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The Effectiveness of Direct Instruction Curricula: A Meta-Analysis of a Half Century of Research

Jan 13, 2018 by

F​rom the study:
Implications for Policy and Practice
The findings of this meta-analysis reinforce the conclusions of earlier meta-analyses and reviews of the literature regarding DI. Yet, despite the very large body of research supporting its effectiveness, DI has not been widely embraced or implemented. In part this avoidance of DI may be fueled by the current popularity of constructivism and misconceptions of the theory that underlies DI. As explained in the first part of this article, DI shares with constructivism the important basic understanding that students interpret and make sense of information with which they are presented. The difference lies in the nature of the information given to students, with DI theorists stressing the importance of very carefully choosing and structuring examples so they are as clear and unambiguous as possible. Without such clarity students will waste valuable time and, even worse, potentially reach faulty conclusions that harm future progress and learning.
Many current curriculum recommendations, such as those included within the Common Core, promote student-led and inquiry-based approaches with substantial ambiguity in instructional practices. The strong pattern of results presented in this article, appearing across all subject matters, student populations, settings, and age levels, should, at the least, imply a need for serious examination and reconsideration of these recommendations (see also Engelmann, 2014a; Morgan, Farkas, & Maczuga, 2015; Zhang, 2016). It is clear that students make sense of and interpret the information that they are given—but their learning is enhanced only when the information presented is explicit, logically organized, and clearly sequenced. To do anything less shirks the responsibility of effective instruction.
Another reason that DI may not be widely used involves a belief that teachers will not like it or that it stifles teachers’ ability to bring their own personalities to their teaching. Yet, as described in earlier sections, proper implementation of DI does not disguise or erase a teacher’s unique style. In fact, the carefully tested presentations in the programs free teachers from worries about the wording of their examples or the order in which they present ideas and allow them to focus more fully on their students’ responses and ensure their understanding. Recall that effect sizes associated with teachers’ perceptions of the program reached as high as 1.04 in our analyses. Fears that teachers will not enjoy the programs or not be pleased with their results do not appear to be supported by the evidence.

Lipsey et al. (2012) have suggested that effect sizes based on performance gaps among demographic groups could be a useful benchmark in evaluating the potential impact of an intervention. Using data from the National Assessment of Education Progress, they calculated performance gaps in reading and math and found that the difference between more and less privileged groups corresponds to effect sizes ranging from 0.45 to 1.04 (Lipsey et al., 2012; p. 30; see also Bloom, Hill, Black, & Lipsey, 2008). These values are quite similar to the effects found in our analysis. In other words, the effects reported in this analysis, and calculated

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from 50 years of data on DI, indicate that exposure to DI could substantially reduce current achievement disparities between sociodemographic groups. Moreover, as noted above, at least for the academic subjects, greater exposure would be expected to result in even larger effects. There is little indication that the effects would be expected to decline markedly after intervention ceased; the positive effects are long-term.

Certainly our nation’s children deserve both effective and efficient instruction. As one of the anonymous reviewers of our article put it, “Researchers and practitioners cannot afford to ignore the effectiveness research on DI.”

Source: The Effectiveness of Direct Instruction Curricula: A Meta-Analysis of a Half Century of ResearchReview of Educational Research – Jean Stockard, Timothy W. Wood, Cristy Coughlin, Caitlin Rasplica Khoury, 2018

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