Implementing Direct Instruction (DI) effectively requires teachers and administrators to make student performance the focus of the staff’s efforts to improve the school.
Student performance determines:
1) placement in groups,
2) which instructional materials should be ordered, and
3) which levels of the programs teachers should receive training in.
Student performance also determines whether a problem exists. If students are not progressing through the program at mastery at an acceptable rate, then there is a problem. When effective administrators and coaches enter classrooms, they focus on student performance. If there is something unconventional about the classroom setup or the teacher’s delivery, but students are learning successfully, then there is no problem. If a teacher’s signal is unusual, for instance, but all children respond in unison, then there is no problem because a signal’s purpose is to prompt students to respond together. Similarly, if an instructional group is larger than recommended but all students can see the presentation book, respond together, and the teacher is able to monitor all of their responses, then there is no problem because the purpose of smaller groups is to ensure that teachers can monitor the responses of all students.
When administrators and coaches identify problems of student performance, they require accurate, current data on the progress of each instructional group and the performance of each student on in-program assessments. They may also need to get more specific information on the problem:
- During which exercises and on which items does this problem occur?
- How long has the problem been taking place?
- What has been done already to solve the problem?
- What was the effect of implementing these remedies?
- Have any other problems, including behavioral problems, arisen since the identification of the original problem?
- What specific steps can be taken to solve the original problem and any spin-off problems?
- Who is going to take the steps and talk with the teacher about the problem(s)?
This comprehensive approach to problem-solving is critical because problems rarely solve themselves. They usually worsen and cause other problems to occur. So it is important to solve each problem as it occurs and not relent until it is gone!
IMPORTANT: If teachers aren't aware that a problem exists, they can’t solve it. If teachers aren't aware that they need assistance, they won’t ask for it. Regular in-class observations and weekly data analysis can uncover student problems and identify areas where teachers need assistance. To be effective in spotting problems, both in-class observations and data analysis require a focus on student performance. With student performance at the center, administrators and coaches can more easily talk about problems with teachers. Focusing on student performance keeps discussions away from “the blame game” of finding fault with staff members and keeps discussion centered on how to help all children succeed.