My district mandates explicit direct instruction (“EDI”) as our sole instructional method. While I applaud their desire to help all students, especially our underserved, low socioeconomic status students, their decision supplants a teacher’s unique, passionate pedagogy for a cookie cutter, “show and tell” instructional method, one that relegates teaching to a “paint by the numbers” task.
I have no issue with direct instruction, explicit or not. It is the essence of teaching at some point in a lesson, which may stretch over multiple days. I do have an issue with a heavy-handed “do as I say” approach to anything required of a professional, such as deciding on the most appropriate instructional method, when it is apparent that the mandated method does not universally apply across all classrooms, courses, or students.
The components of EDI are benign, and include:
- Checking for understanding
- Setting lesson objectives
- Activating prior knowledge
- Developing students’ skills by explaining, modeling, and demonstrating
- Presenting content
- Using guided practice
Like most things in life, these components are harmless taken a piece at a time. The nefarious aspect is the insistence that these steps be followed in very specific ways, which while simplifying the observers task, does not necessarily suit the needs of students in the moment. It cripples a teacher’s freedom to determine situationally relevant pedagogy based on their experience and expertise.
The district’s approach constrains and demotivates teachers rather than empowers and supports them. Mandating a single teaching method (EDI) harms our students far more than it helps them. Mandating EDI as the sole instructional method for a diverse student population:
1) Keeps education firmly cemented in a 19th– and 20th century factory production model versus a 21st century creative and collaborative problem solving model;
2) Institutionalizes lowest common denominator thinking / deficit thinking;
3) Acculturates students to view learning as a “training” expectation (you show me then I do) rather than a “thinking” model (I consider how to approach what you asked me to do then consult with peers and mentors for support);
4) Hinders the development of our gifted and talented students (they are not challenged in most, if not all, of their courses until they hit AP – we are failing our best and brightest students);
5) Forces students ill-equipped for certain courses to attempt work far outside of their zone of proximal development (ZPD) – we are failing our most needy students; and
6) Constrains a teacher’s professional judgment to a one-size fits all model of instruction, which benefits the observation process more than it benefits students.
Heaven help us. And forgive me Stephen Sondheim.
Send in the Drones
Isn’t it rich, loving pair-share Me here at last teaching – while you’ve been nowhere Send in the drones
Isn’t it bliss, all of these moves One who keeps looking around – and one who can’t approve But where are the drones – send in the drones
Just when I stopped – can’t be a volunteer Finally finding the one that I wanted – was not even here Making my opening again with my usual flair So sure of my points – then sorry, no APK there
Don’t you love a farce; I think, I fear I thought that you’d want what I want – so sorry my dear But where are the drones? There ought to be drones Maybe next year.
Isn’t it rich, isn’t it queer Losing my timing this late in my career But where are the drones – send in the drones Don’t bother, they’re here.