Can you remember a time when one of your teachers presented material to your class and then gave you an assignment that matched what was said?

Teacher: Apple starts with 'a.' Say 'ah'.

Students: Ah.

Teacher: What's this?

Students: Apple

Teacher: What letter does it start with?

Students: A. Ah.

That's Direct Instruction, and it can be a powerful teaching tool if used correctly.

Students learning Direct Instruction Definition in a class Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

What Is Direct Instruction?

Direct Instruction (DI) is a method for clear, scripted, step-by-step lesson plans.

The goal of DI is to eliminate misinterpretation of the curriculum, by planning out as many details as possible, and ensuring that the teacher has expert knowledge of the material.

According to the National Institute for Direct Instruction, DI works by following 4 main features :

  1. Students are placed in instruction at their skill level, not grade level.

  2. The program's structure is designed to ensure mastery of the content before moving on to the next topic.

  3. Instruction is modified to accommodate each student's rate of learning.

  4. Programs and materials are field-tested and revised before being published.

Pros And Cons Of Direct Instruction

There are pros and cons to any teaching method. Consider these when deciding if Direct Instruction is the right choice for your material.

Direct Instruction


  1. Clear-cut: DI is designed for specific concepts or skills and leaves no room for misinterpretation .

  2. Based on skill, not age: DI can allow students to progress faster and allows teachers to adapt their speed based on student needs.


  1. Loss of creativity: DI discourages teachers from straying from pre-planned lessons. This can limit a teacher's creativity to adapt to students needs and interests.

  2. Expensive: Providing in-depth materials and training to teachers can be very costly.

Direct Instruction In Practice

Direct Instruction

When should I use Direct Instruction?

Direct Instruction is best used when teaching a specific skill or series of facts. But it isn't just about a teacher following a script. It incorporates other direct methods, including:

  • Hands-on lessons and labs

  • Active learning activities and guided discussions

  • Observing role-play scenarios and then performing examples

  • Showing a video to reinforce the topic

Direct Instruction

Direct Instruction to a Teacher may look like:

  • Receiving a set of instructional materials about a historical event, with assignments, talking points, and engaging activities already created.

Direct Instruction to a Student may look like:

  • Listening to a lecture about a historical event, then using role-play to portray a key part of the event.


Which of these will be a good opportunity to use Direct Instruction as a teaching method?

Take Action

Could any of your lessons benefit from Direct Instruction?

Take a look at your lesson plans for the week. If any of them are focused on a specific skill or series of facts - Google [the topic + Direct Instruction] to see what resources are available to you.


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