For a long time, we have known a lot about effective practices in teaching. Of course, there is debate about whether the specifics are exactly correct, whether some studies have been discredited, or whether the paradigm fits people’s biases. Despite these debates, some general guidelines about effective teaching can be distilled from educational research. Here is one general description of effective teaching practices. I consider it a helpful guide to explicit, systematic instruction. In the parlance I use, this set of features describes “direct instruction” (note the lower-case letters):
In general, researchers have found that when effective teachers teach well-structured subjects, they:
- Begin a lesson with a short review of previous, prerequisite learning.
- Begin a lesson with a short statement of goals.
- Present new material in small steps, with student practice after each step.
- Give clear and detailed instruction and explanations.
- Provide a high level of active practice for all students.
- Ask a large number of questions, check for student understanding, and obtain responses from all students.
- Guide students during initial practice.
- Provide systematic feedback and corrections.
- Provide explicit instruction and practice for seatwork exercises and, where necessary, monitor students during seatwork.
Source: Rosenshine, B. , & Stevens, R. (1986). Teaching functions. In M. C. Whittrock (Ed.), Handbook of research on teaching (3rd ed., pp. 376-391). New York: Macmillan.
If educators would follow these general guidelines, I suspect that we could increase the chances of success in our general education classrooms. Sadly, this level of direct instruction (“little di” in my language) is not only not practiced in US classrooms, but is probably rejected in the so-called “teacher education” many prospective teachers receive.