DIRECT INSTRUCTION A ‘NEW WAY’ FORWARD
The Department of Education in 2014 decided to introduce Direct Instruction (DI) into a number of our Indigenous Schools. This teaching method was being practised in some Cape York schools. Noel Pearson praised the model and advocated its use in other jurisdictions.
NT Education Minister Peter Chandler and Departmental officials visited Cape York and spent some time observing DI methods in practising schools. They were impressed by the qualities of learning and progress being made by children. Part of this was attributed to the level of direct and focussed engagement between students and teachers in classrooms. Positive learning outcomes were confirmed by data.
From the beginning of 2015, 15 NT remote area schools were earmarked to introduce DI practices. Although the trial is only months old, feedback based on observation and response from students and community are reported to be very encouraging. The method is going to be extended to 60 of the Territory’s indigenous schools by the beginning of 2017.
What is DI
DI is learning directed by teachers at students. The set curriculum is supported by prescribed materials. DI is ” … an instructional method … focused on systematic curriculum design and skilful implementation of a prescribed behavioural script” (Wikipedia). DI schools require teachers to undertake a prescribed program of literacy each day.
Part of the reason for staggered introduction may be the costs associated with DI. Prescribed teaching materials are not cheap and staff training has to be funded. Initial costs are being off-set by Australian Government funding.
The AEU(NT) President Jarvis Ryan recently visited a number of Territory schools where direct instruction has been introduced. He offered the following comment: “Teaching staff at the schools I visited are working hard to implement the DI approach despite hasty implementation and a lack of resources. They are giving it a good shot despite many expressing reservations, and a number of staff reported that they could already see positive signs for some students in improving their Oral English.” Mr Ryan went on to comment, “the general sentiment I picked up on was cautious support for the potential of the DI program, coupled with a belief that the schools were not resourced sufficiently to implement the program successfully.” (Online source)
Resourcing, timetabling, class sizes and some behavioural issues were seen as being downsides of the DI program. These have been issues in all schools for as long as I can remember.
Direct Instruction is being touted as a way to the future. It is proving to be a model that works and I understand there is no going back on its adoption.
NOTE: DI is not rteally new. In fact, it is back to the past or methodology revisited.