DIRECT INSTRUCTION refers to the model of instruction developed by Engelmann in 1960s whereby he focused on a specific design of teaching and learning to prove that every child learns when instruction method is appropriate. In other words, "The Direct Instruction Model... is a comprehensive system of instruction that integrates effective teaching practices with sophisticated curriculum design, classroom organization and management, and careful monitoring of student progress, as well as extensive staff development." (Stein, Carnine, Dixon, 1998) Engelmann and his colleagues explained that for this model they began "with the obvious fact that the children we work with are perfectly capable of learning anything that we can teach... We know that the intellectual crippling of children is caused by faulty instruction -- not by faulty children." (Engelmann & Carnine, 1991, p. 376)
In 1960s and 1970s, Engelmann and his colleagues Carl Bereiter, and Wes Becker developed the direct instruction model for Project Follow Through, which was a federally funded experiment that focused on learning skills of at-risk children. Project Follow Through was "the largest educational study ever done, costing over $600 million, and covering 79,000 children in 180 communities. This project examined a variety of programs and educational philosophies to learn how to improve education of disadvantaged children in grades K-3...Multiple programs were implemented over a 5-year period and the results were analyzed by the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) and Abt Associates (Cambridge, MA)...The program that gave the best results in general was true Direct Instruction... Students receiving Direct Instruction did better than those in all other programs when tested in reading, arithmetic, spelling, and language." (Direct Instruction: The Most Successful Teaching Model, 2002, reference 4)
Direct instruction is the most effective teaching strategy today and when compared with other models, it proved to be one teaching method that worked in all cases regardless of children's age or race. But direct instruction, despite being an extremely popular model has often been misunderstood or wrongly understood because education literature tends to confuse readers regarding the real structure and scope of direct instruction.
In 1976, Rosenshine was the first education researcher to include direct instruction in his review of highly effective teaching strategies. It is important to understand what direct instruction is before we can study its impact on students in secondary schools. "Many educators today consider any systematic instruction that includes teacher modeling to be Direct Instruction. Similarly, other educators think that Direct Instruction is simply an example of the application of task analysis (i.e., breaking down complex skills into smaller steps). Whereas both modeling and task analysis are features of the Direct Instruction Model, they are not the features that ultimately define Direct Instruction." (STEIN et al. 1998)
Direct instruction model is based on some important concepts and some of its main features are discussed below. These features have been extracted from the research of Engelmann & Carnine, 1991; Gersten, Woodward, & Darch, 1986; Stein, Carnine, & Dixon, 1998. The first most important feature is actually the main concept on which direct instruction model is based. According to this principle every child can be taught provided the teaching strategy is appropriate. (Kozloff et al. 1999)
Engelmann and his colleagues maintained that race, sex or environmental factors did not or could not affect the learning capabilities of a child and therefore if a child is not learning something it indicates that the teacher has not been applying the right strategy. By strategy we refer to everything from teaching method to the curriculum and Engelmann felt that the reason behind poor learning is usually ineffective teaching practice or ill-designed curriculum. The second important feature deals with cognitive learning i.e. In this model, curriculum is designed about for maximum cognitive assimilation. The third important feature is the curriculum development, which is based on knowledge synthesis, communication and behavior analyses. (Kozloff et al., 199)
According to Kameenui & Carnine, 1998, direct instruction curriculum is designed keeping in mind some 'Big Ideas': "Big ideas are those concepts, principles, or heuristics that facilitate the most efficient and broadest acquisition of knowledge. They are the keys that unlock a content area for a broad range of diverse learners... Students, from the brightest to the most challenged, are likely to benefit from thorough knowledge of the most important aspects of a given content area." (Kameenui & Carnine, 1998: p. 8) Big ideas can differ from subject to subject. For example in science curriculum it would be something like "the nature of science, energy transformations, forces of nature, flow of matter and energy in ecosystems, and the interdependence of life" (Kameenui & Carnine, 1998, p. 119). These big ideas are concepts that help "in building a level of scientific literacy among all students that is necessary for understanding and problem-solving within the natural and created world" (Kameenui & Carnine, 1998, pp. 121-122).
It has been noticed that direct instruction helps in bringing about massive changes in learning capabilities of children regardless of their race or environment. Nadler (1998) found that Wesley School in Houston was producing much higher percentiles compared to other at-risk students. Principal Thaddeus Lott however is not surprised because he has the one tool that helped his students transcend all barriers to achieve higher grades. This tool is direct instruction, which resulted in "a 10-percentile rise in standardized-test scores." (Nadler, 1998)
Similarly various other studies have indicated a pronounced difference between those students who were taught through direct instruction model and those who were not. In 1984, Meyer conducted a research on benefits of direct instruction and observed the progress of some minority students of Ocean Hill-Brownsville, Brooklyn. It was discovered that by the time these children reached 9th grade, they knew much more than 10th graders in non-direct instruction schools. They were found to be at least seven months and one year ahead of their older counterparts in math and reading respectively.
Another study conducted by Gersten and Becker (1998) also gave similar verdict in favor of direct instruction. It was found that even after direct instruction was discontinued in later years, students who had received it in elementary school continued to perform better than non-direct instruction students in secondary school.
Yet another study showed that students who had received direct instruction had better chance of finishing high school without dropping out and getting admission in college. (Darch, Gersten, & Taylor, 1987; Meyer, Gersten, & Gutkin, 1983)
Nadler (1998) agrees:
From its earliest days, DI was shaped to succeed in the educational killing fields of urban America. It worked. It raised student IQs by training children early to apply logical distinctions to new materials. It worked well with children who were at, below, or above the norm for their grade. It accommodated both accelerated programs and remediation. It fostered classroom discipline from the earliest ages. The package, implemented systematically in grades K-3, proved so potent that even when it was abandoned after the third grade it still had measurable, statistically significant effects on high-school graduation and college acceptance -- an advantage of at least 10 percentiles."
Direct instruction was primarily meant for young students in elementary school but because of its success it has been implemented in many secondary and adult schools. We have shown what research says about impact of direct instruction on secondary students but it must be borne in mind that direct instruction almost always begins at elementary level and available educational literature and research tests the scores and achievements of secondary students who had received DI at elementary level. This is because the learning pattern a child adopt during his early years is what determines his ability to learn in later life. For this reason, researchers study the impact of DI received at elementary level on a child's learning skills in higher classes and not of DI received exclusively during secondary…