the classroom. 

We therefore note that the didactic transposition capacity of teachers (or students) is the capacity to analyze the transformation of knowledge (manifested in books, textbooks [undergraduate level] and other sources) into the knowledge that must be taught in the curriculum, textbooks, and then in knowledge that can be taught in classrooms while respecting the values ​​of the institution and adapting to learners and the school context.

An example of didactic transposition

Here is a case study on didactic transferability in physics:

The case studies are tested with a group of 10 future teachers. These are third-year students studying “General Physics Curriculum Analysis”.


Here, we analyze the CET1 element in the external transposition capacity of physics didactics students. In order to practice this skill, based on the selected knowledge, students must follow the following steps:

Step 1: Locate knowledge in different types of documents.

In this step, it is possible for students to locate knowledge in the current curriculum and textbooks. Indeed, indicating the location of knowledge in different documents helps students to have an overview of knowledge.

After locating the knowledge, the students must also make comments and comparisons on the results obtained. The experimental results showed that 8 out of 10 students could not identify basic knowledge. In particular, students did not recognize all lessons based on knowledge already taught in class.

Step 2: Determine the type of knowledge content presented in the curriculum and textbooks.

6 out of 10 students did not identify the right type of knowledge content. To do this, students must relate the properties of knowledge from the perspective of teaching theories to determine whether the knowledge belongs to the concepts, phenomena, laws, theories or applications of physics. Students can thus learn how the properties of knowledge are reflected in the curriculum and textbooks. 

Step 3: Compare the level of knowledge content between the curriculum and textbooks. 

Based on the properties of knowledge mentioned in Step 2, students should compare and evaluate the level of knowledge content. They can create tables to show the combination of knowledge contents and their levels.

This step is also important for the implementation of the analysis of the objectives and properties of knowledge in textbooks (capacity component TEC2). These 5 students are part of the 6 students who did well in step 2. Thus, the first results showed that the type of knowledge content in step 2 was closely related to the comparison, the evaluation of the level of knowledge in step 3.

Step 4: Indicate the presentation and formation of knowledge in different documents.

Demonstration of knowledge required students to be able to generalize. They could only achieve good results when knowledge was fully localized. 6 of the 8 students who did well in Stage 1 passed the Stage 4 tasks.


In addition, the analysis of knowledge formation in different documents is based on the formation of knowledge specific to physics. By analyzing how knowledge is presented in textbooks, students have found that logic that forms the same knowledge could possibly follow different paths.

For example, the path that generates the concept of physical quantities generally consists of five successive stages: qualitative characterizations, quantitative characterizations, conceptual definitions, identification of units of measurement and application of the concepts in practice.

However, this order is not always fixed. When analyzing the formation of physical knowledge, students can not only identify the stages of knowledge formation, but also describe how each of these stages appears in the syllabus and textbook. This creates a good foundation for students to complete the “Diagram Analysis of the Process of Constructing and Applying Scientific Knowledge.”

Step 5: Demonstrate the differences between the levels of content, presentation and formation of knowledge

Why is knowledge formed in this way? Why is there a difference in knowledge levels? What are the advantages and disadvantages for learners of these different presentations?

We will illustrate, for example, the analysis of knowledge about “gravity” at different stages of transposition: we choose here the manual of mechanics (Dao Van Phuc & Pham Viet Trinh, 1990), one of the basic books used in many many schools of science education, the current 10th grade physics textbook (standardized). When analyzing knowledge about gravity, applying the above steps, the students’ results are presented as follows: 

Example of gravity

  • Below are the locations of “Gravity” knowledge in various documents:
mechanics manual  Physics In first class 
• Chapter IV: Gravitational field (the law of universal gravitation; gravitational mass and inertial mass; gravitational field; gravitational potential energy; movement in the gravitational field. Kepler’s laws; Speed ​​of movement of the Earth in the universe)• Chapter II: Dynamics of particles (Lesson 11 -Gravity. The law of universal gravitation).
• Chapter IV: Conservation Laws (Lesson 26 – Potential Energy, Section I. Gravitational Potential Energy).

As can be seen in the table, the knowledge of “gravity” in the mechanics textbook is organized in one chapter, while in the first grade physics textbooks it is organized in different chapters. 

 Gravity is explored in its organic relationship with the quantities that characterize the interactions between mass objects, the gravitational potential energy. In addition, the application of this physical concept is also included. So, we explore gravity after the chapters of particle kinematics, particle dynamics, dynamics of mechanical systems and conservation laws in mechanics.



To conclude, knowledge of the structure of the didactic transposition capacity of students in physics pedagogy would be useful to us in further research to study and evaluate the didactic transposition capacity of students in physics pedagogy, the didactic refinement of states didactics for physics students in pedagogical universities, the reality of training the didactic transposition ability of physics pedagogy students. These are also the bases that allow us to design training content and training programs. And also appropriate tools to assess the didactic transposition capacity of students in physics pedagogy at different levels.

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