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Direct instruction: Missed concept

Posted on: February 27, 2017

Probably the most commonly misunderstood concept of direct instruction (DI) is that it is equivalent to lecturing.

Defined this way, DI is didactic teaching. This is not the most effective way of ensuring that students learn because the focus is on transmission and delivery instead of on reception and processing.

Another way of defining DI is that it is a form of step-by-step instruction so that students learn knowledge and skills. This definition uncovers a missed concept of DI: It is a response to questions from a student following initial instruction or feedback.

Such a definition necessitates the reception and processing by a student and is a more focused form of instruction. The focus refers to the deeper or more specific exploration of a topic. It can also imply that the teacher works with a student one-on-one or in small groups.

The problem with DI as predominantly defined or practised is that it is driven by efficiency instead of effectiveness. It is faster and easier to deliver content as a form of teaching. It is much slower and more difficult to focus on the learner and learning.

Teaching is neat. Learning is messy.

Teaching is neat, but learning is messy. Trying to impose an expert structure on the learner might seem to be the most efficient way to teach. However, this does not encourage the learner to struggle and negotiate meaning.

Put another way, an efficiency-based approach might focus on the cognitive what and how; an effectiveness-based approach focuses on the metacognitive why, so-what, and what-if. We need a balance of both. Unfortunately, too much of teaching is heavy on efficiency.

1 Response to "Direct instruction: Missed concept"

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