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Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: Jack Schneider

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May 15, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Your voices: Readers share views on direct instruction and Gildo Rey

Illustration by Boo Davis / The Seattle Times

Illustration by Boo Davis / The Seattle Times

Thanks to the many readers who shared their thoughts about Auburn’s Gildo Rey Elementary, featured in an Education Lab story a few weeks ago, and the school’s use of a teaching technique known as direct or explicit instruction.

Many expressed strong support for direct instruction, and a number backed using a variety of techniques, which is really what Gildo Rey does.

Commenter Dorboln is one who expressed the latter:

The big issue in education, math in particular, is that everyone thinks you need to go 100% traditional or 100% inquiry, or believe the two are mutually exclusive, which they are not. You need to blend the two.

Blue N Green agreed:

It’s tempting to look at education as a single problem in search of one assembly-line solution, but it simply isn’t and never will be. Kudos to these teachers for finding the approach that works FOR THEIR KIDS. This does not mean it works everywhere, always.


Comments | More in Your voices | Topics: direct instruction, Gildo Rey Elementary, Jack Schneider

April 30, 2014 at 4:31 PM

Guest: The drawbacks of Direct Instruction


Jack Schneider

Direct Instruction works. And I’d never send my own child to a school that uses it.

That may seem like a paradox. But the picture becomes much clearer once you have a sense of what Direct Instruction looks like. Half a century old, the program groups children by ability, breaks learning objectives down into their component parts, utilizes frequent assessment and immediate correction, and even scripts teacher instruction. According to the model’s designer, Direct Instruction is “a set of procedures for producing a change in behavior toward a pre-stated objective.”

Not surprisingly, students in Direct Instruction classrooms tend to score well on tests. Even in less-formal applications of the model — in which “direct instruction” is not capitalized, teachers work without scripts and the school does not purchase materials from a DI provider — the approach is teacher-centered, simplifies classroom aims to the basics, maximizes instructional efficiency and emphasizes repetition and drill. Want to raise reading comprehension scores? Direct Instruction (or direct instruction) is a surefire way to do it.

But the strengths of the program are also its weaknesses. The program dramatically narrows the aims of education and leaves little room for creativity, spontaneity and joy in the classroom. Although test scores may go up, the improvement is not without a cost.

Where do we see Direct Instruction? Not in affluent neighborhoods or in prestigious college-preparatory schools. Instead, the program is almost exclusively the preserve of schools serving our most vulnerable students.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: direct instruction, Gildo Rey, Jack Schneider