In education, the goal for every teacher is to provide the best to the students and produce an active participant in the society. Most states in the United States of America, education in elementary schools is provided using many methods without any specific one. Learners with learning disabilities find it difficult to fit in regular classes. They can not adopt other approaches of teaching except direct instruction which has been reported as a success. There are many approaches existing for teachers to impart knowledge in elementary schools. The most current approach, Direct Instruction, is working well but the attitude of teachers towards the system and their satisfaction with the method ought to be investigated. Given that every state in the USA is advocating for its use, as it’s said that it provides children with good start in early childhood and give them equal opportunity regardless of disabilities.
Although teachers can have several insights into classrooms and about the direct instruction in early reading, their satisfaction will be very important and can be through their perspective and attitude towards the system. Direct instruction is an approach of teaching where the teacher uses skills and teaching practices which are teacher directed. The approach favors small groups, face to face instruction and use of aid while teaching. The approach becomes very difficult to be used by old and experienced teachers especially those who were used to the old systems. Direct instruction got its name from Rosenshine & Steven in their essay where they describe it as the programme for teaching which is not elaborated and it is not hard to use in mathematics.
Therefore the main purpose of the study is to investigate the teachers’ satisfaction with the implementation of direct instruction. Further, I will also look at the perception and attitude of the teachers towards the approach.
Whatever approach of teaching is adapted by any American state or elementary school, the teachers’ satisfaction plays an important role in its success. Like attitude towards student, the attitude towards the teaching method affects the economy of the country as they can produce half baked citizens. This is because the teachers are the shapers of the citizens of any country. If the teachers does not accept and get satisfied then the system is bound to fail.
The researcher is training as teacher and he will be interested to find out, the feelings, attitudes, Perceptions and challenges facing his future colleagues.
Background of the Study
Comprehensive school reading reform provides hope of great improvements in imparting knowledge in early reading that is in elementary schools. The idea, of using direct Instruction as a tool for comprehensive school reform has become very complex to both educators and policy makers. Teachers who have participated in direct instruction agree that its implementation in elementary schools is facing many challenges. The approach is described as timely as children who were not able to fit (that is learners with learning disabilities) in regular classes are now fitting in normal classes where Direct Instruction is applied. The unfortunate thing is that the system has not been accepted fully by teachers. Some of the teachers concur with some scholars who describe the system as bad and unfit to use in classes. These kinds of teachers have made the implementation difficult. As one scholar argued that direct education is good but unfortunately it educators are not adapting it fully.
A report on the research carried out by Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, Inc. on Direct instruction reform states that ” the track record of this approach, and given the undisputed importance of getting children off to a good start in reading, one might suppose that Wisconsin’s leading educators would be seen hard at work implementing Direct Instruction, striving to learn more about it, and helping new teachers to get started using it. But that is not the case. Many of Wisconsin’s leading educators ignore Direct Instruction altogether, and others smear it by misrepresentation and ridicule when they speak of it at all. As a result, most K-12 teachers move through their careers learning little about Direct Instruction, despite its record of success in fostering student learning. One can get some sense of how odd this is by trying to imagine, say, Wisconsin medical schools and hospitals in which the senior staff take no interest in the germ theory of disease and go out of their way to discourage doctors and nurses from making use of the medical practices that theory implies’’. This underlying statement from a research institute shows that although the system is working and good some elements in the education sector are putting hostility towards its implementation.
It is interesting to find teachers who have confessed that the approach works but they are against it. This shows that the attitude of the teachers is biased against the system and is not based on principles. Mr. Engelmann who carried out research estimated that for a teacher to be able to deliver well, he should teach the program for two years. He has argued that “There are no dyslexic kids–only dysteachic teachers,” this means that according to him the approach is good to students except to teachers who are unable to teach. He proposed that training of teachers should be practical based.
The implementation has been bumpy and rough since some teachers view developers of Direct Instruction coaches as people who come in when there is a problem, a matter that humiliates the teachers in front of the students. There is also a notion that there is no need of training as the program is offered commercially. The notion creates an attitude that makes its implementation difficult.
Direct instruction program was developed by Siegfried Engelmann in1968 for pre-6k with an aim to improve performance of American children has faced many challenges and controversies. Despite extensive evaluation research on the effectiveness of the approach, Direct Instruction has not been fully accepted and implemented by the American educationist because of the said controversies. Other methods of curriculum are still preferred because of the teachers’ perceptions. As scholars have argued “Part of the reason is that curriculum decisions at school and district levels frequently rest on the extent to which a curriculum or method of instruction connotes feelings, “philosophies,” and value orientations that are consistent with those of education professors, district curriculum coordinators, and local teachers and principals, rather than on experimental data on effectiveness (Ellis & Fouts, 1993; Grossen, 1997; Stone & Clements, 1998; )” (Bessellieu, Kozloff &. Rice). Secondly most teachers have viewed it with suspicion because of lack of experience with the approaches materials and their applications in class. The approach is structured in a manner that makes the teacher feel that is being undermined by not allowing him/her exercise creativity.
In their research, Bessellieu, Kozloff &. Rice (2002) made the following comments “the children had a hard time waiting for the signal; they had to develop listening and watching skills, some their attention spans were too limited for this, while others complained about so much repetition.” This revelations can not be specifically associated with the system but with other reasons. Thus the teachers’ satisfaction should be measured using the questionnaires that are tailor made to investigate the problem.
Teachers who have participated in direct instruction agree that the implementation of direct instruction in alimentary schools is facing many challenges. The approach is described as timely since children who were not able to fit in regular classes are now finding it comfortable in normal classes. The unfortunate thing the system has not been accepted fully by many teachers. Some of the teachers are in agreement with some scholars who describe the system as hard and unfit to use in classes. These kinds of teachers have made the implementation difficult.
Like attitude of teachers towards learners with hearing disabilities, cultural belief on various issues and academic principles on a number of issues like politics, a system of education implementation will be also affected. Having in mind that there are a number of methods available and are in use, direct instruction must be accepted before its use in all schools.
Purpose of the Study
The Main purpose of the study is to be to gather data on how the teachers are implementing direct instruction and what are their training needs for its success. I will be interested; specifically with the attitude towards direct instruction as compared to other approaches of teaching. I will further examine the social skills, academic and behavioral changes of the children who have passed through the approach. The perception towards the approach will also be examined in details. I will give recommendations for improving implementation of direct instruction as a school reform tool. Lastly I will identify the teachers leadership skills required to assist in the implementation of direct instruction. Direct instruction, associated with Dr. Siegfried Engelmann of the University of Oregon and his Direct Instruction System for Teaching Arithmetic and Reading, will be examined to identify its success in teaching reading and mathematics. The programs of predetermined structured examples will analyze on how they will affect school reading reform.
At the end of the study the researcher will have attained the goal of study if all did not fail.
- What is your attitude towards direct instruction?
- Which format do you favor?
- What training needs, staff development; professional activities are required by teachers for the success of this direct instruction in schools?
- What is your perception of direct instruction?
- Do you agree with the critics that this approach is a dull and humiliating system?
- Which evaluation system do you want implemented in school?
- What are the challenges and problems you are facing in implementing these approach?
- What are the results for those schools that have implemented this approach as compared to this other schools?
- Does the approach favor the inclusion in regular classes’ children with learning disabilities and is it working?
- Is your school’s curriculum effective and research based method?
- Is the quality of your curriculum consistent across subjects, grade levels, and student groups?
- Are teachers supportive of your school’s curriculum?
While carrying out this research with an aim of gauging the attitude of teachers, their perceptions, their beliefs and the schools leadership in accepting the implementation of the Direct Instruction approach, its success will not be left out. Emphasis will be made on teacher/student relationship which is very important for the success of any approach. Teachers experience and training will be among the issues discussed with emphasis on the training regarding direct instruction. The teachers will be assessed depending on their training taken, like methods of teaching reading, teaching mathematics, direct instruction, their knowledge on learning and development of children, their training on special education and educational issues. The teachers feelings on a number of issues will be also be dealt with in the questionnaire.
The following hypothesis will guide the research:
- On average, the attitudes of teachers toward direct instruction will be similar all over the country and the sample will be a true representative of the teachers.
- The perceptions toward direct instruction will be positive or negative depending on the teaching experience.
- On average, teachers’ actual teaching experiences will be less powerful predictors of attitudes toward the approach.
- All teachers makes personal choice without the school leadership interfering.
- Parents of children in schools using the approach are fully aware and they support it.
Education is very powerful in shaping the country. The result obtained can not be ignored it should be used to make some few changes in the school reform. Elementary school is the beginning of a human being’s life thus a very important stage that should be handled with care.
Limitation of the Study
- Few teachers will be willing to be interviewed.
- The researcher will use his resources in doing the research as he is a student.
- Time constraint will be experienced as the researcher will not have enough time to go out since his classes are ongoing and the topic requires extensive research.
- Most teachers come from different cultural backgrounds therefore they will fear being investigated.
- Proponents and opponents of the direct instruction approach will interfere with the researchers work as they will want to carry the day.
There are many types of schools from public schools to private school. Private schools will be assumed to be commercial but also offering the same services to public.
Delimitation of the Study
The researcher is a student, he will be carrying out the research with the trust that people will co-operate.
The research will be carried out by a full time student thus having enough time for coverage of the area chosen.
The researcher will access the schools, teachers and parents with easy because of the accessibility of sample area chosen.
Definition of Terms
- Attitude – Refers to feelings, a way of thinking, opinion approach and thoughts of a person towards something.
- Challenges – These are difficulties or problems experienced by teachers or learners.
- Inclusion – Addition of learners with learning disabilities in regular schools where teachers would be able to provide their needs through direct instruction as opposed to this other methods.
- Regular schools – Refers to a normal classroom environment where all those learners without disabilities attend.
- Special classes – These are classes where learners with different disabilities attend.
- Direct instruction: Direct instruction is an approach where the teacher is face to face with the learners and he uses skills and teaching practices that are implied.
- Direct reading: It is an approach where the teacher uses the method that is the children is asked to read.
- School reform: it is where the teacher is implementing direct instruction for reforming education.
- Integration: This is where the system education is integrated in a manner that direct education works for both children with disabilities and normal children.
- Learning disabilities: “Is significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical abilities. These are disorders which are intrinsic to the individual and presumed due to central nervous system dysfunction” National Joint committee on learning disabilities (1995).
These are common terms that will be used throughout the Dissertation they are necessary to be explained. Any use of this proposal will need to understand them.
Significance of the Study
Most teachers are not satisfied with the system they are using in teaching, and they have a great desire to continue implementing direct education. Their attitude towards direct instruction is very important for successive implementation. Direct instruction affects teachers and children across the country and its poor implementation can have a long term impact on the social, economic and cultural structures.
The findings of the study will also help to identify the attitudes teachers have towards learners with disabilities and know the importance of direct instruction implementation in all schools.
The findings of the study will be used to assist the government identify factors affecting teachers who may have negative attitudes towards learners with hearing impairment.
Direct Instruction approach uses a number of curricula in reading, arithmetic solutions, science teaching, language handling, for elementary schools published by Science Research Associates, McGraw-Hill. Research has shown that that Direct Instruction has assisted most young people in their acquisition of knowledge. Research carried out throughout the USA has shown that children regardless their family background, societal status, Origin, or ethnicity direct instruction works. Examples of researches carried out by different scholars, relating to different forms of direct instruction is articulated below:
Elementary children who have been taught mathematics, reading, remedial reading and spelling using Reading Mastery (Engelmann & Brunner, 1995), of direction instruction , Connecting Math Concepts (Engelmann Carnine, 1992), Corrective Reading (Engelmann, Carnine, Johnson, 1999), and Spelling Mastery (Dixon & Engelmann, 1999)—do well as compared to other children who are taught using other forms of teaching (Adams & Engelmann, 1996; Becker & Carnine, 1981; Bock, Stebbins, & Proper, 1977; Tarver & Jung, 1995; Vitale, Medland, Romance, & Weaver, 1993; Watkins, 1997). “The early gains of children who were taught some subjects with Direct Instruction are sustained in later grades. For example, Meyer (1984) followed children (predominantly Black or Hispanic) in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville section of Brooklyn who had been taught reading and math using Direct Instruction in elementary school. At the end of the 9th grade, these students were still one year ahead of children who had been in control (nondirective Instruction) schools in reading, and 7 months ahead of control children in math. Similar results were found by Gersten, Keating and Becker (1988). Former Direct Instruction students continued to out-perform children who had received traditional instruction. In addition, in contrast to comparison groups of children who had not received Direct” (Bessellieu, Kozloff, Rice)
The method of teaching used in early ages of life is translated into life and they can have long term effect to the education of a person. Research carried out showed that , students who had passed though Direct Instruction were having higher grades and had lower rates of dropping out of college (Darch, Gersten, & Taylor, 1987; Meyer, Gersten, & Gutkin, 1983). With the said success still most educators have not fully accepted the approach not because of their choice but choices of curriculum setters of schools. They have not been also exposed to the approach to experience it (Ellis & Fouts, 1993; Grossen, 1997; Stone & Clements, 1998 ;).
This lack of exposure of some teachers has led to beliefs that; It is meant for children with learning disabilities (The fact that is not true. It is meant for children), it is used as a humiliating system as it comes in when there is a problem thus humiliating the teacher in front of the children, it undermines the teacher’s creativity and interaction with children as he is guided with predetermined materials, it is said to be hated by both the teacher and student (Adams & Engelmann, 1996; Tarver, 1998). Lastly most teachers have a belief that the system only focuses on basic needs. It is difficult for the teacher to choose the model to use as Criteria for Choosing curriculum is let to schools heads and other decision makers. According to the Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary, schools should implement systems that have the following criteria:
- “Comprehensive Design with Aligned Components: “Integrates a comprehensive design with aligned components.”
- Support within the School: “Is supported within the school by teachers, administrators, and staff.”
- Measurable Goals and Benchmarks: “Includes measurable goals and benchmarks for student achievement.”
- Strategies That Improve Academic Achievement: “Has been found to significantly improve the academic achievement of students or demonstrates strong evidence that it will improve the academic achievement of students.”
- Proven Methods and Strategies Based on Scientifically Based Research: “Employs proven methods and strategies based on scientifically based research.”
- Professional Development: “Provides ongoing, high-quality professional development for teachers and staff.”
- Support for Teachers, Administrators, and Other Staff: “Provides support for teachers, administrators, and staff.”
- External Technical Support and Assistance: “Uses high-quality external technical support and assistance from an external partner with experience and expertise in school wide reform and improvement.”
- Parent and Community Involvement: “Provides for meaningful parent and community involvement in planning, implementing, and evaluating school improvement activities.”
- Coordination of Resources: “Identifies resources to support and sustain the school’s comprehensive reform effort.”
- Evaluation Strategies: “Plans for the evaluation of strategies for the implementation of school reforms and for student results achieved, annually.” adapted from making Good choices (Hassell, 2002).
Kagen (1992) argued that values and theories of teachers whether acquired in formal education or informal affect their teaching practices and Pajares (1992) added that teacher’s belief about their work students and context affect their confident and children performance. Macnap & pnaye,(2003) commented that there is a likelihood of potential conflict for teachers to respond to schools or curriculum expectations that are different from their beliefs, and in turn try to reconcile them in their classroom practices. Mavopoulou & padeliadu, (2000) added his voice that the teachers’ expectations about students will affect their instructional goals and methods.
In their paper Dupoux, Hammond, Ingalls and Wolman (2006) are quoted “ Moreover, teachers’ instructional tolerance necessitates the exclusion of some students with disabilities because, since teachers’ knowledge is definite, some students fall outside of teachers, unique stocks of pedagogical knowledge and skills. As a result, teachers simplify their instructional tasks to target the range of students with similar instructional needs that fall within their instructional tolerance (Gerber, 1988, 1995; Gerber & Semmer, 1985).
In view of the many responsibilities imposed on teachers, Lampert (1985) described teachers as dilemma managers with ambiguous identifies. In such environment, teachers’ beliefs are situational because they are consumed with a variety of implicit and explicit mandates that define and limit their instructional practices (Duffy, 1982). In order to cope with these pedagogical dilemmas as well as variance in students instructional levels (Gerber, 1988, 1995), teachers seem to agree with the philosophy that schools should provide benefits for all children, but seem to disagree that the general classroom is the only avenue (Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1996; Zigmond & Baker, 1996)” summarizing the attitude of teachers towards learners or approach used in class.
In the USA teachers’ attitude toward the direct reading and direction instruction to has been researched and findings indicate that most teachers favor Direct Instruction.
Historical Perspective of Reading Instruction
Reading instruction has been there for many years. This has led to schools, parents and states being accustomed with it.”…… But this complacent view is misleading, for at least two reasons. First, statewide averages may gloss over important local problems, while disaggregated profiles tell a different story. Statewide, for example, only seven percent of Wisconsin’s fourth-graders scored below the basic level on the state’s 1997-98 Knowledge and Concepts Examination for reading, but the low performers were not equally distributed among the state’s school districts. In some districts (e.g., Whitefish Bay, at one percent below basic, or Mequon, at three percent below basic), scores were much better, and in others (e.g., Beloit, at 11 percent below basic, and Milwaukee, at 26 percent below basic) scores were considerably worse. One would expect some variation, of course, but large differences raise questions about the adequacy of current assumptions and practices.
Secondly, in the matter of reading achievement, the important question to augment is not whether achievement levels in the state seem to be impressive or unimpressive, according to the recent comparisons; it is whether improvements in instruction could enable the state to do better and at a lower cost. Wisconsin’s current expenditures for teaching reading include large sums spent on remedial instruction. Children who struggle with reading make up a large share of all those who get slotted into special programs in the K-12 schools. And the special programs are expensive. If more children learned to read well in the early grades, the need for special, remedial programs would diminish, freeing up resources for other uses”. This compliments from Wisconsin research institute shows how the system of direct reading is affecting the implementation of Direct Instruction.
Dirthistorical Perspective of Direct Instruction as a Comprehensive School Reform Model
Direct Instruction is an approach to teaching which was established in 1968 by Engelmann after series of research. The approach is fully tested for reading, language handling, arithmetic solutions and curricula and has predetermined instruction procedures and requires extensive training of the teacher. Carnine (2000) and Traub (1999) argued that the approach favors face to face instruction by teachers to a small group of learners. Initially the approach was used in reading and mathematics program for learners in kindergarten but it has developed to cover lessons like that of writing, social studies, spelling, science, reasoning and other areas.
Schug, Tavern and western (2002) in their report they wrote “Direct Instruction works very well on the lines of lines of scholarship and curriculum development. One line of scholarship is based on a synthesis of findings from experimental studies (conducted by many different researchers, working independently, mostly in the 1980s) in which teachers were trained to use particular instructional practices. These practices then were assessed for their effects on student learning, and the effects were compared with effects for similar students who had not been taught according to the experimental method. The synthesis growing out of these studies identified common “teaching functions” abstracted from the experiments that had proved effective in improving student learning. These teaching functions included teaching in small steps with student practice after each step, guiding students during initial practice, and ensuring that all students experienced a high level of successful practice.
Instruction of this sort was described variously by the people who used it and discussed it. It was sometimes called systematic teaching, or explicit teaching, or active teaching. In an influential essay, Barak Rosenshine and Robert Stevens (1986) called it direct instruction, and this is the name by which it is now most often known. As Rosenshine and Stevens describe it, direct instruction is a teaching model, not a particular, fully elaborated program for teaching, say, reading or mathematics. It is abstracted from detailed procedures found, for example, in particular training manuals and materials, and it implies nothing definite about how teachers who make new uses of it might best fulfill the teaching functions it embodies (Rosenshine & Stevens, 1986, p. 389). It is a generic teaching model, in other words — one awaiting subsequent interpretation and development in particular applications.
Interpretation and development of that sort has been provided in a second line of scholarship associated primarily with the work of Siegfried Engelmann and his colleagues. Their work goes beyond the generic direct instruction model, providing detailed teaching programs consistent with its main principles. Engelmann and his colleagues call their programs Direct Instruction or DI programs, using upper-case type to distinguish them from the earlier, generic formulations. (We follow their upper-case usage convention in this report). The texture of detail in Direct Instruction derives in part from its foundation in close analyses of the comprehension and reasoning skills needed for successful performance in, say, reading or mathematics. These skills provide the intellectual substance of Direct Instruction programs. In the case of reading, it is substance found in the sound system of spoken English and the ways in which English sounds are represented in writing. That is why Direct Instruction is associated with phonemic awareness, or phonics. But Direct Instruction is not the same thing as phonics, or “merely phonics.” Direct Instruction can be used to teach things other than phonics — mathematics and logic, for example — and phonics can be taught (as it often has been) by means other than Direct Instruction. The detailed character of Direct Instruction derives also from a learning theory and a set of teaching practices linked to that theory. The learning theory focuses on how children generalize from present understanding to understanding of new, untaught examples. This theory informs the sequencing of classroom tasks for children and the means by which teachers lead children through those tasks. The means include a complex system of scripted remarks, questions, and signals, to which children provide individual and choral responses in extended, interactive sessions.
Children in Direct Instruction classrooms also do written work in workbook or activity sheets. Many published instructional programs have made some use of insights from Direct Instruction (or direct instruction). Taken at a high level of generality, at least, those insights are not private property. But Direct Instruction to date is represented most clearly and extensively in instructional programs published by SRA/McGraw-Hill. When
Wisconsin educators talk about adopting Direct Instruction, the programs in question is most likely the SRA/McGraw-Hill programs. Other publishers, of course, could enter the market, if they chose to do so, by developing new applications of the underlying direct instruction principles”.
Direct Instruction is based on research and it has succeeded where other systems have failed. It can be used in to impact knowledge to children with learning disabilities.
Direct Instruction and Findings regarding direct instruction
Many Researches has been carried out by independent researchers and governmental groups to evaluate the teaching methods used in the USA. The following findings from two research institutes provides us evidence about results of Direct instruction “The first surprise was that only three programs could point to strong evidence that they were effective in improving student achievement. The second surprise was that Direct Instruction, a program long scorned by many educators and academics for its lock-step structure, was one of them. Direct Instruction grew out of studies on the teaching of beginning reading that Siegfried Engelmann began at the University of Illinois in the 1960s. Thirty years later, only 150 schools across the country use on a school wide basis the program he developed. By comparison, Success for All, another reform model with high marks for its solid research base, is used in more than 1,100 schools. Thousands more schools, however, use Direct Instruction’s commercially produced materials–usually in remedial classrooms, special education resource rooms, or special programs for disadvantaged students.
“We were sort of like the plague for regular education,” says Mr. Engelmann, now 67 and a professor at the University of Oregon. “Regular education would have nothing to do with us. It wasn’t until the last few years that we started to break the mold.” program so disliked in many quarters is that it requires teachers to adhere strictly to scripted, carefully sequenced lessons. Critics often accuse the program’s developers of peddling “teacher proof” curricula.
But Mr. Engelmann’s theory is that students learn more if instructional presentations are clear. Those instructions, he believes, should rule out any misinterpretations and help students generalize skills in different contexts. And Mr. Engelmann and his colleagues have devoted years of study to pinpointing where students make mistakes and how to avoid them. Some 30 experiments alone, Mr. Engelmann estimates, have focused on technical details of the program, such as the pacing of lessons. The program also emphasizes basic academic skills. The idea is that students must master the basics before they can move on to more-complex thinking activities Direct Instruction’s first incarnation was a reading and mathematics program for pupils in kindergarten through 3rd grade, known as DISTAR or Direct Instructional System for Teaching and Remediation. The early programs have since been expanded to reach children in pre-kindergarten through 6th grade. And they have grown beyond reading and math to include lessons in social studies, science, writing, reasoning, and spelling.
Dozens of studies have found over the years that in head-to-head comparisons with traditional classroom instruction or other educational interventions, the winner is often Direct Instruction or DISTAR. The largest of those evaluations was a $59 million study that from 1968 to 1976 compared 20 different programs used in the federal government’s Follow Through initiative, a massive educational effort launched as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “war on poverty.” The researchers concluded that, of all the programs studied, Direct Instruction produced the biggest gains in students’ basic skills and thinking abilities—even in their self-esteem.
Other, smaller studies also suggest that the program improves students’ chances of graduating from high school and attending college.
That kind of track record helped earn Direct Instruction its high rating from the American Institutes for Research, the Washington-based group that reviewed data on two dozen “whole school” reform models in a study released last month. Of the 14 Direct Instruction studies that met AIR’s standards for scientific rigor, seven found gains in reading, 11 in mathematics, and nine in language.
The American Federation of Teachers, after a similar review last year, chose Direct Instruction as one of six school wide programs that showed promise in raising achievement. And the program also made its way onto a list suggesting research-backed models that schools could adopt to qualify for a share of $150 million in new federal grants.’’ Baltimore
“However one might define the public’s interest in K-12 education, it certainly includes effective teaching of early reading. Evidence from research and experience shows that this interest is well-served by teachers who make competent use of Direct Instruction. We recommend, accordingly, a broad-based effort in support of Direct Instruction initiatives throughout Wisconsin.
- Parents and educators interested in Direct Instruction should visit schools using Direct Instruction to see for them how it looks in practice. Published scholarship describes Direct Instruction well, and additional information is readily available online from the Association for Direct Instruction (see www.adihome.org). But people seeking to satisfy their curiosity about Direct Instruction really should visit a Direct Instruction school.
Firsthand observation yields information with immediacy and particularity. That is especially important in this case, given the campaign by sworn enemies of the obvious to spin a web of obfuscation around Direct Instruction. Many Direct Instruction schools would be pleased to arrange for visits. One good starting place would be the Core Knowledge Charter School in Verona, Wisconsin.
- Parents and educators interested in Direct Instruction should band together to share information and muster support for Direct Instruction initiatives. A first step might be to establish a Wisconsin Direct Instruction web site (again, see www. adihome.org). The web site could provide a statewide, Direct Instruction roster, with names and e-mail addresses of people involved in or interested in Direct Instruction initiatives. In addition to the roster, the web site could provide information, updated continually, about model K-12 programs, university courses, publications, conferences, and other special events related to Direct Instruction. Informal affiliation fostered in this way might lead to something more formal — a Wisconsin Direct Instruction Association, for example, on the order of Wisconsin’s new Charter School Association. Such an association could play a lead role in statewide efforts to represent Direct Instruction accurately and to support new uses of it.
- The Wisconsin legislature and Department of Public Instruction should support local school districts in Direct Instruction start-up activity through a grants program for payment of Direct Instruction training costs. The state now supports local school districts in efforts they make to reduce class size in the early grades.
Smaller classes create an instructional opportunity for teachers, making it easier for them to choose teaching practices for academic reasons rather than managerial ones. Direct Instruction provides one clear model for using this opportunity well. But districts or schools may be deterred from implementing Direct Instruction by the startup costs it entails — particularly in respect to adequate training programs. To follow through on its class-size initiative, the state should move to alleviate this problem by establishing a program of grants to pay for training costs. The rationale for doing so is identical to the rationale for the SAGE program. The same public interest that warrants creating an instructional opportunity also warrants support for teachers who respond to that opportunity by adopting proven teaching practices.
- In light of the Direct Instruction example, schools and colleges of education in Wisconsin should refocus their pre-service teacher training efforts on instruction — on the practice of teaching. Instruction occurs in a context, obviously, and pre-service teachers ought to learn about that context, as viewed from various perspectives, in the course of their training. Even according to the most favorable assumptions about the value of contextual understanding, however, it stops short just where new teachers must take instructional action. New teachers who believe fervently that all children can learn, for example, still must know what to do to ensure that their students will learn. To help new teachers at the point where they take action — the one point at which their efforts can actually come to bear on children’s learning — it is not enough merely to endorse attitudes or beliefs, extolling them for their good fit with a self-assuring outlook. Instead, training programs need to take up the instructional task, teaching teachers how to use instructional skills validated by their effects on student learning.
Here again, Direct Instruction provides one clear model of the skills that might be targeted in such a rediscovery of the primary purpose of teacher training’’ quoted from Wisconsin research and Policy institute.
Proponent and opponents of direct instruction reading
Traub, (1999) observed that direct Instruction is effective and ugly but ugly. This observation was made because of the way the approach is structured with predetermined instructions affecting the teacher’s creativity. Other many educationalist and interested parties observed the same giving Direct Instruction a wrong judgment. David Elkind argued that Direct Instruction is harmful for all children as it damages the child’s development later. “An authority on child development equipped that direct instruction is worse for young disadvantaged children because it imprints them with a rote-learning style that could be damaging later on” wrote Schug, Tavern and western (2001). Carnine(1999) wrote that one educationist, Piaget argued that Direct instruction structures the child and constrains his learning style while children are suppose to learn through manipulating their environment, therefore to promote a healthy early education program will structure the child’s environment to make them creative.
Their research sums up in Elkind views as follows “Because Elkind’s remarks typify a widespread, negative view; they are worth a second look. We notice that Elkind mentions nothing about evidence showing that direct instruction works well to help children learn to read. He concedes no possibility that disadvantaged children, particularly, might benefit from Direct Instruction for that reason, or that their parents might be gratified by the outcome. He does not specify the constraints that “could be” damaging later on (say “could” and you can’t tell a lie), nor does he refer to any evidence showing that damage caused by an imprinted, rote-learning style has ever occurred, by land or sea. Instead Elkind invokes the mystique of Jean Piaget, a brilliant developmental theorist who never wrote a word about the teaching of reading; and by this gambit the pedagogical question is recast as a question of ideology and identity: Are you with Piaget and the children or against them?”
The question that comes in to the mind of a young inexperience academician is why are the likes of Elkind and Piaget thrash a system based on non-academic arguments? The other question that begs is why are they describing it as good but ugly to be able to answer this questions I will explore the works of Schug, Tavern and western (2002) and Hassel (2002) the former have wrote “To grasp the underlying issue one must know something about how Direct Instruction differs in its assumptions and practices from more informal, student-centered approaches to teaching reading.
They have gone further to describe the other approaches. They written that “The student-centered approaches include whole-language and literature-based teaching, and they come in several variations and combinations. They are difficult to summarize, in part because their proponents have more to say about beliefs and intentions than they do about teaching practices, but in general the student-centered approaches take children’s interests as their crucial starting point. They assume that mobilization of those interests via imaginative, age-appropriate activities will be more effective than deliberate, teacher-centered instruction in helping children learn to read (see Chall, 2000, pp. 57-68). They discount or deny altogether the importance of phonics instruction, claiming that it is fraught with inconsistencies and that it displaces the more important goal of reading for meaning. Posing as post-modern theorists, some go further, arguing that teaching decoding is a fool’s errand, since there really is no meaning to be decoded in the phonemes, morphemes, and syntax of English.
According to these assumptions, deliberate attention to the teaching of particular skills should be de-emphasized or avoided entirely, and children’s learning should be assessed only informally, by teachers’ observations, not by standard measures (see Graves, Juel, & Graves, 2001, pp. 68-76).’’
‘’In arguing on behalf of school practices informed by these assumptions, proponents of student-centered teaching see themselves as defending something larger than an approach to teaching reading. (Many of them, in fact, do not talk about teaching reading at all; they are engaged instead in “literacy education.”) They believe they are asserting a more general philosophy of education — one validated by its superior measure of respect for the freedom and imagination of young children and for the autonomy of classroom teachers. In learning to read, children should learn that reading provides merely a context for a larger object of study that is “more alive and essential” (Hawkins, 1990, p. 9). The larger object of study includes all of the natural world (“this grand book, the universe, which stands completely open to our gaze”) and various ideal images of the good society, to be glimpsed in a great universal library where, as John Donne once put it, “every book shall lie open” (Hawkins, ibid.). Children should undertake such study without intrusive instruction, and teachers should participate as they see fit, not according to procedures implied by somebody else’s research.
It is by contrast with this grandiose, self-congratulatory view of the teacher’s task — a view that has in various formulations gained ascendancy steadily during the past 100 years in the United States (Chall, 2000, p. 58) — that Direct Instruction looks ugly to many reading specialists and classroom teachers. Not only does it concern itself merely with the small-bore goal of teaching reading. Worse yet, it implies a rebuke to the assumptions defining the exalted status the literacy educators have assigned themselves. It does not assume that reading is natural, or that the alphabetic principle can be attained merely by exposure to literature, or that context is the primary factor in word recognition, or that skill in decoding somehow stands in the way of thinking and imagining and living a good life — and yet despite this heterodoxy, children taught by Direct Instruction do learn to read, and to feel good about it in the bargain. If all that is true, the Direct Instruction people have jumped the gate, as it were; and if they have, perhaps the gate won’t look so high after all. Better not to let that news get around. Better to take the Direct Instructors down a peg or two, before they attract widespread notice. None of this is stated in so many words, of course. Public opposition, at least, is modulated by various qualifications.
In the publications and web sites of the international Reading Association and the various state associations of reading educators, including the Wisconsin State Reading Association, one finds not opposition per se to Direct Instruction (or the teaching of phonemic awareness, or phonics). Instead critics voice their “concerns” about bandwagon movements, about the dangers of an improper emphasis on decoding skills, about the taint of “commercial interests” and the seeking of “corporate profits” by people who publish Direct Instruction materials, and about threats of “interference” in the form of “instructional mandates” that might be forthcoming from policy makers who lack a properly nuanced understanding of literacy education. Whole language literacy, by implication, never was a bandwagon movement; it never spawned any instructional imbalance; and it sprang into the world unassisted by the publishers who sold the whole language materials and the professors who advanced their careers by touting them. But it does not take any subtle reading between the lines to discern a definite anti-Direct Instruction stance behind these equivocations. One Wisconsin State Reading Association web site, for example, expresses “concern” about the role of Direct Instruction in the state’s SAGE program and provides a set of overhead transparency masters for use by WSRA members in “informational meetings” at which Direct Instruction might be discussed. The overheads presuppose that their users will want to attack Direct Instruction and they provide explicit coaching in how to launch the attacks by suggesting, for example, that the research base for Direct Instruction is outdated and that the long-term effects of Direct Instruction may include inducement to criminal behavior.’’ From their work one concludes that proponent of the system carry the day and the in my opinion based the works of the three researchers is good.
The sudden attention, though, doesn’t mean that Direct Instruction has completely shed its controversial reputation. “What happened with Project Follow Through was that it was a big, messy study,” says Lawrence J. Schweinhart, the research-division chairman for the High/Scope Educational Foundation, which developed one of the preschool models compared with Direct Instruction in that study. Mr. Schweinhart and his colleague David P. Weikart conducted their own study comparing Direct Instruction with other preschool programs. They tracked groups of poor children who had been randomly assigned to one of three different types of preschool classrooms: a Direct Instruction program, a traditional nursery school program, or their own High/Scope model, which calls for allowing children to plan and carry out their own learning activities. All three models produced academic gains in the preschoolers, but the Direct Instruction pupils scored the highest. But in other areas of the children’s development, the findings were less promising.
By age 15, 46 percent of the Direct Instruction students had been identified as having emotional problems – a significantly higher percentage than children who had been in either of the other two programs. By age 23, the former Direct Instruction preschoolers had accumulated more felony arrests. Mr. Schweinhart says the program’s authoritarian structure and lack of attention to students’ social and emotional needs may help explain the results. “I don’t think there is any question that Direct Instruction is a great way to improve school achievement if that were the only goal in the world,” he says. “But it isn’t our only goal.” Mr. Engelmann disputes those findings. He notes that, with only 68 students to begin with, the study was too small to produce reliable results. He and his colleagues have also cited other technical problems with the data.
Other critics, however, point out that many of the positive studies on Direct Instruction were conducted by researchers associated with the program – a common caveat with many education studies. But Robert Slavin, a Johns Hopkins University researcher who also favorably reviewed the data on Direct Instruction for Show Me the Evidence: Proven and Promising Programs for America’s Schools, a book he wrote last year with Olatokunbo S. Fashola, says that some of the criticism about evaluator bias could be a red herring. “If you have 20 studies–and I’m just making that number up–and four are independent, that’s a small proportion. But if all four are positive, that’s impressive,” he says. The same criticism, in fact, has also dogged Success for all, the program that Mr. Slavin developed.
But critics of Direct Instruction also note that many of the studies that shed a favorable light on the program are more than a decade old. In today’s classrooms, the same conclusions might not hold up. “One of the problems is that to have proven programs, you have to have old programs,” adds Richard L. Allington, the chairman of the reading department at the State University of New York at Albany. “Most of these Direct Instruction programs have been around 25 or 26 years, which is why there’s more ‘research’ on them.” If Direct Instruction looks good, Mr. Allington and others say, it may be because there is a dearth of effectiveness data on anything else.” End of the extract.
Direct instruction implementation in elementary schools
Research carried out by Wisconsin Policy Research Institute in March 2001, volume 14 numbers 2, researchers Mark C. Schug, Ph.D., Sara G. Tarver, Ph.D. and
Richard D. Western, Ph.D. showed how the implementations were taking place in schools. This is an extract of their research and findings on implementation of Direct Instruction in six schools and the type of questions asked. “Critics of research in education often fault it as irrelevant to everyday classroom practice. The irrelevance arises, critics say, because much research is carried out under artificial conditions and because it often employs measures that do not capture the rich complexity of classroom experience. Those who assert these criticisms often call for greater attention to “local knowledge” — that is, to particular, descriptive accounts of classroom experience, rendered from the point of view of the teachers and the children. Accounts of this sort are needed, critics say, to transform abstract concepts and variables into images and stories by means of which the actual human interests implicit in a given project may be revealed and understood.
The research base for Direct Instruction is unusually strong and clear in its implications, we believe, and its face validity, as a skeptical practitioner might assess it, is enhanced by the fact that the main principles of Direct Instruction have been inferred from classroom practice, not conjured up a priori. Nonetheless, to educators who know about Direct Instruction only by virtue of published research or textbook summaries, the principles in question may seem counter-intuitive, at best, and the teaching practices associated with those principles may seem off-putting; Scripts? Signals? , Precise corrections? Isn’t such a regimen dreary to contemplate? Doesn’t it reduce teachers and students to automatons? If that’s what teaching is, shouldn’t we hand the task back to modestly educated schoolmarms armed with flashcards and hickory switches?
Mindful of these apprehensions, and eager to check our own reading and thinking against local knowledge, we visited six schools to learn about Direct Instruction as it is used locally. The schools included one in a small town, one in a Madison-area suburb, one in a Milwaukee-area suburb, and three in the Milwaukee Public Schools:
- Lodi Primary School, Lodi.
- The Core Knowledge Charter School, Verona.
- Indian Hill Elementary School, Mapledale Indian Hill.
- Gaeslen Elementary School, Milwaukee.
- 27th Street School, Milwaukee.
- Dover Street School, Milwaukee.
We selected these six schools because their Direct Instruction initiatives have been sustained for some time and because they serve a diverse set of communities and student populations.
Direct Instruction programs used in these schools include Reading Mastery, Language for Learning, Reasoning and Writing, Spelling Mastery, Corrective Reading, and Expressive Writing. In some schools the use of these Direct Instruction programs is complemented by work with other reading and language arts instructional materials.
At each site, we observed instruction in several regular-education classes and interviewed regular-education teachers, reading specialists, and school administrators, beginning with a prepared set of questions and following the discussion as it ensued. We summarize these visits below, beginning with the interviews.
How did you get started using Direct Instruction?
The start-up agents in most cases were classroom teachers — led, often, by a highly motivated individual teacher. But principals were typically supportive of these efforts, and in two schools, principals also played a lead role in startup activity. In telling how they got started, teachers emphasized beginning from a point of dissatisfaction. They were dissatisfied with previous approaches to teaching early reading and dissatisfied with the tendency among some of their colleagues to explain away poor results by blaming poverty and parents. Typical comments included “the kids were low in reading,” “as kids moved on to middle school they weren’t doing well,” “we had four reading specialists in the building and the kids were still failing,” “we couldn’t keep doing what we were doing — we were failing,” and “we had tried several programs — ‘look-say,’ ‘context clues,’ all of it — but none of that worked.”
In this mood of dissatisfaction, teachers and principals settled upon Direct Instruction deliberately in some cases (e.g., by reference to pre-service training one teacher had received in Direct Instruction from an exceptional education course) and by informal, word-of-mouth influences in other cases. One teacher heard about Direct Instruction from a teacher at a different school in her district; another heard about it from a friend who worked in Florida.
Beginning from informal leads of this sort, a few teachers (typically) would make a small start, arranging for in-service training in Direct Instruction, then implementing a particular Direct Instruction program, sometimes focusing initially on a particular group of students. Implementation in one case required formal negotiations between an experienced principal who backed the use of Direct Instruction and a superintendent who initially opposed the principal’s plan but agreed eventually to permit a three-year pilot project. (The pilot project was successful, and the superintendent today is a backer of Direct Instruction. His district’s experience, he says, shows that Direct Instruction should not be regarded as a program suitable only for deprived children struggling to learn basic skills.)
Implementation efforts expanded, ordinarily, as evidence of positive effects became apparent to teachers not involved at the outset. “When other teachers saw the results,” one of the early implementers told us, “they wanted in, too.” The results in question included observed effects on children’s decoding, comprehension skills, and attitudes toward reading, but they also included beneficial effects for teachers. Some felt that in learning to use Direct her pre-service training, one beginning teacher stated that “we were never taught how to teach a beginner how to read.
We learned a lot about response activities for kids in upper levels, but I didn’t know how you got kids who couldn’t read at all up to those levels. Now I can say, ‘I taught these children to read.'” The snowball effect generated by favorable outcomes for students and teachers led in some schools to formal faculty votes on motions to extend Direct
Instruction initiatives, followed in turn by school board approvals and school-wide adoptions of Direct Instruction.
What Direct Instruction training or staff development activities have you participated in?
Competent use of Direct Instruction requires adequate training. All the teachers and principals with whom we spoke emphasized this point. “There is a learning curve for teachers when they get started on Direct Instruction,” one experienced teacher told us. “They get better at it over two or three years. They internalize the idea and then use it fluently and with personal style.” “It needs lots of training,” another said, “initially and then the follow-through. If you’re serious about this, it is essential to get training from a real DI specialist.” To obtain the necessary training, teachers and principals with whom we spoke followed several paths. Some teachers attended seminars conducted by SRA, the publisher of Reading Mastery and other Direct Instruction programs. Some attended sessions at an annual summer conference on Direct Instruction at UW-Madison. Some traveled to the University of Oregon to study Direct Instruction there, while others obtained district support to import consultants from the University of Oregon and other out-of-state sources. Some participated in in-service training sessions focused on Direct Instruction, with instruction provided by hired consultants and by colleagues. In obtaining help from these various sources, some teachers and principals were able to rely in a straightforward way on opportunities for staff development provided within their district. Others emphasized the need for entrepreneurial resourcefulness and a measure of subterfuge in order to pull together the money needed and to get around district-level resistance to Direct Instruction. “MPS [the Milwaukee Public Schools] did have a Direct Instruction staff development course,” one teacher told us, “but only for ex ed [exceptional education teachers]. This is part of the stigma attaching to Direct Instruction. It’s not for POKs [plain old kids].”
What results are you seeing?
The teachers and principals with whom we spoke reported strong, positive results from Direct Instruction, in reading achievement and in other areas. In a suburban school, “intervention” children (i.e., children who are behind in reading) and others showed strong improvements on the state’s third-grade test of reading, with more than 90 percent attaining “proficient” or “advanced” scores. A Milwaukee school (the 27th Street School) registered the highest school wide increase (from 1997 to 1999/00, on Wisconsin’s fourth-grade Knowledge and Concepts exam) in the district, with a jump from 23 percent to 72 percent in children reading at the “proficient” level or higher.
Teachers and principals in these schools (and the others) clearly take pride in gains of this sort, but — and we emphasize this point because it stands at odds with the view that teachers may have been bullied into using Direct
Instruction by the specter of testing — Direct Instruction teachers do not appear to be preoccupied with test-score gains. They speak with equal or greater enthusiasm about other indications of students’ learning, based on their own classroom observations. And the improvements they see extend beyond decoding skills to include, for example, expository writing, story mapping, sequencing of information, the capacity to focus and sustain effort, appropriate classroom behavior, and positive attitudes toward reading. One second-grade teacher, in fact, didn’t care to talk to us about reading at all; she was more impressed by improvements she had seen in her students’ writing, which she attributed to the thoughtful written work required of them in their Direct Instruction workbooks. Echoing this view, a third grade MPS teacher reported that a Direct Instruction program (Reasoning and Writing) she used enabled her students to perform well on sophisticated writing and thinking tasks, including locating topic sentences in their reading and composing topic sentences in their own writing.
Teachers and principals were especially emphatic in describing attitudinal effects. Learning to read by Direct Instruction, they said, put children at ease and freed them up, emotionally and intellectually, to work independently and to enjoy their work. “They are always working at their own levels,” one teacher said, “so they see success and avoid frustration. This affects their whole attitude toward school.” “They can figure it [a given text] out for themselves,” another said, “and they like it; it’s a wonderful thing to see.” An MPS kindergarten teacher using Direct Instruction said, “My children see their success. They want to show that they can do it. They ask to read.” In four schools, teachers and principals also said that Direct Instruction had had an impact on retention and special education referral rates. They were retaining fewer children and referring fewer children for special education, and they attributed the change to improved learning brought about by Direct Instruction. For the most part we were not able to obtain particular evidence, over and above the statements of attribution, about this matter’’.End of the extract.
The extract has shown how implementation is on going in the six schools sampled. The follow up will be to investigate the attitude and satisfaction of the teachers.
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