Hero teachers won’t improve inner-city schools, writes Alex Tabarrok on Marginal Revolution. There aren’t enough of them.
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.
There is such a method, writes Tabarrok, citing author Ian Ayres’ support for Direct Instruction in Super Crunchers, a book about the use of data to make decisions. Large experimental studies have shown Direct Instruction, which requires teachers to follow a “carefully designed and evaluated script,” is the most effective teaching method, Ayres concludes. He writes:
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.
“The data also show that DI does not impede creativity or self-esteem,” Tabarrok adds.
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.
It’s my impression that DI requires competent, though not necessarily heroic, teachers who check continuously for student understanding; just following the script isn’t good enough. Perhaps teachers who’ve used DI can elucidate.
At D-Ed Reckoning, Ken the DI blogger writes about the dangers of ambiguity in teaching, a danger that DI works to avoid.