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Could direct instruction be the key to effective learning in the classroom?

direct instruction pic

A teaching strategy, which has been integrated in classrooms in the US since the 1960s, has proven to have a positive impact on children’s learning.


The teaching method was developed by the National Institute for Direct Instruction (NIFDI), and has been widely adopted in various aspects of literacy and numeracy delivered by US and UK schools.


According to an analysis based on 50 years of research, all teachers should implement the practice of direct instruction (DI) in the classroom.




Over the course of the research; the analysis, conducted by the University of Oregon in the US, assessed 328 studies that applied DI programmes carried out from the year 1966-2016.

Direct instruction is employed by teachers in fast-paced and well-designed structured lessons. Study found that children who were taught this approach achieved higher results in Maths, reading and spelling, than their untrained peers.


The authors of the research papers said: “The estimated effects were consistently positive… only 1 in 20 of the estimates, although positive, might be seen as educationally insignificant.”

Minster of State for School Standards, Nick Gibb, took to Twitter to praise “more evidence of the importance of well structured, step-by-step teacher-led instruction.”

But critics of the advanced research remain cautious of DI in schools, deeming the strategy “inflexible”. Ruminating over its effectiveness; Yong Zhao, a University of Kansas Professor, believes the approach “while successful in the short-term may be unproductive in the long term.”


Despite its proven efficacy, DI has not been “widely embraced or implemented.” The authors of the research papers said that schools are unwilling to employ the learning style partly because of “a belief that teachers will not like it, or that it stifles teachers’ ability to bring their own personalities to their teaching.”

However, the authors argue that when practiced properly, DI does not “disguise or erase a teacher’s unique style” and instead “allows them to focus more fully on their students’ responses and ensure their understanding.”


The paper’s authors looked at programmes that applied DI, some of which included DISTAR, (Direct Instruction System for Teaching Arithmetic and Reading) Reading Mastery, Horizons, Corrective Reading, Connecting Math Concepts and various more.

DI, which was developed from Siegfried Engelmann’s theory of instruction, “builds on the assumption that all students can learn with well-designed instructions,” the paper states.


“When a student does not learn, it does not mean that something is wrong with the student but, instead, that something is wrong with the instruction,” it continued.

While it remains unclear whether more teachers will adopt the use of DI, advocates and academics of the new-found research are optimistic that all schools will “widely embrace” the growing practice.

July 31, 2018