January 9, 2018
by Larry Ferlazzo
A big new meta-analysis has just been released titled The Effectiveness of Direct Instruction Curricula: A Meta-Analysis of a Half Century of Research. Unfortunately, apart from the abstract, it’s behind a paywall, but there are ways around it.
It claims that direct instruction is the cat’s meow (obviously my words, not theirs).
But I’ve got some concerns/questions about it though, admittedly, I’m no research expert (see The Best Resources For Understanding How To Interpret Education Research).
First, I don’t think it’s at all clear – at least to me – from the paper what in practical classroom terms they use to define “direct instruction.” For example, John Hattie defines it as an instructional strategy much closer to “assisted discovery” learning/teaching than what is commonly believe (see What Does “Direct Instruction” Really Mean?). I might very well have missed it since my eyes tend to glaze over trying to read these kinds of academic papers but I don’t believe most teachers, at least, would have a good understanding of the parameters the authors used to identify whether something was direct instruction or another method.
Secondly, as the paper says, the paper “did not attempt to compare the results of each of the DI programs with specific other approaches.” It seems to me that meta-analyses comparing the specific impacts different kinds of instructional strategies might have been much more helpful to educators. Yes, direct instruction might be effective (and, of course, we all use it sometimes), but could other methods be more effective?
In fact, one meta-analysis did just that (see Is This The Most Important Research Study Of The Year? Maybe). That study, as reviewed by Robert Marzano, found direct instruction was less effective than “enhanced discovery learning.”
So, what do you think, are my critiques/concerns valid?
I’m adding this info to The Best Posts Questioning If Direct Instruction Is “Clearly Superior.”