Explicit Direct Instruction: The Power of the Well-Crafted, Well-Taught Lesson

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John Hollingsworth & Silvia Ybarra

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    Acknowledgments

    We wish to thank all those who gave us the insight, inspiration, and knowledge to write this book. Without them, we could not have completed it.

    We would like to thank DataWORKS consultant Dr. Arlene Simmonds for her detailed reports on classroom observations. Her repeated assertions that she was not seeing research-based strategies being used in multiple classroom observations alerted us to the need of focusing on classroom practices and ultimately led us to write this book.

    DataWORKS consultant Gordon Carlson's quick wit and ability to synthesize enormous amounts of information into teachable chunks has enabled us to continue to advance and refine the Explicit Direct Instruction (edi) model.

    All of our consultants, including those located in California and Alabama, and in South Carolina lead by Danny Shaw, have helped to implement our vision of effective classroom practices while training and supporting thousands of teachers across the United States.

    We would like to thank Mary Ippolito, Laura Rodriquez, and Donald Blankenship. They were the first teachers who helped us put our edi model into actual operation in the classroom.

    Many school and district administrators have helped us, too. Adolfo Melara was one of the first principals who really understood the importance of supporting implementation in the classroom. He even taught classes himself for his teachers to see edi in action.

    Other outstanding leaders who have embraced edi and worked diligently on classroom implementation include Bruce Berryhill, Bill Dabbs, Edwardo Martinez, Susan Fitzgerald, Karen Redfield, and Don Davis. Although much of our work is conducted in the western United States, we have worked with strong instructional leaders on the East Coast, including Dr. Terry Pruitt, Charles Gale, and Betty Jo Hall.

    We would like to thank Cathy Nigl and Chris Quinn for their insight in editing, revising, and proofing the manuscript.

    And finally, we would like to thank our teams at DataWORKS. Our dynamic programming team has processed literally millions of pieces of data from schools across the United States. Without their efforts, we would never have been able to analyze and present the results of the vast amounts of information we collect. Our tireless production team has provided on-time collections, organization, and mailings of materials to and from thousands of schools. Our great research department has analyzed millions of student assignments and worked indefatigably to design and write powerful edi lessons that have taught teachers how to make the DataWORKS school vision—All Students Must Be Successfully Taught Grade-Level Work Everyday—a reality.

    A final note for administrators reading this book: It's not a relentless focus on improving test scores that raises test scores. It's a relentless focus on optimizing the effectiveness of how students are taught before the tests are given that raises test scores. And that's what this book is all about.

    JohnHollingsworth and SilviaYbarra, EdD

    Corwin Press gratefully acknowledges the following reviewers for their contribution to the manuscript:

    • Cathy Burner
    • National Education Consultant
    • Cathy Burner, Inc.
    • Columbus, OH
    • Susan Fitzgerald
    • Principal
    • Del Rey Elementary School
    • Del Rey, CA
    • Barbara Forte
    • Educational Consultant
    • Comprehensive Educational Consulting Services, Inc.
    • Chicago, IL
    • Laura Porter
    • Educational Consultant
    • Sudbury, MA

    About the Authors

    The authors, husband-and-wife team of John Hollingsworth and Silvia Ybarra, are cofounders of DataWORKS Educational Research. The information in this book is based on their experiences in education and their ten years of field work with DataWORKS working with teachers across the United States.

    John Hollingsworth is president of DataWORKS Educational Research, a company that uses real data to improve student achievement. In addition to his work at DataWORKS training teachers and administrators throughout the United States, John is an active researcher and presenter who has published numerous articles in educational publications. John and his wife, DataWORKS cofounder Dr. Silvia Ybarra, live on their organic vineyard in Fowler, California, along with their five farm dogs: Antonia, Apollo, Lucky, Ulysses, and the newcomer, Virgil.

    Dr. Silvia Ybarra, EdD, began her career in education as a physics and chemistry teacher at Roosevelt High School in Fresno, California. She next became principal of Wilson Middle School in Exeter, California, which under her leadership became a prestigious Distinguished School. Silvia was then named assistant superintendent of Coalinga-Huron School District. Her focus progressed from helping one classroom to helping one school to helping an entire district. Silvia cofounded DataWORKS Educational Research to improve learning for low-income and minority children.

    John Hollingsworth and Silvia Ybarra are coauthors, with Joan Ardovino, of Multiple Measures: Accurate Ways to Assess Student Achievement, published by Corwin Press in 2000.

    John Hollingsworth may be reached at john@dataworksed.com. Silvia Ybarra may be reached at silvia@dataworks-ed.com.

    Dedication

    This book is dedicated to all administrators and teachers who are working hard to improve learning for students, especially struggling students.

  • Resources: What the Research Says

    Explicit Direct Instruction Puts Research into Practice

    There is extensive research to support the lesson design components and lesson delivery strategies of Explicit Direct Instruction. For those readers who would like an introduction to the research, we have provided a brief discussion in this chapter on resources. Direct instruction itself is not new. It has been around for a long time, so some of our references go back in time, too. For example, the instructional term wait-time was proposed by Mary Budd Rowe back in 1972. She found that when teachers waited at least three seconds before selecting students to respond to questions, positive things happened for both students and teachers. Madeline Hunter used the term checking for understanding in the 1980s.

    Chapter 2—What is Effective Instruction? Are Some Approaches Better Than Others?

    There is overwhelming research supporting teacher-centered instruction in lesson design and lesson delivery, where teachers directly teach their students specific concepts and skills usually taken directly from the state content standards. Below is a table showing five instructional models. We have added our edi model to the right side of the table to show how it compares to other researchers' direct instruction models.

    Direct Instruction Models

    In a study covering one hundred years of educational research, Jeanne Chall (2000) found that the traditional teacher-centered, direct instruction approach produces higher student achievement.

    In the Handbook of Research on Teaching (3rd ed.), researchers Rosenshine and Stevens (1986) coauthored a chapter that reviewed several empirical studies focusing on key instructional behaviors of effective teachers:

    • Start lessons by reviewing prerequisite learning.
    • Provide a short statement of goals.
    • Present new material in small steps, with student practice after each step.
    • Give clear and detailed instructions and explanations.
    • Provide a high level of active practice for all students.
    • Ask a large number of questions, check for understanding, and obtain responses from all students.
    • Guide students during initial practice.
    • Provide systematic feedback and corrections.
    • Provide explicit instruction and practice for seatwork exercises and, where necessary, monitor students during seatwork.

    A meta-analysis study by Adams and Engelmann (1996) yielded over 350 publications of studies conducted on explicit instruction. The authors found the consistent results of research as evidence that explicit instruction is an effective instructional practice for all students.

    There is also extensive brain research supporting the compatibility of direct instruction strategies and the way the brain works. On pp. 277–278 of How the Brain Learns, David Sousa (2005) presents a table showing how brain research supports the components of direct instruction.

    Research supports the use of direct instruction with various student populations:

    • English Learners (Goldenberg, 2006)
    • African American students (Chall, 2000; Delpit, 1995; Jencks & Phillips, 1998)
    • special education students (American Federation of Teachers, 1999)
    • talented and gifted students, grade-level students, and those with diverse language backgrounds or “learning styles” (Watkins & Slocum, 2004)
    • high school students (Bessellieu, 2000; Graham, 2005; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2007; Nokes & Dole, 2004; Shanahan, 2004; Shaywitz, et al. 1999; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998)

    A meta-analysis study showed that comprehensive school reform programs that have the strongest evidence of effectiveness favor teacher-centered instruction (Borman, Hewes, Overman, & Brown, 2003).

    Research also supports the use of direct instruction in various content areas:

    • reading (Mathes, et al., 2003; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2007; Pearson & Dole, 1987),
    • mathematics (Anderson, Corbett, Koedinger, & Pelletier, 1995; Baker, Gerstern, & Lee, 2002; Klahr & Carver, 1988; Rittle-Johnson, 2006),
    • science (Chen & Klahr, 1999, Coker, Lorentz, & Coker, 1980; Klahr & Nigam, 2004; Kuhn, Black, Keselman, & Kaplan, 2000), and
    • history/social science (Twyman, McCleery, & Tindal, 2006).
    Chapter 3—Checking for Understanding: Verifying That Students are Learning

    Many researchers have described the importance of Checking for Understanding questions throughout the lesson (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2000; Cotton, 1988; Sanders, 1966; Vosniadou, Ioannides, Dimitrakopoulou, & Papademetriou, 2001).

    The components of the TAPPLE method of Checking for Understanding are supported by research.

    Several studies confirm the importance of wait time after posing questions to students (Casteel & Stahl, 1973; Rowe, 1972; Stahl, 1990; Tobin, 1987). Selecting non-volunteers follows the research by Madeline Hunter (Hunter, 2004). Providing effective feedback to student responses operationalizes research that has consistently found that when teachers use effective feedback, they improve the academic achievement of their students (Bellon, Bellon, & Blank, 1992; Black & Wiliam, 1998; Clarke, 2001).

    Chapter 4—Learning Objective: Establishing What is Going to Be Taught

    Research shows that student achievement improves when students are told what they are going to learn (Althoff, et al., 2007; Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001; Rosenshine & Stevens, 1986).

    Chapter 5—Activating Prior Knowledge: Connecting to What Students Already Know

    Many researchers have shown that Activating Prior Knowledge improves student comprehension and academic achievement (Marzano, 1998; Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000; Spires, Gallini, & Riggsbee, 1992).

    Chapter 6—Delivering Information to Students: Explaining, Modeling, and Demonstrating

    This chapter applies research showing student achievement improves when teachers include

    • Modeling teacher think-aloud (Bandura, 1977; Baumann, Jones, & Seifert-Kessell, 1993; Davey, 1983; Hennings, 1993; Ivey, 2002; Ivey & Broaddus, 2001; Olshavsky, 1977) and
    • Physical Demonstrations (Hake, 1992; Korwin & Jones, 1990; Willingham, 2006).
    Chapter 7—Concept Development, Skill Development, and Lesson Importance: Presenting Content

    Chapter 7 not only operationalizes research that supports teaching students concepts, skills, and importance, but it also shows how edi integrates these components into each lesson to provide powerful learning experiences for students.

    Explicit Direct Instruction supports spending a significant portion of a lesson on Concept Development and Skill Development. Studies of classroom teachers support this premise (Bransford et al., 2000; Evertson, Emmer, & Brophy, 1980; Rosenshine & Stevens, 1986, p. 381; Wigdor, 1999).

    Many researchers are stressing the importance of Concept development in mathematics (Hiebert & Carpenter, 1992; Mayer, 1974; Mayer, Stiehl, & Greeno, 1975; Robertson, 2008; Swan, 1990; von Glasersfeld, 1991; Walkerdine, 1998). The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), in its Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (2000) and Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics (1991), presents a vision of mathematics education where all students develop procedural and conceptual understanding of important mathematical ideas through high quality, engaging instruction.

    edi focuses on having lessons designed and taught at the proper skill level. This matches research calling for lessons at the proper cognitive level and that the cognitive levels match during instruction, independent practice, and assessments (Anderson and Krathwohl, 2001; Bloom, 1956).

    An integral part of an edi lesson is teaching students the importance, the relevance, of learning the content in the lesson. Researchers have found that classroom activities that connect lessons to real life increase student classroom participation and motivation (Brewster and Fager, 2000; Gelman and Greeno, 1989; Lumsden, 2000; Policy Studies Associates, 1995; Skinner & Belmont, 1991).

    Chapter 8—Guided Practice: Working Together with all Students

    Research studies support extensive use of teacher-led Guided Practice, including feedback for students and determination if reteaching is necessary so that students can do independent practice successfully (Coker, Lorentz, & Coker, 1980; Evertson, Anderson, Anderson, & Brophy, 1980; Good & Grouws, 1979; Pearson & Gallagher, 1983; Stallings, 1974; Stallings et al., 1978, 1979; Rosenshine & Meister, 1992; Rosenshine & Stevens, 1986).

    Chapter 9—Closing the Lesson: One Final Check

    Chapter 9 supports research stating that it is important that students not practice their misperceptions or errors, and especially not practice their mistakes into permanence. Pat Wolfe (1998) writes in Educational Leadership about this problem. Madeline Hunter (Hunter, 2004) also describes this effect. She says, “Practice doesn't make perfect; it makes permanent.”

    Lesson Closure in Explicit Direct Instruction is specifically designed to prevent students from practicing problems before they know how to complete them. Teachers use Closure to verify that students know the new content before being asked to work by themselves.

    Chapter 10—Moving to Independent Practice: Having Students Work by Themselves

    This chapter follows the research that states that Independent Practice is the outcome of a well-designed and well-taught lesson and that Independent Practice serves to help students remember and retain the information.

    When students are taught new content, they undergo two phases: acquisition and consolidation. Well-designed lessons contribute to the acquisition phase. Independent Practice contributes to the consolidation phase.

    Independent Practice or homework provides students the opportunity to practice new content and skills and to internalize concepts or processes (Bailey, Silvern, Brabham, & Ross, 2004; Balli, Wedman, & Demo, 1997; House, 2004; Hunter, 2004; Marzano, 1998; Singh, Granville, & Dika, 2002; Trautwein et al., 2002; Van Voorhis, 2003; Walberg, Paschal, & Weinstein, 1985).

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