National Institute for Direct Instruction (NIFDI):
"Direct Instruction (DI) is a model for teaching that emphasizes
well-developed and carefully planned lessons designed around
small learning increments and clearly defined and prescribed teaching tasks."
VIDEO, Closing the Performance Gap: The Gering Story,
National Institute for Direct Instruction.
"See how Gering Public Schools, a small district in northwest Nebraska,
closed a 23 percent achievement gap between white and Hispanic students
in three years by implementing the full immersion model of Direct Instruction (DI) with NIFDI."
The video can be downloaded from the linked web page, or you can order a free DVD.
Curricular Independence by Phil Brand, Capital Research Center, November 13, 2008.
What is Direct Instruction like? Here is a vivid first-person report on a
charter public school in Reynolds, Oregon.
"At the Arthur Academies, curriculum is drawn from two sources:
the Core Knowledge Sequence for history, science and geography,
and Direct Instruction for reading, language arts and mathematics.
They are combined into one integrated curriculum and are taught using the
instructional method prescribed by Direct Instruction. Arthur said he
likes to think of the method as 'incremental mastery.'
Students proceed along sequenced paths of instruction in small steps towards a larger goal.
Their progress is regularly checked, and they don't move on until mastery of the
component parts is achieved. 'It's the best one,' said Arthur,
comparing Direct Instruction to other curriculums and methods.
Students are engaged, there aren't any gaps in their understanding, and
students' confidence rises as they see themselves learning and doing well on mandated state tests."
Heroes are not Replicable by Alex Tabarrok,
September 27, 2007.
"You know the plot. Young, idealistic teacher goes to inner-city high
school. Said idealistic teacher is shocked by students ... preoccupied with the burdens of
violence, poverty and indifference ... But the hero
perseveres and at great personal sacrifice wins over the students
using innovative teaching methods and heart. ...
We are supposed to be uplifted by these stories but they depress me.
If it takes a hero to save an inner city school then there is no
hope. ... What we need to save inner-city schools, and poor schools everywhere,
is a method that works when the teachers aren't heroes. ...
"[J]ust such a method exists. ... large experimental studies have shown
that the teaching method which works best is Direct Instruction. ...
The data also show that DI does not impede creativity or self-esteem.
"The education establishment, however, ... is
wedded to its pet theories regardless of what the evidence says. As
a result they have fought it tooth and nail so that Direct
Instruction, the oldest and most validated program, has captured only
a little more than 1 percent of the grade-school market."
Teacher-Centered Instruction [and Rodney Dangerfield]
by Mark C. Schug. (Also available as a PDF.)
"Teacher-centered instruction has again and again proven its value in
studies that show it to be an especially effective instructional
method. Yet, when self-appointed education leaders meet to share best
practices or write about effective teaching, teacher-centered
instruction, as the comedian Rodney Dangerfield used to say, gets no
respect. ... Teacher-centered instruction is supported by a strong
set of empirical results conducted over several decades. And yet,
these approaches are ignored by the leaders of the profession, as
evidenced by the content in textbooks used to train teachers and in
authoritative reviews of research. To discuss teacher-centered
instruction is not even considered polite conversation. Nevertheless,
now is the time for social studies leaders as well as legislators and
parents to acknowledge the obvious weaknesses of student-centered
approaches and begin to correct the excesses."
A Direct Challenge
by Debra Viadero, Education Week, March 17, 1999
"When an independent research group evaluated the research backing up
24 popular school reform models this year, it found two surprises.
The first surprise was that only three programs could point to strong
evidence that they were effective in improving student achievement.
The second surprise was that Direct Instruction, a program long
scorned by many educators and academics for its lock-step structure,
was one of them."
Direct Instruction: Its Contributions to High School Achievement
by Martin A. Kozloff and Louis LaNunziata of the
University of North Carolina at Wilmington,
Director, Millennium Community School and
Frances B. Bessellieu
New Hanover County Schools, July, 2000
"This paper describes the design principles, instructional practices,
and specific curricula of Direct Instruction--one example of focused,
systematic, explicit instruction. At a time when public schools are
increasingly held accountable for students' achievement and for
closing and preventing the achievement gap between
minority/disadvantaged and white/advantaged students, Direct
Instruction provides highly effective programs whose implementation
fosters beneficial change in students' engagement and achievement, in
teachers' skill at instruction and evaluation, and in the social
organization of schools (e.g., strong shared mission and teacher
Research Regarding Direct Instruction
by Dave Ziffer. This is a short summary of research supporting the use of Direct Instruction,
along with links to other sources.
Direct Instruction at Davenport School in Genoa, Illinois
by Dave Ziffer.
Direct Instruction: What Is It?
Break down tasks into component parts and teach the component parts to mastery
by Rory Donaldson.
What Direct Instruction Is -- and Is Not
by Martin A. Kozloff, Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina.
The author answers the title question in 10 bullet points, and then
gives several answers to the additional question, "What's Direct About Direct Instruction?"
Failing Grade: Siegfried Engelmann developed an amazingly effective method
of teaching. Why don't you know his name?
by Richard Nadler, National Review, June 1, 1998.
"In education, a 10-percentile rise in standardized-test scores is called
a 'major effect.' Such results are rare. Engelmann's Direct
Instruction methods in reading, writing, and math regularly hike
scores 30 to 40 percentiles. And he will never be forgiven for it.
Engelmann is a pariah in educational circles ... He is an outcast
because for thirty years, he has succeeded by defying all the
fashionable theories of educational reform."
Teachers' Perceptions of Direct Instruction Teaching
by Frances B. Bessellieu, Martin A. Kozloff and John S. Rice. Highly recommended.
This study looks at factors behind teachers' resistance to Direct Instruction
despite copious, consistent evidence of its effectiveness. From the introduction:
"Thirty years of research shows that Direct Instruction -- one type of focused instruction --
fosters rapid and reliable achievement in students regardless of ethnicity, race, family background,
or socioeconomic status. For example, both large scale and smaller scale experimental research
comparing the outcomes of different forms of instruction shows that:
"Despite the long history of extensive evaluation research that
supports the effectiveness of Direct Instruction curricula, Direct
Instruction has not been accepted in American education as either a
method of choice or even as an equal partner amongst other curricula,
such as whole language and other 'discovery' approaches. Part of the
reason is that curriculum decisions at school and district levels
frequently rest on the extent to which a curriculum or method of
instruction connotes feelings, 'philosophies,' and value orientations
that are consistent with those of education professors, district
curriculum coordinators, and local teachers and principals, rather
than on experimental data on effectiveness."
- Children who are taught math, spelling, reading, and remedial
reading with Direct Instruction curricula -- such as Reading
Mastery..., Connecting Math Concepts..., Corrective Reading..., and Spelling Mastery...
-- generally outperform (both academically and with respect to
self-esteem) children taught with other forms of instruction, such as
whole language and 'inquiry' methods ...
- The early gains of children who were taught some subjects with
Direct Instruction are sustained in later grades. ...
In addition, in contrast to comparison groups of children who had not received Direct
Instruction in earlier years, former Direct Instruction students had higher rates of
graduating high school on time, lower rates of dropping out, and higher rates of
applying and being accepted into college.
An Illusory Math Reform; Let's Go To The Videotape
by Linda Seebach, Rocky Mountain News, August 7, 2004.
This article reports on a clear finding that instruction, not "discovery," is key to learning.
Alan Siegel, a professor at New York University,
was curious about why students in Japan wind up so much better at math than their
U.S. counterparts and turned to the videotapes prepared as part
of the TIMSS studies. But unlike most others who investigated this, he went to the actual
videotapes, rather than summary reports written about them.
What he found was important: Although some published reports written
by progressivists claim the videotapes support "discovery" methods,
Siegel shows instead how they support teacher-led direct instruction
as the key to effective math learning.
The linked article concludes, "This is
teaching in the traditional mode, beautifully designed and superbly
executed, but nothing like the parody of instruction that goes by the
term 'discovery learning' in math-reform circles in the United
Research synthesis on effective teaching principles and the design of quality tools for educators
by Edwin S. Ellis, Ph.D. and Lou Anne Worthington, January 13, 1994,
Technical Report No. 5, National Center to Improve the Tools of Educators, University of Oregon
Main Elements and Practices of Effective Instruction
by Prof. Martin Kozloff
General Format for Instructional Interaction Within Chunks of a Curriculum/Lessons
by Prof. Martin Kozloff
[Chicago] Schools To Ax Scripted Reading Program Despite Gains
by Kate Grossman, Chicago Sun-Times, February 21, 2005
"Last December, the Chicago Board of Education called the news media
to a small school in Woodlawn to show off the best and brightest of
its 'rising stars.'
The Woodlawn Community School boosted reading scores by 20 percentage
points in one year after rededicating itself to a controversial,
scripted reading program called Direct Instruction, the principal
Now, the board says DI must go."
by Thomas Sowell, July 18, 2005.
"There was another report issued recently, this one giving results of
opinion polls among professors of education, the people who train our
public school teachers. It is also very revealing as to what has been
so wrong for so long in our schools.
Take something as basic as what teachers should be doing in the
classroom. Should teachers be 'conveyors of knowledge who enlighten
their students with what they know'? Or should teachers 'see
themselves as facilitators of learning who enable their students to
learn on their own'?
Ninety two percent of the professors of education said that teachers
should be 'facilitators' rather than engaging in what is today called
'direct instruction' -- and what used to be called just plain
The fashionable phrase among educators today is that the teacher
should not be 'a sage on the stage' but 'a guide on the side.'
Is the 92 percent vote for the guide over the sage based on any hard
evidence, any actual results? No. It has remained the prevailing
dogma in schools of education during all the years when our test
scores stagnated and American children have been repeatedly
outperformed in international tests by children from other
Myths About Direct Instruction
Research That Refutes Those Myths
by Sara Tarver, Professor, Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education, University of Wisconsin. Dr. Tarver tackles some of the more enduring of the myths
about Direct Instruction, and refutes each in turn:
- Teacher-centered approaches (traditional approaches) to education result in lower academic achievement than student-centered approaches (progressive approaches).
- DI may be effective for teaching very rudimentary academic skills, but it does not promote higher order cognitive learning (e.g., mathematical problem solving and reading comprehension).
- It is possible to use generic effective-school practices (direct instruction) to achieve results as good as those achieved by DI (Direct Instruction).
- DI is a "rote" and "drill" approach.
- DI has a detrimental effect on students' self concept or self esteem and on students' attitudes toward learning.
- DI may be appropriate for disadvantaged students, but it is not appropriate for other students who are at risk of failure in school and it is not appropriate for average and above-average achieving students.
- DI's scripted presentations and predetermined lessons stifle the teacher's creativity. Teachers don't like DI.
- DI ignores students' individual differences.
- The reading achievement of poor children who do not receive Direct Instruction is no different from the reading achievement of poor children who receive Direct Instruction.
- Although DI produces academic gains in the early grades, it has no lasting effects on students' success in school.
Direct Instruction and the Teaching Of Early Reading: Wisconsin's Teacher-Led Insurgency (PDF)
by Mark Schug and Sara Tarver, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.
Direct Instruction Model (K-8),
Catalog of School Reform Models, Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory
Rubric for Identifying Authentic DI Programs
(PDF) by Siegfried Engelmann, February 7, 2006.
Our Failure To Follow Through
by Billy Tashman, New York Newsday, November 15, 1994.
"Project Follow Through, America's longest, costliest and perhaps, most
significant study of public school teaching methods quietly concluded this year.
The good news is that after 26 years, nearly a billion dollars, and mountains of
data, we now know which are the most effective instructional tools. The bad news
is that the education world couldn't care less. ... It may come as a shock to the
layperson, but school policymakers haven't adopted Direct Instruction because
they have an aversion to scientific research. Educators throw their weight behind
the latest fad, then refuse to abandon it when it doesn't work. ... Follow
Through demonstrated that scientific research and the classroom are still
strangers to one another. Until they join forces, American schoolchildren will
continue to receive a second-class education."
Educators Ignore Proven Method of Improving Students' Learning
by David Ziffer, School Reform News, October 1, 2006.
David Ziffer is a school choice activist and one of the original co-founders of the Illinois Loop.
He operated a Direct Instruction-based after-school reading program from 1997 through 2002.
He has no current financial interest in Direct Instruction. Excerpts:
"Imagine for a moment that we have a cheap cure for cancer. Now
imagine the medical establishment is doing everything possible to
discredit the cure and prevent its use, so doctors who treat (but
don't cure) cancer can keep their jobs.
Imagine millions of patients continuing to suffer and die because
nobody--including most doctors--knows about the cure.
"This is a picture of something that's really happening in education.
But to understand our almost-unknown educational "cure," you have to
know about Project Follow Through (PFT).
"PFT is the world's largest-ever education research project, conducted
between 1967 and 1977 by the U.S. Department of Education. Its
results indicate there is a replicable, systematic curriculum that
dramatically improves the quality of education in poor urban
schools--one that can raise poor urban students' test scores to
suburban levels. ...
"PFT researchers selected 180 low-income urban and rural school
districts nationwide in which elementary school performance was at
approximately the 20th percentile. Nine different educational models
were each allocated to some schools in approximately 20 districts,
with the remaining schools functioning as controls.
"Students were pre-tested to determine initial performance differences
between PFT-model schools and control schools, so the final analysis
could compensate for initial variances. At the conclusion of the
project, two independent agencies were hired to collect and analyze
"The results were shocking ...
"DI even outperformed the constructivist models in areas in which they were supposed to excel."
"Of PFT's nine curriculum models, five were firmly constructivist and
three were indeterminate. Only one model--Direct Instruction
(DI)--firmly embraced the idea of teaching basic skills.
Nobody was more surprised than the constructivist curriculum authors
when PFT demonstrated two things.
"First, the basic-skills-oriented DI far outperformed both the control
groups and the other models.
"Second, the five constructivist-style curricula actually reduced
school performance in districts that were already among the lowest
"DI even outperformed the constructivist models in areas in which they
were supposed to excel."
Click here to read the full article's recap of Project Follow-Through.
Comments on Curriculum and Project Follow Through,
Chris Jenner, member of District 26 school board, Cary, Illinois, December 19, 2005.
"Follow through: Why didn't we? --
Are proven teaching methods already available?"
by Cathy L. Watkins.
"What do we do with a teaching technique that works? Surely,
educators would welcome such a breakthrough with open arms.
Incredibly, they haven't.
Project Follow Through, the largest experiment ever undertaken to
find effective methods for teaching disadvantaged children,
discovered such a teaching method at a [research] cost of nearly a billion dollars."
This article is available as a
or as a PDF document.
Project Follow Through: In-depth and Beyond by Gary Adams.
Excerpt: "The Follow Through project was the largest, most
expensive educational experiment ever conducted. This federal
program was originally designed to be a service-oriented project
similar to Head Start. However, because of funding cutbacks the emphasis
was shifted from service to program evaluation.
Over 75,000 low income children in 170 communities were involved in this
massive project designed to evaluate different approaches to educating
economically disadvantaged students from kindergarten through grade 3.
State, school, and national officials nominated school districts that
had high numbers of economically disadvantaged students.
Parent representatives of these school districts chose to participate
after hearing presentations from the 20 different program designers (sponsors).
Each participating district implemented the selected sponsor's approach
in one or more schools. For participating, each district received $750 per
student beyond the normal level of funding.
Research Regarding Direct Instruction by Dave Ziffer.
Also includes information about Project Follow-Through.
The Story Behind Project Follow Through
by Bonnie Grossen, Effective School Practices, Winter 1995-6.
Honest Follow-Through Needed On This Project
by Marian Kester Coombs, Washington Times, Mar 24, 1998.
"What if the federal government spent $1 billion over nearly three decades to
study thoroughly the question of which teaching method best instills knowledge,
cognitive skills and positive self-concept in students?
What if that study were able to conclude exactly which method best does all
Wouldn't the American people like to know about it? ...
Direct instruction, one of the basic skills approaches, showed the greatest
positive impact on all three types of development (see graphs).
What the Data Really Show: Direct Instruction Really Works!
by Jeff Lindsay
The Ultimate Rejection of Follow Through Data
by Siegfried Engelmann, 2006
NOTE: "Direct Instruction" is not the same thing as simply talking, or giving a lecture!
True Direct Instruction is often characterized by highly interactive dialog
between students and teachers.
But at times, a simple lecture is the most appropriate,
proven and effective technique to meet a teaching goal.
In Praise of Lectures
by Tina Blue, February 14, 2001
On the Nature of Lectures
by Kenneth Minogue
Classroom Divided: The Lost Paradigm of Teacher-Student Instruction
by Patricia O'Hara.
"What worries me most is that my students are losing the ability to
listen, especially to listen mindfully and with pleasure. I suspect
that loss is a consequence of both the new technologies that deliver
information in nanoseconds as well as the prevailing pedagogy that
calls for a student-centered classroom. Over the course of more than
twenty years of teaching, I have observed that increasingly what we
talk about when we talk about teaching is how to enhance classroom
Years ago, when I served as the graduate teacher's
assistant for a semester-abroad program in London, I could see how
difficult it was for the American undergraduates to appreciate the
lectures delivered by British academics. They were uncomfortable and
sometimes irritated ...
I often wondered what the visiting British professors made
of the slack-jawed Americans with so little to say. Yet a couple of
those lectures were quite stunning and were delivered with animation,
even passion. The offering of a lecture is half of an intellectual
transaction, one that seeks to draw students into an apprehension of
how the past makes claims upon them. The transaction wobbles if the
lecturer fails to shape the material to meet those ends; it collapses
entirely if the auditor fails to apprehend where he or she is being
taken. Some professors may not be great lecturers, but we all find
ourselves standing in front of groups of students who have not been
trained to perform as listeners."
Physics Professor Is a Web Star
by Sara Rimer, New York Times, December 19, 2007.
"Walter H. G. Lewin, 71, a physics professor, has long had a cult
following at M.I.T. And he has now emerged as an international Internet
guru, thanks to the global classroom the institute created to spread
knowledge through cyberspace.
Professor Lewin's videotaped physics lectures, free online on the
OpenCourseWare of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have won
him devotees across the country and beyond who stuff his e-mail in-box
with praise. ...
Professor Lewin delivers his lectures with the panache of Julia Child
bringing French cooking to amateurs and the zany theatricality of
YouTube's greatest hits."