Students Learn Faster and More Efficiently with ‘Direct Instruction,’ Education Expert Says


COLUMBUS, Ohio – The National Institute for Direct Instruction (NIFDI) came to Central Ohio to teach the teachers how to train their co-workers in Direct Instruction (DI). More than a dozen teachers attended the coaching academy at McGraw-Hill. The Institute says DI,”… ensure[s] students learn faster and more efficiently than any other program or technique available .”

The DI program was created by Siegfried Engelmann and Dr. Wesley Becker. NIFDI is an international organization, providing programs in the United States, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and Australia. In the U.S., Direct Instruction is taught in approximately 5% of public schools. Around 40% of those schools are charters.

Their website defines DI as “a model for teaching that emphasizes well-developed and carefully planned lessons designed around small learning increments and clearly defined and prescribed teaching tasks. It is based on the theory that clear instruction eliminating misinterpretations can greatly improve and accelerate learning.”

Five key philosophical principles of DI are:

  • All children can be taught.
  • All children can improve academically and in terms of self image.
  • All teachers can succeed if provided with adequate training and materials.
  • Low performers and disadvantaged learners must be taught at a faster rate than typically occurs if they are to catch up to their higher-performing peers.
  • All details of instruction must be controlled to minimize the chance of students’ misinterpreting the information being taught and to maximize the reinforcing effect of instruction.”

Brian Wickman, Outreach Events Coordinator for NIFDI, sat down with The Ohio Star to explain the program, beginning with explaining how Direct Instruction is different from other teaching methods.

Wickman answered by describing the differences in reading instruction. While the “whole language” method is based upon an open classroom, constructivist approach where children are directing their own learning and teachers are more like coaches, Direct Instruction uses methods such as phonics and decoding, with teachers taking the lead and directing the instruction instead of the students.

“DI is especially effective in helping lower performing students to catch up to their peers,” Wickman said. “Some people say, ‘Oh, it’s just a program for special needs or poor [economically] students,’ but it’s for all students, helping achievers go further while helping the less advantaged begin to grow.”

Other important points Wickman made included lower rates of dyslexia and fewer behavioral issues in the classroom.

DI Creator Engelmann, according to Wickman, posits that, “90% of dyslexia is really ‘dysteachia’ [ineffective teaching].” Wickman said their data shows Direct Instruction is very effective with students identified as dyslexic.

Wickman’s reasons for fewer behavioral problems, as evidenced by their research, reveals fewer referrals for discipline and increased attendance. He emphasized that students are kept busy, which helps high achieving students avoid boredom, and students are successful, which helps low performing students participate.

The Ohio Star asked, “Who gives you the most push back?”

“Push back really comes from people with a more liberal bent [towards education]. They view DI as ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘teacher-directed’,” Wickman shared. “It is ironic that liberal enclaves have such opposition. The approach these individuals favor does really well for advantaged students [but] encourages the divide between the haves and the have-nots.”

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Beth Lear is a reporter at The Ohio Star.  Follow Beth on Twitter.  Email tips to [email protected].










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