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 conversations” and “help students express their thoughts” with 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.