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Direct Instruction

Direct Instruction

13 April, 2016

Refers to instructional methods that are organized, sequenced, and led by teachers.

The demonstration of academic content to students by teachers, such as in a lecture or demonstration. In other words, teachers are “directing” the instructional procedure or instruction is being “directed” at students.

  • Various fundamental teaching techniques and potential instructional scenarios.
  • The most common teaching approach in the United States, since teacher-designed and teacher-led instructional procedures are widely used in American public schools. That said, it’s important to note that teaching techniques such as direct instruction, differentiation, or scaffolding, to name just a few, are rarely mutually exclusive—direct instruction may be integrated with any number of other instructional approaches in a given course or lesson. For example, teachers may use direct instruction to prepare students for an activity in which the students work collaboratively on a group project with guidance and coaching from the teacher as needed (the group activity would not be considered a form of direct instruction).
  • Deemed to be the foundation of effective teaching.

Sample Instances:

  1. Establishing learning aims for lessons, activities, and projects, and then making sure that students have understood the goals.
  2. Purposefully organizing and sequencing a series of lessons, projects, and assignments that move students toward stronger understanding and the achievement of specific academic goals.
  3. Reviewing instructions for an activity or modeling a process—such as a scientific experiment—so that students know what they are expected to do.
  4. Providing students with clear explanations, descriptions, and illustrations of the knowledge and skills being taught.
  5. Asking questions to make sure that students have understood what has been taught.


  1. Considered as outdated, arcane, or insufficiently considerate of student learning needs by some instructors and reformers due to its relation with traditional lecture-style teaching to classrooms full of passive students obediently sitting in desks and taking notes.
  2. Undesirable discernment of the practice tend to arise when teachers depend too heavily upon direct instruction, or when they fail to use alternative techniques that may be better suited to the lesson at hand or that may improve student interest, engagement, and comprehension.
  • While a sustained forty-five-minute lecture may not be considered an effective teaching approach by many educators, the alternative strategies they may advocate—such as personalized learning or project-based learning, to name just two options—will almost certainly require some level of direct instruction by teachers. In other words, teachers rarely use either direct instruction or some other teaching approach—in actual practice, diverse strategies are frequently merged together. For these reasons, negative perceptions of direct instruction likely result more from a widespread overreliance on the approach, and from the tendency to view it as an either/or option, rather than from its inherent value to the instructional method.