And then Direct Instruction.
Hang on to your hats.
What is direct instruction?
Developed by Rosenshine in the 1970s, direct instruction is a systematic method for teaching a “...body of content or well-defined skills” in small steps (Rosenshine, 1986). He identified six teaching functions or components of direct instruction: review, presentation of new material, guided practice, feedback and corrections, independent practice and weekly and monthly reviews. It’s suggested that teachers review students’ previous learning, present material in small steps, ask questions, provide time for students to practice, check understanding and finally, provide a scaffold and opportunity for further application. Like P. David Pearson, Rosenshine appears to be a member of the radical middle, cautioning that “...in practice, these ideas require a good deal of art, creativity, and thoughtfulness to apply and modify these ideas for different students and different subject matter” (1986, p. 64). He also admits that the approach is less relevant to the teaching of writing, reading comprehension, analysing literature or history, or the discussion of social issues.
Highly prescriptive, but not scripted, one could imagine that these steps might introduce a scaffold for use by our early career teachers as they internalise the elements of a good explicit teaching session. However, direct instruction has now been commercially packaged as Explicit Direct Instruction, and it’s no longer the scaffold originally intended. The steps for Explicit Direct Instruction are - well - explicit, and the re-conceptualised intent is that they are followed precisely in order to maintain the integrity of the approach.
And this brings us to...
Notice the capitals?
That’s because this type of instruction relies on commercially available teaching resources and prescribed teaching tasks. DISTAR, Sounds Write, MultiLit, DIBELS and SRA Reading Mastery are included here. Developed from the work of Engelmann and colleagues in the US and Canada in the 1960s, this type of instruction is highly scripted in terms of verbal and gestural language, and intolerant of flexibility or ‘riffing’ on the lesson. Hattie (2009, p. 205) uses the term, guides, rather than scripts in his outline of the seven steps for Direct Instruction. Teachers are provided with rigorous training in order that they understand the lesson sequence and scripts. The aim of this is to ensure ‘quality control’ and to avoid instruction being influenced by personal teaching style or other variables that might affect the lesson delivery. One key goal is mastery of content. Based on behaviourist learning theory, when teachers follow the model, DI has been shown to work using assessment of exactly whatever it is that was taught. The use of DI is attractive for systems that are concerned about the quality and preparation of its teachers, and where there is a history of failure (Fullan et al., 2006, p. 9), or for schools with high teacher-attrition rates.
Like a poorly designed-rubric, this approach does not allow teachers to be exceptional. Nor does it take into account contexts of community. But, then again, maybe that’s not its purpose.
Hattie investigated four meta-analyses linked to the use of direct instruction/Direct Instruction, which he states has an effect size of .59 (if you can believe the effect sizes published, or really wish to apply them to your particular context after his initial debacle. See, for example: Bergeron, 2017; Lovell, 2018; Simpson, 2017; and the irrepressible ollieorange2). None of these research studies occurred in the last ten years. And none were conducted in Australian classrooms. Now, this is interesting: Despite the fact that Direct Instruction is currently listed as 49th out of the possible 252 influences, Hattie cautions that it is not any one script that makes a difference to learning; rather, it is a teacher’s ability to differentiate instruction, and to understand precisely how students’ learning is improving. Finally, he states that teachers should have access to adequate professional development that improves their strategic instruction (2009).
So, there you have it: the differences between explicit instruction, explicit direct instruction, and Direct Instruction. Let’s not create a false dichotomy, or engage in arguments that pit one approach against another without consideration of context and purpose. Let’s not be scared to engage in debate, but let’s keep our discussions clever and respectful. Let’s keep it nice.
There is room for all types of instruction during the school day, as any one of my experienced, qualified, hard-working teaching colleagues will tell you.
Yes, indeed. There are many ways to knit a jumper.