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Using Direct Instruction Effectively

Jacqueline Williamson graduated with a BBA in Personnel Admin., an MPA in HR Management and an MS in Education.

In Direct Teaching, the teacher is always at the forefront of the classroom and is in a position to observe the entire environment.

In Direct Teaching, the teacher is always at the forefront of the classroom and is in a position to observe the entire environment.


Although Direct Instruction should play a limited role in a comprehensive educational program; it never the less plays an important one. Here is however one word of caution: while Direct Instruction is easily applied—it should not be the only way of presenting information to all students at every junction. Unless it is done effectively, it will either be boring or it will completely lose at least one-third of your student audience.

What is Direct Instruction?

The usage of the term Direct Instruction by researchers denotes a method of teaching that involves the instructor explaining a new skill or concept to a large number of students, having them test their comprehension through repetition under supervised practice by the teacher, and encouraging them to carry on the practice under the guidance of the teacher.

Subsequent to the presentation and explanation of new material, it is useful to inaugurate a structure for the lesson and familiarize the students with the new material. Organized comments done at the opening of a lesson are intended to clarify for the students the actual content, procedure and purpose of the succeeding learning experience. Such comments are related to enhancing student performance throughout the learning experience and with overall accomplishment.

After the setting for learning has been recognized, teachers can initiate the presentation of the new concept or proficiency. Students’ accomplishment in learning the new information has much to do with the meticulousness and worth of the teacher’s initial explanation. Effective teachers spend more time clarifying and validating new material than less-effective teachers.

Succeeding the explanation come the discussion. At this time, the teacher looks for students’ understanding of the new concept or skill. Asking students if they understand or have any questions is a common mistake that teachers make. Another mistake that teachers make is to simply assume that if only a few students respond or no one at all; then everyone must understand well enough to move on to application. Effective teachers will ask more questions that validate student understanding and less-effective teachers will not.

After the teacher has asked a question and a student has answered; immediately feedback should be given by the teacher in response to the student’s answer. It has been researched and proven that effective teachers are better at providing feedback than less-effective teachers. These teachers correct errors and misunderstandings instantaneously and also provide a more detailed explanation of why a response is incorrect. The effective teacher uses proven techniques of instruction to correct invalid responses and/or reteach the material. The less-effective teacher does not.

The main point here is that the method of feedback students receive during organized practice has a direct correlation to the student’s later success in performance of the new information. Constructive comments aid students in the discovery of their level of understanding. It also explains where the student went wrong. In order for the teacher to be effective; comments or criticisms must be educational, helpful, courteous, and deserved.

In a typical classroom, the amount of time students spend working alone on a task is between 50 and 75 percent. In order for this huge span of time to be effectively directed toward learning; students should remain involved in the learning task. In order for this to be accomplished; the teacher’s presentation and practice session should be well thought out and planned. When the practice session is directly related to the teacher’s presentation; there can be a more positive response. The practice session should also immediately follow the teacher’s presentation so that it can best facilitate student comprehension.

Sometimes, Direct Instruction is the only method that can be initiated.

Sometimes, Direct Instruction is the only method that can be initiated.

Features of Direct Instruction

Direct Instruction has many features and they are:

  • An academic focus
  • A high degree of teacher direction and control
  • High expectations for pupil progress
  • A system for managing time and
  • An atmosphere of relatively neutral affect

{These points and other information have been derived from the book Models of Learning by Bruce Joyce, et al (2000), academic research and personal observation.}

Academic Focus

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Academic focus suggests that the instructor places the greatest importance on the object lesson and the accomplishment of the educational task. This further means that the real task to be done is of more importance than the student’s collaboration in that task. When an instructor is positioned at the head of the classroom and describes a concept or principle; the central goal is that the lesson is understood and that knowledge can be replicated on an examination. In Direct Instruction, only academic activity is emphasized. Any nonacademic resources such as games, puzzles or even educational toys are deemphasized. Also student-teacher communication that is not directly related to the lesson is discouraged.

A High Degree of Teacher Direction and Control

This particular aspect of Direct Instruction also places emphasis of the teacher being the focus point in the classroom. The entire lesson is both presented and explained by the teacher with space for student questions at the very end of the lecture. There are no discussion groups and interaction between students ... the teacher chooses what is to be taught and the method of engagement.

A System of Managing Time

In Direction Instruction, the teacher determines how much time is spent on a particular lesson and how that time is to be utilized. Most lectures require the majority of the class period with a small interval for questions and assignments for the next time.. This arrangement allows the teacher the ability to cover as much of the course in the specified time allotted but may not insure that every student possessive the understanding need to proceed to the next topic.

An Atmosphere of Relatively Neutral Affect

The ability of students to maximize their learning time is the foremost objective of Direct Instruction. A great number of instructional performances are found to be linked to student achievements which are in fact related to student time involvement in doing tasks and student rate of success, which in turn are related to student achievement. This is can definitely be called an academic cycle.

There may be instances when you have to visit you students to insure they understood the lesson taught.

There may be instances when you have to visit you students to insure they understood the lesson taught.

Closing Comment

Therefore, the performances incorporated into Direct Instruction should be intended to produce an organized and intellectually oriented learning atmosphere in which students are enthusiastically engaged throughout the instruction and are undergoing a high rate of achievement in the tasks they are given.

Direction Instruction Discussion

© 2014 Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS


Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS (author) from Memphis on August 28, 2016:

There will be times when Direct Instruction is the method of choice for bringing a point across to your students. It should, however be tempered with other methods that will incorporate more student involvement.

Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS (author) from Memphis on January 31, 2015:

Unless you are an instructor of a very stimulating subject; Direct Instruction should always be incorporated with other methods of teaching such as discussion groups and individual student presentations.

Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS (author) from Memphis on September 25, 2014:

To effectively incorporate Direct Instruction techniques in your teaching repertoire, you must consider the audience who will receive the information.

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