Instructional Strategies: Direct (or Explicit) Instruction

The direct instruction (or explicit instruction) model is based on scaffolded learning, gradually releasing the responsibility of learning from the teacher to the student, “Explicit instruction models support practice to mastery, the modeling of skills, and the development of skill and procedural knowledge” (California Department of Education, 2013, pp. 17-18).This model is particularly beneficial in teaching procedural knowledge to students regarding mathematical concepts. Typically, direct instruction begins with the teacher modeling how to perform a particular task. The teacher may utilize the think aloud strategy at this point to model how the students should reason through the task. According to Walqui (2006, p. 170), “When introducing a new task or working format, it is indispensable that the learners be able to see or hear what a developing product looks like.” Then, the teacher engages the students in guided practice, eliciting student participation in performing the next task. At first, the teacher may ask students if the steps taken to perform the task are correct. The teacher may continue with similar tasks or calculation that are progressively more difficult, eliciting greater student participating in performing the task. Following the guided practice, the teacher assigns the students an assignment or activity to complete individually. During this time, the teacher should circulate around the classroom observing student work, asking guiding questions, and offering help when needed. Throughout the lesson, the teacher checks for understanding through a variety of formative assessment techniques. These include asking the students questions, having them respond with whiteboards, or circulating and listening to their conversations as they engage in a think-pair-share. At the end of the lesson and throughout the unit, the teacher tests the students using summative assessments (i.e. quizzes, mid-chapter tests, and chapter tests).

The direct instruction model is not explicitly unique to teaching mathematics. In fact, direct instruction is easily implemented as a model for teaching reading comprehension (Gersten & Carnine, 1986) and science (Adelson, 2004). The focus of the direct instruction model is on the method or procedure used. It is a teacher-centered method that specifically addresses procedural knowledge. The benefit of direct instruction is that students acquire the skills and procedural knowledge for effectively performing certain tasks, “Teacher-centered methods of instruction are often necessary to educate students on difficult material that requires multiple steps, and for procedures which are unlikely for students to discover on their own” (Cohen, 2008, p. 4). Because the direct instruction model is teacher-centered, it does not foster the development of reasoning and metacognitive awareness that is necessary for students to think mathematically.

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