A common misconception is that Direct Instruction (DI) programs are easy to teach because they are composed of scripted lessons. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mastering the instructional skills needed to teach the DI programs is difficult. Preservice is the start of the learning process for teachers, teaching assistants and administrators to master these skills.
A thorough and timely preservice training in DI methods ensures that all teachers are prepared to start teaching DI effectively the first day of school. Within a few weeks of the start of school, a preservice training in DI methods lasting three to five days is provided on site to teaching personnel (teachers and assistants) and administrators. The preservice training focuses on the direct application of DI techniques through simulated practice. Preservice participants are given a program overview and are shown the rationale behind the lessons. More importantly, they learn the instructional skills needed to teach the specific exercises they will use with their students during the first few weeks of school. Participants learn DI presentation techniques (following the script, quick pacing, signaling) and monitoring and correction techniques (part-firming and delayed testing). They also learn additional procedures for assessing, placing and motivating students. Teachers receive individual feedback from the National Institute for Direct Instruction (NIFDI) trainer during preservice, and teachers are assessed by the NIFDI trainer on DI techniques on the last day of the session.
Sessions are offered for different levels of the program as the techniques for different levels differ radically. For example, the first level of the Reading Mastery program involves formats for rhyming and phonemic awareness that are not needed in higher levels of the program. For this reason, it is critically important that students are assessed accurately in the spring and that teachers attend the sessions on the specific program levels they will be using with their students.
A preservice training can be shared by more than one school if the schools are in close proximity to each other. NIFDI can also arrange large-scale trainings involving hundreds of teachers. Regardless of the size of the trainings, session sizes are kept small so trainers can devote sufficient attention to each participant.
IMPORTANT: An effective preservice training is a major prerequisite for a successful implementation of DI. If teachers are not fluent in DI presentation, monitoring and correction techniques, and if they are not familiar with the first lessons they will teach in the fall, their use of the DI materials will not be effective with students. Student success and progress will also be greatly impaired throughout the school year. Since re-learning DI techniques requires much more time and effort than learning the techniques correctly the first time, an effective preservice training can save schools much more time and effort as it provides a strong basis for initial success for teachers and students in the DI programs.