Direct Instruction works

Jennifer Buckingham

04 November 2016 | Ideas@TheCentre

Noel Pearson and Phyllis YunkaportaEducation is high stakes. It’s not good enough to throw ideas about teaching methods at a wall and see which one sticks. Classroom practice has to be guided by the best research, to give children the best chance of strong learning gains.

One teaching method in particular has been consistently shown to be effective on a variety of measures — direct and explicit instruction. These terms are generally used interchangeably to refer to a set of instructional practices characterised by highly structured and carefully sequenced lessons in which it is made clear to students what they need to learn and how to go about it. Student progress is checked frequently and they are expected to master each step before moving to the next.

This teaching method has been shown to be effective not just for fundamental skills like literacy and numeracy, but also higher level conceptual understanding and creativity.

A specific form of this method is Direct Instruction — a comprehensive teaching program that includes both direct instruction pedagogy and curriculum content. DI programs have been the subject of dozens of studies, which have been overwhelmingly positive.

At a forum co-hosted by CIS and Good to Great Schools Australia this week, several outstanding school leaders explained how DI and direct instruction led to success in their schools.

The Cape York Academies use DI — adapted to align with the Australian Curriculum — achieving substantial gains for students in remote communities where such outcomes had previously been thought impossible. Good to Great Schools co-founder and chair Noel Pearson and community leaders Dion Creek and Phyllis Yunkaporta explained the careful process by which DI had been chosen, and spoke passionately about the changes they had seen in the children attending Cape York Academies.

Despite the fact that policies and programs put in place by schools systems still fail to embrace evidence, increasing number of schools are adopting these methods and Direct Instruction programs. Hopefully this small groundswell will turn into a tidal wave.

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