Are you a new teacher looking to sharpen your instructional practice?

A teacher confidently walking across the front of a classroom, with a blackboard in the background.

You've probably heard about how effective the direct instruction method can be! But with all the debate around the approach, it's natural to feel unsure about how best to use it.

Learning about the advantages and disadvantages of direct instruction can help you make the best decisions for your lessons and your learners.

Direct Instruction: A Quick Overview

In a nutshell, direct instruction (DI) is a systematic, evidence-based, and teacher-led approach, grounded in the science of learning.

Photo of a typical middle school classroom with a teacher standing in front of students grouped in 5s at their desks. Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

Elements of a DI Lesson

  1. Lesson opener or "hook" to introduce the learning objective

  2. Presentation of new material through teacher instruction

  3. Guided practice, where teachers assist students while they grasp new information

  4. Feedback and correctives to keep students on track

  5. Independent practice for students to gain confidence and mastery

  6. Evaluation and review of student learning and progress

The Debate Around DI

As a traditional instructional method, DI has been the focus of many research studies to evaluate best practices in instruction and teaching.

While some continue to stand by this age-old approach, others may lean towards newer ones, like project-based learning or inquiry-based learning.

A woman holding up a magnifying glass to her eye, as if examining something curiously.

Ultimately, direct instruction, like any other instructional method, has its own set of pros and cons. Learning about these can help you plan your lessons by capitalizing on the advantages and avoiding the disadvantages of DI.

Advantages of the DI Method


Icon depicting a process flow, with three blocks linked using a one-directional arrow going through all three. Content flow

A clear objective and structured flow of content ensures that learners are exposed to new material clearly and efficiently.

Icon of a key Accessibility

DI supports accessible learning anduniversal design for learning (UDL) with frameworks that support various student profiles. If planned intentionally, DI can help learners with varying skills and knowledge levels.

Icon of a pie chart, depicting data representation. Clear Data-Driven Insights

With its systematic approach, DI allows for ease in modifying plans based on insights from data. In this way, DI can effectively improve performance, such as when preparing for standardized tests.

Capitalizing on the Advantages

Icon of a checklist depicting a sequential flow. Content Flow

To maintain a logical flow,instructors can follow a standard 5-step lesson plan template.

Icon of the figures of three people constructed by different shapes, depicting individual difference. Accessibility

Teachers can use differentiation techniques in a DI lesson to reach students with different needs. For instance, learners can be engaged through scenario-based tasks and productive failure during the "independent practice'" section of the lesson.

Icon of a magnifying glass over a bar graph, depicting an analysis of data. Clear Data-Driven Lessons

Teachers can useclear assessment data to understand students' strengths and weaknesses, helping them master skills and knowledge.


Angelo is a new teacher in a diverse, mixed-grade, mixed-ability, inclusive classroom. What are some advantages of DI that he can keep in mind when designing lessons for his students?

Disadvantages of the DI Method


Icon of two linked gears, symbolising a structured process. Passive Learning

The structured DI approach may create a repetitive and passive learning environment, limiting a teacher's creativity.

Icon of a list with some checked and one crossed item, symbolizing tests and performance. Studying to the Test

The overreliance on testing and the performance-based environment may create a stressful learning atmosphere, reduce authentic engagement, and limit the transfer of learning.

Icon of a teacher at blackboard, with students seated in front of them; depicting a teacher-centred lesson. Low Engagement

The teacher-centered approach may lead to reduced student engagement or boredom, and negatively affect the development of social skills.

Avoiding the Disadvantages

Icon of a person surrounded by 4 different symbols to symbolise different forms of engagement. Avoiding Passivity

Teachers can use participatory and active learning methods like peer feedback or debates. The active learning engagement must be aligned with the DI content and rubrics that fit the learning method chosen.

Icon of a magnifying glass over notes, comment boxes and text boxes; depicting different forms of evaluation and assessment. Avoiding Studying to the Test

Instructors can include elements of "real-world" applicability in their classroom with practices like situational games, "Problem of the Week" challenges, practical community-based projects that stem from course curriculum, and offer the choice of practical and engaging assignment options.

Icon of a balanced weighing scale. Avoiding Low Engagement

Remember: no one is asking you to choose only ONE instructional model. You can choose an eclectic approach!Balance teacher-led instruction with student-centered approaches to avoid leaning too heavily on one side.

For instance, if a meaningful student-led learning activity does not fit within a DI lesson, instructors may consider setting aside time for a standalone engagement.


Angelo is seeing great test results using the DI method with his students. What are some ways he can keep student engagement high, ensure authentic learning, and avoid boredom?

Take Action

With the understanding of the pros and cons of direct instruction, and practical tips to craft your instructional approach, you're now set up to be a knowledgeable instructor!

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