What is Direct Instruction?
Direct Instruction (DI) is a model for teaching that emphasises well-developed and carefully planned lessons designed around small learning increments and clearly defined and prescribed teaching tasks. It is based on the theory that clear instruction eliminating misinterpretations can greatly improve and accelerate learning.
Its creators, Siegfried Engelmann and Dr. Wesley Becker, and their colleagues believe, and have proved, that correctly applied DI can improve academic performance as well as certain affective behaviours. It is currently in use in thousands of schools across the nation as well as in Canada, the UK and Australia. Schools using DI accept a vision that actually delivers many outcomes only promised by other models.
Direct Instruction operates on these key philosophical principles:
- All children can be taught.
- All children can improve academically and in terms of self-image.
- 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 minimise the chance of pupils' misinterpreting the information being taught and to maximise the reinforcing effect of instruction.
Why does DI work?
The main features of DI that ensure students learn faster and more efficiently than any other program or technique available are:
Pupils are placed in instruction at their skill level.
When pupils begin the program, each pupil is tested to find out which skills they have already mastered and which ones they need to work on. From this, pupils are grouped together with other pupils needing to work on the same skills. These groups are organised by the level of the program that is appropriate for the pupil.
The program’s structure is designed to ensure mastery of the content.
The program is organised so that skills are introduced gradually, giving children a chance to learn those skills and apply them before being required to learn another new set of skills. Only 10% of each lesson is new material. The remaining 90% of each lesson’s content is review and application of skills pupils have already learned but need practice with in order to master. Skills and concepts are taught in isolation and then integrated with other skills into more sophisticated, higher-level applications. All details of instruction are controlled to minimise the chance of pupils' misinterpreting the information being taught and to maximise the reinforcing effect of instruction.
Instruction is modified to accommodate each pupils’ rate of learning.
A particularly wonderful part about DI is that pupils are retaught or accelerated at the rate at which they learn. If they need more practice with a specific skill, teachers can provide the additional instruction within the program to ensure pupils master the skill. Conversely, if a pupil is easily acquiring the new skills and needs to advance to the next level, pupils can be moved to a new placement so that they may continue adding to the skills they already possess.