Home' Teacher : September 2009 Contents 54 TEACHER SEPTEMBER 2009
There are impediments, however, to
an objective examination of our teaching
practices, in the form of ideological persua-
sion, modelling, routine and habit. One of
the most contentious findings from meta-
analytic research is that so- called direct
instruction has a large effect on student
learning while so-called facilitatory teach-
ing of various sorts is far less effective.
Effect size refers to indices that measure
the magnitude of a treatment effect, with
an effect size of 0.6 or greater usually con-
sidered large. According to Hattie's latest
research, direct instruction has an effect
size of 0.59.
Many teachers and teacher educators
hold the view that facilitatory teaching,
which includes so -called discovery learning,
student-centred learning, problem-based
learning and constructivist teaching meth-
ods -- leaving aside the fact that construc-
tivism is a theory of learning, not teaching
-- is superior and preferable to direct instruc-
tion, which has connotations of traditional
Many have bought the rhetoric that
teachers need to be the 'guide by the side'
rather than the 'sage on the stage.' The first
time I heard this I thought it was a danger-
ous false dichotomy, and empirical evidence
confirms my view.
The mainstreaming of meta-analytic
effect size research findings brings into
question the commonly held view that facili-
tatory teaching methods are the most effec-
tive, but, of all the findings of such research,
the effectiveness of direct instruction is for
some educators hardest to swallow. This,
I think, is because it seems to represent a
position on teaching diametrically opposed
to the one they fervently hold to -- and
maybe also because the term 'instruction'
unfortunately suggests a technical transfer-
ence of knowledge rather than the teacher
directing student learning.
Equally, some educators have taken the
finding that direct instruction has a large
effect on student learning to be a validation
of didactic teaching methods, assuming
that direct instruction means the teacher
ought to stand at the board and talk to
transmit information to a passive class of
Not for the first time, we have opposing
views about teaching, as equally entrenched
as the political views that many of us might
hold. The problem that meta-analytic effect
size research about direct instruction has
raised is that educators who've voted for
the one pedagogic party all their lives think
they're now being asked to reconsider their
unquestioned allegiance and vote for the
opposition. It's timely, therefore, to shed
some light on just what is meant by this
thing called direct instruction. Is it just
'back to basics' or is it possibly 'for ward to
fu nda mentals'?
Hattie believes that direct instruction
involves seven major steps, which I'd like
to quote pretty fully, from pages 205-06 of
'1. Before the lesson is prepared, the
teacher should have a clear idea what the
learning intentions are....
'2. The teacher needs to know what
success criteria of performance are to be
expected and when and what students will
be held accountable for from the lessons/
activity. The students need to be informed
about the standards of performance.
'3. There is a need to build commitment
and engagement in the learning task.., a
"hook" to grab the students' attention....
'4. There are guides to how the teacher
should present the lesson -- including notions
such as input, modelling, and checking
'5. There is the notion of guided practice.
This involves an opportunity for each stu-
dent to demonstrate his or her grasp of new
learning by working through an activity...
under the teacher's direct supervision. The
teacher moves around the room to determine
the level of mastery and to provide feedback
and individual remediation as needed.
'6. There is the closure part of the lesson.
Closure involves those actions or statements
by a teacher that are designed to bring a
lesson presentation to an appropriate con-
Professor Stephen Dinham is Research
Director of Teaching, Learning and
Leadership at the Australian Council
for Educational Research.
His latest book is How to Get Your
School Moving and Improving: An
evidence-based approach, published by
ACER Press. ISBN 9 780 864 319 319
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