As defined by the National Institute of Direct Instruction, this method emphasizes “well-developed and carefully planned lessons designed around small learning increments and clearly defined and prescribed teaching tasks.” Initially developed in the 1960’s to assist disadvantaged schools, it remains the most popular instructional method in the country. DI follows a traditional teaching approach in which teachers work directly with students instead of having them work on their own. Although sometimes criticized for being rigid and limiting teachers’ creativity, DI actually involves much more than class lectures. “Teachers can organize projects, assignments, and lessons, allowing children to move together towards an academic goal.” Effective implementation of this method requires that the teacher has a “mastery of the subject matter, prepares well-organized content, and has excellent communication skills.”
The basic philosophy of this teaching method includes several cogent 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.
Direct instruction is not mutually exclusive to other instructional methods. For example, presenting a video in which the content has been determined by the teacher can also be categorized as direct instruction. “Personalized learning or project-based learning almost certainly require some level of direct instruction by teachers.” In addition, direct instruction also occurs when the teacher provides instruction and guides students for a group activity. The most critical element of effective direct instruction is that the teacher has mastered the subject matter and can impart the information to students effectively.