What Is Direct Instruction?

Published May 1, 2001

Advantage Schools uses the Direct Instruction (DI) curriculum to teach all children reading, writing, and math. First developed more than 30 years ago, DI has been credited with a high degree of effectiveness with all students, but particularly with students from underprivileged backgrounds. It is a highly organized, teacher-directed approach to learning.

Each DI lesson provides tried-and-true instructional strategies for teaching key concepts and skills. Students are grouped according to their present knowledge of the subject being taught and then are engaged in a fast-paced, interactive learning dialogue. DI ensures that all students in a working group not only understand the concept being taught, but also are able to say or write the response that demonstrates their understanding.

DI’s highly structured approach offends many leading educators, who discount its effectiveness and insist that learning should be child-directed rather than teacher-directed–despite a preponderance of research that indicates otherwise. As a result, few public schools make use of DI.

A new study for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, “Direct Instruction and the Teaching of Early Reading,” confirms the effectiveness of DI and suggests that its use could have a dramatic impact on poor children in urban cities. In addition, notes the report, the widespread use of DI could decrease the need for remedial reading programs, potentially saving Wisconsin as much as $107 million.

Finding that newly trained elementary teachers know little about DI and its effectiveness, the study’s authors recommend that “schools and colleges of education in Wisconsin should focus their preservice teacher training efforts on instruction–on the practice of teaching.”

For more information . . .

The March 2001 study from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, “Direct Instruction and the Teaching of Early Reading,” by Mark C. Schug, Sara G. Tarver, and Richard B. Western, is available from the Institute by calling 262/241-0514 or by e-mailing your request to [email protected].

The report is also available through PolicyBot. Point your browser to http://www.heartland.org and click on PolicyBot to request documents #2168303 (summary, 4pp.), #2168404 (part 1, 14pp.), and #2168405 (part 2, 15pp.) in Adobe Acrobat’s PDF format.

A report by Douglas Carnine for the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, “Why Education Experts Resist Effective Practices,” is also available through PolicyBot as document #2172413 (16pp.).