Direct Instruction

Direct instruction is the use of explicit teaching techniques like lecture, demonstration or presentation, usually employed to teach a specific skill or set of information. Direct instruction is a teacher-centered and passive learning model, in which the students receive instruction rather than actively participating in the construction of the learning environment. Teacher-centered approaches are the most commonly used methods, especially in higher education settings.

The basic techniques of direct instruction can extend beyond lecturing, presenting, or demonstrating and can include:

  • Establishing learning objectives for lessons, activities, and projects, and then making sure that students have understood the goals.
  • Purposefully organizing and sequencing a series of lessons, projects, and assignments that move students toward stronger understanding and the achievement of specific academic goals.
  • Reviewing instructions for an activity or modeling a process—such as a scientific experiment—so that students know what they are expected to do.
  • Providing students with clear explanations, descriptions, and illustrations of the knowledge and skills being taught.
  • Asking questions to make sure that students have understood what has been taught.

In a traditional classroom setting, direct instruction usually involves the instructor standing in from of a class presenting information. In an online setting, direct instruction can take the form of audio and/or video lectures and narrated slideshows. Direct instruction, as a teacher-centered approach, employs formal authority (instructors have power over students based upon their formal institutional authority), expertise  (instructors possess all knowledge and expertise in the classroom/ virtual setting) and a personal model (students learn by observing and copying the instructor’s process and reproducing the instructor’s knowledge).

Key components of direct instruction include:

  • Promoting the explicit teaching of general problem-solving strategies to be applied across multiple problems whenever possible
  • Promoting a focus on a cumulative review of previously learned materials
  • Insisting on mastery of the learning process and previous materials before progressing to new materials

While direct instruction can be an effective methodology, it should be part of a larger menu of instructional strategies.

Further Reading

Rose, K.K. Student Perceptions of the Use of Instructor-Made Videos in Online and Face-to-Face Classes. (2009). MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. Vol. 5, No. 3

 

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