Stop the D.I.K.R. Virus from harming your lessons

Stop the D.I.K.R. Virus from harming your lessons

We may have seen off one pandemic, but there's another one sweeping through our classrooms. It goes by the name of DIKR, or Direct Instruction in a Knowledge Rich curriculum. Are the claims of the Rosenshine evangelists all they're cracked up to be, or this this another idea virus we need to protect ourselves from?

It all depends what you want students to learn. If it's skills, then directing students exactly what to do works. But if it's a difficult concept you want students to understand and apply, it turns out that DIKR is not enough.

A second mode of learning
In a nutshell, humans have evolved at least two modes of learning. Direct Instruction is one but another is active exploration. This is where you interact with the physical world while your brain is busy constructing a mental model (or schema) to guide your future thinking and actions. Your mental models are constantly making predictions about what will happen next. If something new or unexpected happens, it generates an error signal in your brain and your model get updated. This is meaningful learning.

What research says

It's no coincidence that the active exploration mode is pretty similar to how we do science. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that that students learn more, according to research, when you give them the opportunity to experience a phenomenon and make sense of it, before you teach them the theory.

In other words, to behave a bit more like scientists. Of course if you've been heavily infected by DIKR this will come as a surprise, you will hopefully update your mental model :)

We're not talking 'discovery learning'. What we mean is a carefully nuanced approach that blends Direct Instruction and active exploration, each at the right time, each in the right way. Of course this makes teaching and learning more complicated. But in my experience it also becomes more rewarding.


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