5 Reasons Why Direct Instruction Might be the Best Teaching Method for Your Student

1. Research has shown Direct Instruction to be more effective than most other teaching strategies.

A study that compared a variety of elementary school’s first grade reading outcomes in Baltimore from 1996-2003 found that the schools implementing the Direct Instruction model developed by the National Institute for Direct Instruction (NIFDI) “achieved significantly higher scores within one year and maintained over the six remaining years of the study.” Baltimore is a large city and ethnically as well as economically diverse which makes the research that much more compelling. Schools made up of students from affluent families as well as schools comprised of students from more economically disadvantaged families achieved higher scores when Direct Instruction was implemented than schools that implemented another teaching method.

2. Direct Instruction allows teachers to tailor instruction to the student’s needs.

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the practice of Direct Instructions. Many people associate Direct Instruction with teachers standing in front of an entire class and lecturing the students on whatever they are supposed to be learning. This misconception could not be further from how Direct Instruction truly works. When done well, students are grouped based on their skill level (rather than grade level). Students work closely with an instructor and have multiple opportunities to practice and demonstrate mastery of a skill before they are moved to a higher level group. This allows students to learn at their level and instructors to monitor closely where each student is in relation to his or her learning target.

3. Teachers who implement Direct Instruction have a strong understanding of the strengths and challenges of his or her students.

Everyone would agree with the statement that students have unique abilities and strengths and each student learns at a different pace. Yet, most classrooms go through units and learning targets at one particular speed, leaving some students bored and ready to move on while other students are lost and frustrated because they have not understood a key concept that the class has already passed. Direct Instruction allows students to progress at their own natural pace. As the year progresses the instructor begins to get a feel for each individual student’s strengths and weaknesses and is able to help the students with their particular challenges.

4. Direct Instruction is efficient

One of the strengths of Direct Instruction is its efficiency. In a Direct Instruction math class, there might be three groups of students working on three different concepts, ensuring that each student is working at his or her level simultaneously as his or her peers. Students know the target they are trying to hit. When they demonstrate they are ready to move on they are allowed to go to the next concept/learning target. Because the work is neither too hard nor too easy and because the learning targets are clearly identified, students stay engaged and progressing. When students understand the objective and obtain it their confidence grows and they are encouraged to keep progressing. Here is a short video that shows the parts to a Direct Instruction lesson.

5. Direct Instruction is built on assumptions that we hope all educators believe to be true

According to the National Institute for Direct Instruction, Direct Instruction operates on five key philosophical principles:

  • All children can be taught.
  • All children can improve academically and in terms of self-image.

  • All teachers can succeed if provided with adequate training and materials.

  • Low performers and disadvantaged learners must be taught at a faster rate than typically occurs if they are to catch up to their higher-performing peers.

  • All details of instruction must be controlled to minimize the chance of students’ misinterpreting the information being taught and to maximize the reinforcing effect of instruction.

A teaching method that assumes all students can be taught, all students can improve both academically and in terms of self image, and that teachers succeed when they are supported with adequate training and materials is one that most people could get behind.

Amy Fredrickson