Direct Instruction? What’s that?
Even though we are best known for helping students overcome their challenging behavior, a heavy focus of Lodestone Academy is teaching. Some of our students are on standard diploma tracks, we utilize a teaching method known as Direct Instruction (DI). DI is a science-based method to teach students through clear, concise lessons which include scripted teaching presentations, repetition of the concepts in each lesson interwoven with students’ active responding. For instance, if the student is learning a beginner math lesson, the lesson provides the student practice counting in brief bouts many times throughout the lesson. Moreover, it focuses on building the targeted skill (in this case, counting up given any starting number). In some other approaches, the student may be exposed to a number of situations that are tangentially related to counting (for instance, asking them to count the number of bears they see in a cartoon, or noting which basket has more items in it). With direct instruction, however the scope and sequence identifies exactly which skill is necessary at this point, and all the active responding is focused on teaching that. In the above example, a student watching that cartoon would be learning to count from 1. They have to watch the whole cartoon, and then start over to learn the first step in counting (that you take what you have and add 1). Moreover, it is likely that this step is not made clear (a teacher is unlikely to say, “we see zero bears, so start counting when you see one”). In this lesson in particular, the student will have practiced counting at least 50 different opportunities and from multiple starting numbers. The student does not move to the next lesson until she has demonstrated mastery of this skill. If it takes two days, it takes two days. We don’t believe in using time as our metric to move students on while leaving them with a fractured foundation for future learning. That means the student is able to practice the concepts until he/she has a firm grasp of each concept. Additionally, the scripted quality of teacher presentation of DI lessons allows for seamless progressions between and amongst lessons and no down-time when there are staffing changes.
Sounds pretty robotic…
Detractors of DI have argued that the scripted lessons hampers the ability of a teacher to freely express him or herself when teaching students. While the scripts are definitely effective without any additional modification, we work with our staff members to incorporate some of their own flair in a way that does not impede the point of the lesson. By doing this, teachers have the ability to make the scripts their “own.” Staff at Lodestone have made the scripts their “own” by changing the way they read the scripts (vocal inflection), incorporated different examples into the script, and taught other concepts using DI methods (e.g., art activities). What does not change across each lesson are the concepts, which allows us to transport the same lesson to multiple students and measure learning individually and as a group.
Show me the data!
Along with the transportability of DI, the multiple opportunities to respond within lessons generate observable and measurable behavior. Because of this, we can count and record progress with precision. By analyzing this data on graphs, we know exactly when students reach their goals within each lesson and can move them forward. On the other hand, if they aren’t progressing, we can identify exactly what changes we need to make to help them over that hurdle. Because of this, our staff members are held accountable for student progress, and can more easily display to parents mastered skills and skills on which the student is currently working.
Accountability and data tracking are great for parents who invest so much time and effort into making sure their children are developing the skills that will help them reach their full potential. Teachers are able to incorporate their own style of teaching while building the skills of students in an objective progression. These factors make DI an extremely effective teaching method that should be implemented in all educational settings. Keep learning and we will chat again soon!