By Bill & Bobbie Donelson
Welcome back to our May blogfest for new teachers! After you have taken a careful look at what has worked and what has not worked across the school year, you may have to consider new strategies. Some of the most powerful intervention techniques involve the application of explicit, systematic instruction. The National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum (NCAC) and National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) provide some excellent guidance in these areas.
The fundamentals of explicit instruction, also referred to as direct instruction, have evolved across the past 40 years. Explicit instruction has involved the marriage of research from effective schools and the science of behavior analysis. Extensive research in these areas supported the link between explicit instruction and positive outcomes for students (Hall, 2002).
Explicit instruction “refers to an instructional practice that carefully constructs interactions between students and their teacher. Teachers clearly state a teaching objective and follow a defined instructional sequence. They assess how much students already know on the subject and tailor subsequent instruction, based upon that initial evaluation of student skills. Students move through the curriculum, both individually and in groups, repeatedly practicing skills at a pace determined by the teacher’s understanding of student needs and progress” (Steedly, Dragoo, Arefeh & Luke, 2008, p. 4).
Tracy Hall, Senior Research Scientist at the NCAC, notes that two overarching components are essential to explicit instruction. These include design components and delivery components:
Design Components: instructional design principles and assumptions that make up the content and strategies to be taught.
- Big Ideas
- Conspicuous Strategies
- Mediated Scaffolding
- Strategic Integration
- Primed Background Knowledge
- Delivery Components: visual delivery features are group instruction with a high level of teacher and student interaction.
- Frequent Student Responses
- Appropriate Pacing
- Adequate Processing Time
- Monitor Responses
If these terms are unfamiliar to you, take a few minutes to visit the NCAC site mentioned previously and read more about the specifics of each of these components. As you read about them, think about the core and supplemental curricula you have used across the past year. Have they included these design and delivery components? If not, perhaps it is time to collaborate with experienced colleagues and consider alternatives that may be more effective for the students that you are teaching.
The terms above have historically been tied to reading research and intervention; however, the NICHY discusses the growing connection between these same explicit and strategic components in the area of math instruction. In fact, the National Mathematics Advisory Panel Report (2008) found that explicit instruction was particularly effective for computation (i.e., basic math operations) but not as effective for higher-order problem solving.
Our advice is simple. Philosophies and “this is how we have always done it” thinking should be questioned. Data and evidence-based practices are the ultimate weapon in meeting the needs of struggling students.
Hall, T. (2002). Explicit instruction. Retrieved May 27, 2009 from The National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum Web site.
National Mathematics Advisory Panel. (2008). Foundations for success: The final report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. Retrieved March 20, 2008, from the U.S. Department of Education Web site.
Steedly, K., Dragoo, K., Arefeh, S., & Luke, S.D. (2008). Effective mathematics instruction. Evidence for Education, National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, Volume 3 (1) 1-11.