Talk:Direct instruction

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-- Daniel K. Schneider 11:52, 6 June 2011 (CEST)


I will have to go over this when I have time - Daniel K. Schneider 11:52, 6 June 2011 (CEST).

Direct instruction (DI) is still a popular model advocated by what could be labelled more "traditional" teachers" and has been replaced by more sophisticated design in modern behaviorist/cognitivist instructional design theory. DSchneider believes that some current advocates of DI do not understand that even the original DI model required to engage students at some point in more complex learning activities that will lead to acquisition of some higher cognitive skills (like goaling, planning, strategy selection). A good example of that is Burns (2006), who applied the Madeline Hunter method (a variant of DI) to a marketing research course

Let's go back to the 80's. Research from the often cited "Follow Through" study did show superior testing results compared to other teaching strategies. However interpretation of results was controversial and the only agreement seems to be that "structured" models are superior. One particular critique was that "within-model" feature variations were very high or to put it more bluntly: Good implementations of design (no matter what strategy used) are always better than bad implementations of alternative designs.

Bereiter's (1981) reanalysis of the Abt Associated study came to a subtle conclusion: “What we have tried to establish so far is that there are significant achievement test differences between Follow Through models and that, so far as we can tell at present, these test score differences reflect actual differences in school learning. Beyond this point, conclusions are highly conjectural”. In particular, Bereiter points out that so-called child-centered approaches were (at the time) just not good enough to put it plainly:

  • High-scoring models are Direct Instruction and Behavior Analysis. Child-centered philosophy (EDC Open Education and Responsive Education) come out as losers on measured achievement.
  • Looking at the features, the main difference between these two families are clear specifications of objectives, clear explanations, clear corrections of wrong responses, and a great deal of "time on task," etc..
  • “What Direct Instruction and Behavior Analysis provide are more fully developed instructional systems than teachers normally employ. They provide more systematic ways of determining whether children have the prerequisite skills before a new step in learning is undertaken, more precise ways of monitoring what each child is learning or failing to learn, and more sophisticated instructional moves for dealing with children's learning needs. Open Education and Responsive Education, on the other hand, because of their avowed opposition to making normative comparisons of students or thinking in terms of deficits, will tend to discourage those activities whereby teachers normally discover when children are not adequately prepared for a new step in learning or when a child has mislearned or failed to learn something. Also, because of their preference for indirect learning activities, these models will tend to make teaching less sharply focused on achieving specific earnings and remedying specific lacks.”
  • “There does not appear to be any intrinsic reason why child-centered educators should have to remain committed to [such] primitive instructional approaches.”
  • Bereiter also points out a selection bias in the study: “Substantial resources were lavished on seeing to it that teachers didn't just happen to use direct or informal methods according to their inclinations by rather that they used them according to the intent of the model sponsors”.

Interestingly enough, Bereiter later became one of the proponents of structured collaborative learning (see e.g. Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environments, Knowledge-building community model ).

DSchneider interprets these findings in three ways:

  • One can make a strong claims for story-boarding (or scenarization) that include monitoring, feedback and remediation elements (e.g. by adopting some principles of mastery learning).
  • To achieve applicable knowledge, on must engage learners in real tasks at some point, no matter what strategy one uses (first principles of instruction).
  • There is empirical evidence that direct instruction (and similar approaches) outperforms "open" approaches in certain situations. E.g. for learning contents that are towards the lower and middle end of a given learning level scale or difficult school contexts.

The debate on direct instruction (DI) is still very much open. While some researchers like younger Bereiter tried to look "under hood" of why DI gets higher test scores in some areas, rejection of DI as global strategy is sometimes voiced quite strongly: “Direct instruction has its place, however. It is the method of choice for low-level tasks, such as learning to cut with scissors or tying shoes. It is also the method of choice in desperate circumstances, such as toilet training a child with special needs so that he can be more include included in the mainstream classroom [...]” (Jalongo, 1999).

We'd rather quote Bereiter (1980) again: “There does not appear to be any intrinsic reason why child-centered educators should have to remain committed to primitive instructional approaches.”