That’s a lot of money, so it worth knowing what DI is, and teachers are being pushed to use it.
What Is Direct Instruction?
Direct Instruction is an approach to teaching developed by Seigfried Engelmann and Wesley Becker in the 1960s.
It involves explicitly teaching students what they need to know rather than hoping that kids will discover these things on their own. Explicit teaching involves:
- Telling students what they need to know
- Showing students what they must be able to do
- Guiding students as they practice the work themselves
For more information on explicit teaching, see our tutorial Explicit Teaching: An Underused Strategy.
Yet, while explicit teaching is a generic approach to teaching, Direct Instruction also includes carefully sequenced curricula in mathematics, reading, spelling and other language skills. Examples of this curriculum include the Math Mastery and Spelling Mastery programs available from the Australian Council of Educational Research.
Other, additional elements of Direct Instruction include:
- Flexible ability grouping, where students are placed where they are ‘at’ within this instructional sequence, in much the same way that martial arts and swimming students are placed. Students progress to the next level when they have mastered the level they are at.
- Frequent assessment is used to provide feedback to students, to inform teaching and to guide placement.
- Set times and schedules to allow for flexible groupings across classes. For example, one school sharing the $22 million dollars does 10 hours of reading (5 on decoding and 5 on comprehension), 5 hours of language and 5 hours of maths per week.
- Scripted lessons, with the scripts telling teachers what to say and how to correct common mistakes that students may make.
- Strict rules about homework, with teachers setting minimal homework and only setting homework that students can do independently. Parents are not expected to help their children with homework.
Why Use Direct Instruction
Direct Instruction is designed to help students learn more in less time, and to master everything that they are taught.
Research shows that Direct Instruction works and that it works better than many other teaching strategies. It works well with students who typically struggle at school1; however, it also works well with average and high-performing students2. Direct Instruction has significantly more effect on students’ results than most other approaches to teaching3. Furthermore, the positive effects of Direct Instruction extend into high school and beyond4.
While some progressive educators bristle at the very idea of Direct Instruction. There is no denying that it delivers results; and despite common beliefs to the contrary, these results include increased self-concept and improvements in higher order thinking5.
Aboriginal leader, Noel Pearson, is to be commended for his successful campaign to bring Direct Instruction to schools in Cape York.
- Swanson, H.L. & Sachse-Lee, C. (2000). A Meta-Analysis of Single-Subject-Design Intervention Research for Students with LD. Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 33, No. 2, 114-136; Forness, S. R., Kavale, K. A., Blum, I. M., & Lloyd, J. W. (1997). Mega-analysis of meta-analyses. Teaching Exceptional Children, 29(6), 4–9 [↩]
- Adams, G., & Engelmann, S. (1996). Research on direct instruction: 25 years beyond DISTAR . Seattle, WA: Educational Achievement Systems. [↩]
- Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. Routledge; Borman, G. D., Hewes, G . M., Overman, L. T., & Brown, S. (2003). Comprehensive school reform and achievement: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 73, 125– 230. [↩]
- Meyer, L. A. (1984). Long-term effects of the Direct Instruction Project follow through Elementary School Journal, 84, 380– 394. [↩]
- Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. Routledge. [↩]