Direct instruction is guided by the premise that all students can learn, provided that they are taught by careful and efficacious teachers who use proven instructional strategies and programs. Direct instruction therefore holds that students should never be held responsible for failures to learn. Rather, if students have not learned, it is the teachers and their strategies that are to be blamed for failing to teach.
Direct instruction also presumes that student learning can be accelerated and improved if students are provided with clear instructions that prevent misinterpretation. It works to optimize time management and expedite learning though the prudent planning and organization of curriculum design and instructional delivery. Lessons are defined and planned on the basis of small teaching increments and carefully designed and ordered learning tasks. Such care and detail work to optimize the reinforcement effect of instruction and to minimize the possibility that students might misinterpret the lessons being taught.
Direct instruction was first developed in the 1960s by Siegfried Engelmann and Wesley Becker and their colleagues, first at the University of Illinois, then at the University of Oregon. Although questions about the effectiveness of the approach have been raised almost from the inception, researchers have amassed considerable empirical evidence to show that, when properly applied, it can indeed enhance academic performance, accelerate learning, and improve a number of affective behaviors. Direct instruction strategies are now employed in thousands of schools in the United States, Canada, Britain, and Australia.