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Direct Instruction (DI) is an instructional design and teaching methodology originally developed by Siegfried Engelmann and the late Wesley C. Becker of the University of Oregon. Although they came from different backgrounds--Engelmann was a preschool teacher while Becker was a trained researcher from the University of Illinois--both sought to identify teaching methods that would accelerate the performance of historically disadvantaged elementary school students.
The DISTAR (Direct Instruction System for Teaching Arithmetic and Reading) program gained prominence during Project Follow Through (1967-1995), the largest federally funded experiment in public education.
Features of DI include:
- Explicit, systematic instruction based on scripted lesson plans.
- Ability grouping. Students are grouped and re-grouped based on their rate of progress through the program.
- Emphasis on pace and efficiency of instruction. DI programs are meant to accelerate the performance of students; therefore, lessons are designed to bring students to mastery as quickly as possible.
- Frequent assessment. Curriculum-based assessments help place students in ability groups and identify students who require additional intervention.
- Embedded professional development/coaching. DI programs may be implemented as stand-alone interventions or as part of a schoolwide reform effort. In both instances, the program developers recommend careful monitoring and coaching of the program in order to ensure a high fidelity of implementation.
Perspectives on Direct Instruction Edit
One's perspective of DI often depends on what question s/he is asking: "Does DI conform to my personal philosophy of public education?" or "Is DI effective?" People responding "no" to the former usually see DI as a betrayal of the humanistic, egalitarian foundations of public education, or as a "canned" or "teacher proof" curriculum deliverable via unskilled teachers. More radical critics argue that the entire history of public education in the United States has been a political one, designed primarily to domesticate lower socio-economic groups, and that DI is in keeping with this broader, historical purpose.
Debates about the efficacy of DI have raged since before the final results of Project Follow Through were published; however, empirical research supports its effectiveness. A meta-analysis published by Adams & Engelmann (1996) finds a "mean effect size average per study...(as) more than .75, which confirms that the overall effect is substantial."
Direct Instruction is widely and successfully used with students from every population segment (with regard to poverty, culture, and race). In Project Follow Through, the DI model was ranked first in achievement for poor students, students who were not poor, urban students, rural students, African American students, hispanic students, and Native American students.
However, one[[ three-year study of methods of teaching reading showed that highly scripted, teacher-directed methods of teaching reading were not as effective as traditional methods that allowed a more flexible approach. The study, headed by Randall Ryder, Professor of Curriculum and Instruction in the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee's School of Education, also found that teachers felt the most highly scripted method, known as Direct Instruction (DI), should be used in limited situations, not as the primary method of teaching students to read. [How to reference and link to summary or text] Urban teachers in particular expressed great concern over the DI's lack of sensitivity to issues of poverty, culture and race. [How to reference and link to summary or text]
The findings from Dr. Ryder's study are not consonant with the findings of more than twenty other studies. Direct Instruction is widely and successfully used with students from every population segment (with regard to poverty, culture, and race). In Project Follow Through, the DI model was ranked first in achievement for poor students, students who were not poor, urban students, rural students, African American students, hispanic students, and Native American students. Today, many of the Bureau of Indian Affair's highest performing schools use Direct Instruction materials. See Chief Leschi School and Nay Ah Shing School. The Baltimore Curriculum Project has many schools with Free and Reduced Lunch Rates above 75% serving student populations that are more than 90% African American. These schools have shown remarkable achievement gains using Direct Instruction. [How to reference and link to summary or text]
Direct Instruction is recognized as one of two effective models of comprehensive school reform (see the federal government's site on Comprehensive School Reform)[How to reference and link to summary or text]. The findings from Project Follow Through, conducted in a variety of communities throughout the United States, conclude that Direct Instruction is the most effective model for teaching academic skills and for affective outcomes (e.g., self-esteem of children). Recent large scale studies (1997-2003), such as the Baltimore Curriculum Project, show that it is possible to help schools that are in the lowest twenty percent with respect to academic achievement stadily improve until they are performing well above average. In some cases, school achievement improved from the 16th percentile to above the 90th percentile.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
The president of the National Science Teacher's Association (NSTA), Anne Tweed, also questions whether direct instruction is the most effective science teaching strategy. In the Dec 15, 2004 NSTA Reports she concludes that a variety of teaching strategies, including those that are inquiry-based (see inquiry-based instruction) as well as direct instruction techniques are what is best for students.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
Concerns have also been raised about the lack of social-skills development in DISTAR programs. Schweinhart, Weikart, and Larner (1986) conducted a follow-up study of socio-economically disadvantaged preschool students, each of whom had gone through one of three different "high-quality" preschool programs, including a DISTAR program. Through age 15, students in each of the programs tested with IQs and academic abilities superior to similar students who had not attended preschool. The DISTAR students generally scored highest, but by a generally nonsignificant margin. However, by self-report, the DISTAR students had by far the highest levels of delinquent behavior, including statistically significant differences in acts of property damage, theft, drug abuse, and status offenses. As the authors note, however, these findings are based on a relatively small sample (54 students), and these high levels of delinquency may not differentiate DISTAR students from similarly disadvantaged students who had not attended preschool at all.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
- Schweinhart, Lawrence J., David P. Weikart, Mary B. Larner. 1986. Consequences of three preschool curriculum models through age 15. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 1, 1, 15-45.
See also Edit
- National Institute for Direct Instruction
- Association for Direct Instruction
- SRA/McGraw-Hill Web site
- What the Data Really Show: Direct Instruction Really Works!
- Direct Instruction Resources
- Zig Engelmann
- de:Direkter Unterricht
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