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Masters of Special Education with Academic Instruction Certification

Direct Instruction (DI) - Topic 23

What is it?

Direct Instruction (DI) provides students with efficient instruction that ensures students learn the greatest amount of material in the shortest amount of time. Three main components of DI are (a) program design, (b) instructional organization, and (c) student-teacher interactions. DI program design involves the identification of key concepts, rules, and strategies that will be taught and presented via clear and concise programs of instruction.  Considerations for organizing instruction include effective and efficient program organization (i.e., schedules, formation of student groups, and continuous student progress monitoring). Student-teacher interactions must be constant and active to ensure students are engaged and are learning the material covered in each lesson.  The chart below provides more information about the features within each of the three main components (See Watkins & Slocum, 2003).

Why is it important?

According to Project Follow Through, which compared the effectiveness of a variety of instructional approaches, DI was found to be the only approach that resulted in statistically significant improvements in basic skills, cognitive-conceptual, and affective measures.  A teacher who uses DI lesson plans ensures that his or her students are receiving evidence-based instruction that has been researched and found to be a valid and reliable method to effectively teach new material to students. With the emphasis on accountability and ensuring the high levels of achievement of all students in today’s schools, the use of evidence-based interventions, like DI, is critical (Donlevy, 2010).


Donlevy, J. (2010). Teachers, technology, and training: Direct instruction: Structured programs for

student success. International Journal of Instructional Media, 37(3), 225-226.

Watkins, C. L. & Slocum, T.A. (2003). The components of direct instruction. Journal of Direct

Instruction, 3(2), 75-110.

Web Links

National Institute for Direct Instruction

Association for Direct Instruction

DI Component


Program Design

Analyze content, communicate clearly, use specific instructional formats, sequence skills, and build skill tracks instead of units.

Instructional Organization

Group students based on required prerequisite skills, maximize instructional time (academic learning time), follow presentation scripts, and continuously monitor progress.

Student-Teacher Interactions

Students actively participate in lessons, utilize group unison responses, use teacher signals to cue group responses, maintain a rapid instructional pace, teach until concepts are mastered, use an immediate and direct error correction procedure, and use appropriate placement to increase motivation.

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