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Meta-Analyses of DI Programs

Six meta-analyses have examined Direct Instruction programs. All of these analyses have concluded that DI programs have highly positive effects on student achievement and that the programs are more effective than other curricular approaches.

John Hattie1 examined meta-analyses of over 300 research studies relating to student achievement and concluded that Direct Instruction is highly effective. No other curricular program showed such consistently strong effects with students of different ability levels, of different ages, and with different subject matters.

Borman and associates examined studies of 29 comprehensive school reform models. They found that much more evidence was available for the Direct Instruction model than for other interventions. Direct Instruction was found to produce the strongest effects of all models examined.

In “Research on Direct Instruction: 25 Years Beyond DISTAR” Adams and Engelmann respond to unfounded negative views of Direct Instruction and a lack of a thorough scientific review of the effectiveness of Direct Instruction at the time. Engelmann provides a detailed description and history of Direct Instruction and Adams conducted a meta-analysis of 34, highly controlled studies that looked at the effectiveness of Direct Instruction programs. Adams found very strong, positive results.

Coughlin’s meta-analysis focused on 20 studies of Direct Instruction that employed a randomized control group design. Strong positive effects were found with reading, language, mathematics, and other areas. Similar results appeared with general education and special education students.

Stockard used meta-analytic techniques to examine data from scores on state assessment tests from 18 different sites. Again, strong effect sizes were found. Results were similar across different grades, schools with different SES and racial-ethnic composition, and in different areas of the country.  


  1. Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London and New York: Routledge.
  2. Adams, G., & Engelmann, S. (1996). Research on Direct Instruction: 25 Years beyond DISTAR. Seattle, WA: Educational Achievement Systems.

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