Results for “"direct instruction"”
9 found

Phonics Based Direct Instruction

Linguist John McWhorter strongly supports phonics and direct instruction:

Now that it’s summer, I have a suggestion for how parents can grant their wee kiddies the magic of reading by Labor Day: Pick up Siegfried Engelmann’s Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. My wife and I used it a while ago with our then-4-year-old daughter, and after a mere 20 cozy minutes a night, a little girl who on Memorial Day could recognize on paper only the words no and stop and the names of herself and her family members could, by the time the leaves turned, read simple books.

…Engelmann’s book, which he co-wrote with Phyllis Haddox and Elaine Bruner, was first published in the early 1980s, but it was based on work from the late 1960s. That’s when Engelmann was involved in the government-sponsored Project Follow Through, whose summary report compared nine methods for how to teach reading and tracked results on 75,000 children from kindergarten through third grade. The results, though some critics over the years have rejected them on methodological grounds, were clear: The approach that proved most effective was based on phonics—teaching children how to sound words out, letter by letter, rather than encouraging students to recognize words as single chunks, also called the whole-word system. Specifically, the most successful approach supplemented basic phonics with a tightly scripted format emphasizing repetition and student participation, often dubbed “direct instruction.” As I have previously explained for NPR, the results were especially impressive among poor children, including black ones.

…And yet in the education world, Engelmann’s technique is considered controversial.

Here are previous MR posts on Direct Instruction, the teaching method that works even though many teachers don’t like it.

Direct Instruction: A Half Century of Research Shows Superior Results

What if I told you that there is a method of education which significantly raises achievement, has been shown to work for students of a wide range of abilities, races, and socio-economic levels and has been shown to be superior to other methods of instruction in hundreds of tests? Well, the method is Direct Instruction and I first told you about it in Heroes are Not Replicable. I am reminded of this by the just-published, The Effectiveness of Direct Instruction Curricula: A Meta-Analysis of a Half Century of Research which, based on an analysis of 328 studies using 413 study designs examining outcomes in reading, math, language, other academic subjects, and affective measures (such as self-esteem), concludes:

…Our results support earlier reviews of the DI effectiveness literature. The estimated effects were consistently positive. Most estimates would be considered medium to large using the criteria generally used in the psychological literature and substantially larger than the criterion of .25 typically used in education research (Tallmadge, 1977). Using the criteria recently suggested by Lipsey et al. (2012), 6 of the 10 baseline estimates and 8 of the 10 adjusted estimates in the reduced models would be considered huge. All but one of the remaining six estimates would be considered large. Only 1 of the 20 estimates, although positive, might be seen as educationally insignificant.

…The strong positive results were similar across the 50 years of data; in articles, dissertations, and gray literature; across different types of research designs, assessments, outcome measures, and methods of calculating effects; across different types of samples and locales, student poverty status, race-ethnicity, at-risk status, and grade; across subjects and programs; after the intervention ceased; with researchers or teachers delivering the intervention; with experimental or usual comparison programs; and when other analytic methods, a broader sample, or other control variables were used.

It is very unusual to see an educational method successfully replicate across such a long period of time and across so many different margins.

Direct Instruction was pioneered by Siegfried Engelmann in the 1960s and is a scientific approach to teaching. First, a skill such as reading or subtraction is broken down into simple components, then a method to teach that component is developed and tested in lab and field. The method must be explicitly codified and when used must be free of vagueness so students are reliably led to the correct interpretation. Materials, methods and scripts are then produced for teachers to follow very closely. Students are ability not age-grouped and no student advances before mastery. The lessons are fast-paced and feedback and assessment are quick. You can get an idea of how it works in the classroom in this Thales Academy promotional video. Here is a math lesson on counting. It looks odd but it works.

Even though Direct Instruction has been shown to work in hundreds of tests it is not widely used. It’s almost as if education is not about educating.

Some people object that DI is like mass-production. This is a feature not a bug. Mass-production is one of the few ways yet discovered to produce quality on a mass scale. Any method will probably work if a heroic teacher puts in enough blood, sweat and tears but those methods don’t scale. DI scales when used by mortals which is why it consistently beats other methods in large scale tests.

Many teachers don’t like DI when first exposed to it because it requires teacher training and discipline. Teachers are not free to make up their own lesson plans. But why should they be? Lesson plans should be developed by teams of cognitive psychologists, educational researchers and other experts who test them using randomized controlled trials; not made up by amateurs who are subject to small-sample and confirmation bias. Contrary to the critics, however, DI does leave room for teachers to be creative. Actors also follow a script but some are much better than others. Instructors who use DI enjoy being effective.

Quoting the authors of the meta-analysis:

Many current curriculum recommendations, such as those included within the Common Core, promote student-led and inquiry-based approaches with substantial ambiguity in instructional practices. The strong pattern of results presented in this article, appearing across all subject matters, student populations, settings, and age levels, should, at the least, imply a need for serious examination and reconsideration of these recommendations (see also Engelmann, 2014a; Morgan, Farkas, & Maczuga, 2015; Zhang, 2016). It is clear that students make sense of and interpret the information that they are given—but their learning is enhanced only when the information presented is explicit, logically organized, and clearly sequenced. To do anything less shirks the responsibility of effective instruction.
Hat tip: Robert Pondiscio at Education Next.

The Top Ten Marginal Revolution Posts of 2018

As measured by page views the most popular MR post this year was my post on how there is one law for the police and another for the rest of us, Get Out of Jail Free Cards.

Second was Tyler Cowen’s 12 Rules for Life. Number seven on Tyler’s list, “Learn how to learn from those who offend you,” caught my eye today but there’s much wisdom throughout.

The third most popular post was by neither Tyler, myself, nor a guest blogger but rather by a MR commentator, One smart guy’s frank take on working in some of the major tech companies.

One of my favorite posts was fourth, Lessons from “The Profit”. The new season of The Profit has started and continues to be of interest. All IO economists should watch.

Number five was another one of my favorites Why Sexism and Racism Never Diminish–Even When Everyone Becomes Less Sexist and Racist.

Tyler’s excellent analysis of the North Korean deal shows why he is an important thinker in foreign policy, able to see beyond the headlines, The North Korean summit and deal.

A second MR commentator had another top post, Will truckers be automated? (from the comments).

Tyler doesn’t like to write the kind of post that came in at number 8 but these posts are always popular which is one reason Tyler doesn’t like to write them. The five most influential public intellectuals?

Number 9 was a useful post, Why are antiques now so cheap?

Coming in at number 10 was my video and Tyler’s post on Paul Romer’s Nobel Prize, Why Paul Romer Won the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Other notable posts from Tyler included:

Other notable posts from me included:

Overall, I’d say it was a notable year for MR commentators! Congratulations! What were your favorite, or least favorite, MR posts of 2018?

Bob Luddy and the Thales Academy

Scott Alexander reports:

Bloom’s Two Sigma Problem: children given private tutoring will do two sigmas better than average (ie the average tutored student will be in the 98th percentile of nontutored students). But see here for some argument that the real value is lower, maybe more like 0.4 sigma. Some further discussion on the subreddit asks the right question – can we simulate this with some kind of clever computer-guided learning? – and gives the right answer – apparently no. TracingWoodgrains has a great comment. Especially interested in their discussion of Direct Instruction: “One of the few schools to use it as the basis of their program for math and English, a libertarian private school in North Carolina called Thales Academy, is reporting results exactly in line with the two-sigma bar: 98-99th percentile average accomplishment on the IOWA test. Their admissions process requires an interview at the elementary level, but no sorting other than that, so it’s not a case of only selecting the highest-level students.” (though note that IOWA is nationally normed, and Thales is in the well-off Research Triangle area). On the other hand, it costs half of what public schools do, so file this under “cost disease” too.

By the way, I have been enjoying my read of Robert L. Luddy’s Entrepreneurial Life: The Path from Startup to Market Leader.  Luddy is founder of Thales Academy, and the final chapter of his memoir covers his thoughts and praxis on education.

Student-Led Classrooms Waste Teacher Skill

A slew of research shows that direct instruction produces superior results compared to other instructional methods. A new study in the Journal of Labor Economics by Eric Taylor provides more information on how and why. Using a randomized controlled trial, Taylor compares a weak form of direct instruction with student led classrooms in which:

the students are expected to reason through and articulate math concepts with each other,while teachers facilitate conversationsand help students express their thoughtswith a focus on [students] understanding, rather than on students answering problems correctly

He finds that direct instruction results in greater student learning. More importantly, however, he also has data on how well teachers understand math and how to teach math and what he finds is that this knowledge is basically only productive when teachers use direct instruction. In other words, teacher skill only produces results when teachers are assigned a task that uses that skill. Student-led classrooms waste teacher skill and so are less productive.

Hat tip: Jose the (Not) Mediocre.

Two men and a bulldog showed up unannounced at Caitlin Strickland’s after-school job on a Friday afternoon.

Admissions officers are traveling hundreds of miles with a live animal to inform high-school seniors they have been accepted to a college—and to urge them to enroll. It’s not just the star athletes or scholarship winners who get the treatment. It is pretty much anyone, a tactic driven by competition to snag the declining number of college-bound high-school students.

I would have brought a schnauzer:

Trip [the bulldog] is “not generally a heavy drooler unless there is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich nearby and then he drools like crazy,” said Michael Kaltenmark, his handler and the school’s director of external relations. “Unless someone is actively making dinner in front of him he’s going to be fine.”

Trip’ silver collar is valued at $10,000, bring on the direct instruction.

That is from Douglas Belkin at the WSJ, courtesy of the excellent Samir Varma.

Low Cost Private Schools in the Developing World

Private schools for the poor are growing rapidly throughout the developing world. The Economist has a review:

PrivateSchoolingPrivate schools enroll a much bigger share of primary-school pupils in poor countries than in rich ones: a fifth, according to data compiled from official sources, up from a tenth two decades ago (see chart 1). Since they are often unregistered, this is sure to be an underestimate. A school census in Lagos in 2010-11, for example, found four times as many private schools as in government records. UNESCO, the UN agency responsible for education, estimates that half of all spending on education in poor countries comes out of parents’ pockets (see chart 2). In rich countries the share is much lower.

Overall, there is good evidence that private school systems tend to create small but meaningful increases in achievement (e.g. herehere, here, here) and especially good evidence that they do so with large costs savings. The large costs savings suggest that with the right institutional structure, which might involve vouchers and nationally comparable testing, an entrepreneurial private sector could create very large gains. Karthik Muralidharan who has done key work on private schools and performance pay in India puts it this way:

Since private schools achieved equal or better outcomes at one-third the cost, the fundamental question that needs to be asked is “How much better could private management do if they had three times their current level of per-child spending?”

The Economist notes that another promising development is national chains which can scale and more quickly adopt best practices:

…Bridge International Academies, which runs around 400 primary schools in Kenya and Uganda, and plans to open more in Nigeria and India, is the biggest, with backers including Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates. Omega Schools has 38 institutions in Ghana. (Pearson, which owns 50% of The Economist, has stakes in both Bridge and Omega.) Low-cost chains with a dozen schools or fewer have recently been established in India, Nigeria, the Philippines and South Africa.

Bridge’s cost-cutting strategies include using standardised buildings made of unfinished wooden beams, corrugated steel and iron mesh, and scripted lessons that teachers recite from hand-held computers linked to a central system. That saves on teacher training and monitoring.

The Economist is somewhat skeptical of scripted lessons, known as Direct Instruction in the education world, but in fact no other teaching method has as strong a record of proven success in randomized experiments (see also here and here).

Need I also point out that online education can bring some of the best teachers in the world to everyone, everywhere at low cost? An article in Technology Review titled India loves MOOCs points out that students from India are a large fraction of online students (fyi, we are also finding many Indian students at Marginal Revolution University)

Throughout India, online education is gaining favor as a career accelerator, particularly in technical fields. Indian enrollments account for about 8 percent of worldwide activity in Coursera and 12 percent in edX, the two leading providers of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. Only the United States’ share is clearly higher; China’s is roughly comparable.

Education is changing very rapidly and its the developing world which is leading the way.

Is the NBA fixed?

Tim Donaghy, the ref who was caught gambling, says it is.  Here’s a good deal of evidence that it isn’t.  Small market teams do well in the draft and reach the Finals at a high rate. 

Yet I haven’t seen any MSM source, at least not in the context of these allegations, which admits the obvious: star players get favored treatment from the refs.  And this equilibrium is self-sustaining without any direct instructions from the Commissioner.  As a ref, you know you are expected to allow offensive fouls from LeBron James, the crowd expects it, other refs act that way, and you are never reprimanded for the non-calls.  So in at least this one way the NBA is clearly fixed and by the demand of the fans, even if they do not prefer to think of it as such.

But now imagine a nervous ref who wonders — if only with p = 0.2 — whether the NBA wouldn’t prefer to see the Los Angeles Lakers beat Sacramento and move on in the playoffs.  That same ref knows about the convention to favor star players.  And hey, the Sacramento team in those days didn’t in fact have any real stars.  What inference should you draw and how should you behave in your calls?

If the NBA has been tolerating at least one (and surely more) crooked ref, it is unlikely that other ref pathologies have been absent as well.  Toss in the $50 billion or so a year bet on NBA games and maybe you have some real action.

So it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the NBA is at least partially fixed, although not necessarily in the conspiratorial sense that many people might be expecting.

Here is what a professional gambler thinks.

The point taken from economics is that there are many ways of enforcing implicit collusion, not to mention that at some margin gains from trade do kick in.  If wealthy CEOs will cheat, why won’t NBA refs?

Heroes are not Replicable

You know the plot.  Young, idealistic teacher goes to inner-city high school.  Said idealistic teacher is shocked by students who don’t know the basics and who are too preoccupied with the burdens of violence, poverty and indifference to want to learn.  But the hero perseveres and at great personal sacrifice wins over the students using innovative teaching methods and heart.  The kids go on to win the state spelling/chess/mathematics championship.  c.f. Stand and Deliver, Freedom Writers, Dangerous Minds etc.

We are supposed to be uplifted by these stories but they depress me.  If it takes a hero to save an inner city school then there is no hope.  Heroes are not replicable.

What we need to save inner-city schools, and poor schools everywhere, is a method that works when the teachers aren’t heroes.  Even better if the method works when teachers are ordinary people, poorly paid and ill-motivated – i.e. the system we have today. 

In Super Crunchers, Ian Ayres argues that just such a method exists.  Overall, Super Crunchers is a light but entertaining account of how large amounts of data and cheap computing power are improving forecasting and decision making in social science, government and business.  I enjoyed the book.  Chapter 7, however, was a real highlight.

Ayres argues that large experimental studies have shown that the teaching method which works best is Direct Instruction (here and here are two non-academic discussions which summarizes much of the same academic evidence discussed in Ayres).  In Direct Instruction the teacher follows a script, a carefully designed and evaluated script.  As Ayres notes this is key:

DI is scalable.  Its success isn’t contingent on the personality of some uber-teacher….You don’t need to be a genius to be an effective DI teacher.  DI can be implemented in dozens upon dozens of classrooms with just ordinary teachers.  You just need to be able to follow the script.

Contrary to what you might think, the data also show that DI does not impede creativity or self-esteem.  The education establishment, however, hates DI because it is a threat to the power and prestige of teaching, they prefer the model of teacher as hero.  As Ayres says "The education establishment is wedded to its pet theories regardless of what the evidence says."  As a result they have fought it tooth and nail so that "Direct Instruction, the oldest and most validated program, has captured only a little more than 1 percent of the grade-school market."