Evidence Based Programs

There is a large array of evidence-based methodologies and programs under the ‘broad church’ of explicit pedagogy. They are derivative of the original Direct Instruction (Direct Instruction System for Teaching and Remediation (DISTAR)) developed by Siegfried Engelmann and colleagues in 1964.
The pedagogical breakthrough made by Engelmann et al. was collated into a formal taxonomy by Professor Barak Rosenshine in a milestone article in 1976.
This then spawned derivatives such as Anita Archer’s Explicit Instruction (USA), John Hollingworth and Sylvia Ybarra’s Explicit Direct Instruction (Australia).

Hattie states: “Every year, I present lectures to teacher education students and find that they are already indoctrinated with the mantra ‘constructivism good, direct instruction bad’. When I show them the results of meta-analyses, they are stunned, and they often become angry at having been given an agreed set of truths and commandments against direct instruction. Too often, what the critics mean by direct instruction is didactic teacher-led talking from the front; this should not be confused with the very successful ‘Direct Instruction’ method, as first outlined in Adams and Engelmann (1996). Direct Instruction has a bad name for the wrong reasons, especially when it is confused with didactic teaching, as the underlying principles of Direct Instruction place it among the most successful outcomes.” (pp. 204-205)

The evidence of the efficacy of DI is well known among academics and school system administrators but regularly ignored, as observed by Hattie:

“One of the common criticisms is that Direct Instruction works with very low-level or specific skills, and with lower ability and the youngest students. These are not the findings from the meta-analyses, The effects of Direct Instruction are similar for regular (d = 0.99), and special education and lower ability students (d = 0.86), higher for reading (d = 0.89) than mathematics (d = 0.50), similar for the more low-level word-attack (d = 0.64) and also high-level comprehension (d = 0.54), and similar for elementary and high school students (Adams & Engelmann 7996). Similarly, a 1977 integrative analysis of intervention programs for special education students found Direct Instruction to be the only one of seven interventions showing strong evidence of effectiveness (Forness, Kavale, Blum & Lloyd 1977). To demonstrate that the effects from Direct Instruction are not specifically teacher effects, Fischer and Tarver (1997) delivered mathematics lessons via videodisc; the effects were close to d = 1.00.” (pp. 206-7)

Using Direct Instruction in Schools

Many students can be taught effectively using a range of pedagogies and programs. But some groups of students require specific pedagogical approaches to learn effectively.
For example, schools with a majority of students from disadvantaged, marginalised, low socioeconomic backgrounds, migrant or Indigenous will get to Fair and Good using Direct Instruction.
Direct Instruction is suited to high, middle and low-performing students on the bell curve. But it is one of the only approaches proven to work with low performers.
Most low-performing students are in regional or remote areas or in small mixed grade Poor to Fair schools. Such schools benefit from a school-wide implementation of Direct Instruction because it best suits both the students and the teaching teams:
  • It responds to the specific complex needs of students learning to read, the capabilities and needs of students reading to learn, and those in later primary and early high school who did not master the foundational knowledge and skills when instructed using other programs.
  • Schools with high teacher turnovers and a majority of inexperienced teachers and leaders (the case in most Poor to Fair schools) are well supported by the detailed, sequenced and scripted teaching materials and the data monitoring that enables continuous improvement of teaching practice.
Fair schools can become Good by implementing explicit instruction as their main pedagogy where most students are close to grade level or only a year or so behind and where teaching turnover is stable.
Explicit instruction is more desirable for mainstream schools as it is not scripted. It is commonly taught to grade level, which is how schools are traditionally structured. It can also be taught to students’ ability level.
If a school using explicit instruction as its main pedagogy has a minority group of disadvantaged students or students below grade level, then they can run a parallel remedial program using Direct Instruction for this student cluster.
The two approaches are delivered and combined as Effective Teaching.
A school should choose a pedagogical approach after carefully considering several factors, including the school’s current performance stage and students’ learning level.

Research Papers

The following is a small collection of some of the documents produced on explicit instruction or effective teaching.

Yes, DI did it

Evaluation of the Flexible Literacy for Remote Primary Schools Program: 2015, 2016 and 2017 School Years

Dawson, G.K., Clinton, J., Koelle, M., & McLaren, P. Centre for Program Evaluation, the University of
Melbourne 2018.

Evaluating indigenous programs: A toolkit for change. Hudson, S. The Centre for Independent Studies 2017

The growing popularity of Effective Instruction, A review into the 
effectiveness of Direct Instruction (DI) and Explicit Direct 
Instruction (EDI) in 39 remote schools in WA, NT and Qld shows 
improved learning progress, behaviour and attendance, often 
beyond expectations.

Dr Annie Holden’s ImpaxSIA Report, in 2016, Good to Great Schools Australia (GGSA) commissioned Dr Annie Holden of ImpaxSIA Consulting to undertake an interim evaluation of the impacts to date of the implementation of the Flexible Literacy for Remote Primary Schools Program (FLRPS).

Targeted teaching: How better use of data can improve student learning, Goss, Peter and Hunter Jordana 2015, Targeted teaching: How better use of data can improve student learning, Grattan Institute.

Why does Direct Instruction evoke such rancour?, Hempenstall, Kerry 2013, Why does Direct Instruction evoke such rancour?, National Institute for Direct Instruction.

A summative evaluation of the stronger smarter learning communities project: Vol 1 and Vol 2. A. Luke et al, 2013.

Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Hattie, J. 2008.

Two Indigenous Populations? Two Diverging Paradigms? Lane, Maria, Two Indigenous Populations? Two Diverging Paradigms? March 2007.

How and why has teacher quality changed in Australia?, Leigh, Andrew, and Chris Ryan, “How and why has teacher quality changed in Australia?”, Australian Economic Review Vol. 41 2008.

WA Report on 10 Explicit Instructions Schools, Louden, Professor Bill, WA Report on 10 Explicit Instructions Schools.

Teaching Reading, Rowe, Ken. 2005. Teaching Reading. National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (Australia).

Direct Instruction ESL Factsheet. Baltimore Curriculum Project.

Direct Instruction Results for Hispanic and Non-Hispanic Students. Oregon Research Institute (2005).

Putting Students on the Path to Learning: The Case for Fully Guided Instruction, Clark, Richard E., Kirschner, Paul A., & Sweller, John 2012, ‘Putting students on the path to learning: The case for fully guided instruction’, American Educator, vol. 36, Spring 2012

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