Demystifying Explicit Instruction: A Valuable Tool in Education

Posted in
September 22, 2023

There is a debate raging amongst educators that goes something like this. Explicit instruction or Inquiry based learning? This is an argument harming education in general for many reasons. The first being that we’ve set up a false dichotomy. There is a misconception in what explicit instruction actually means and needs clearing up!

In the realm of education, strategies and methodologies are like a vast landscape, offering diverse approaches to help students learn. However, within this landscape, misconceptions often lurk, waiting to be debunked. One such misconception is the conflation of explicit instruction with teacher-centric direct instruction. Let’s shed light on this misunderstanding and explore why explicit instruction is a valuable tool in the educator’s toolkit.

The Misconception: To clarify the misconception, we need to understand both terms. Direct instruction, often seen as teacher-centric, involves the teacher delivering content while students listen and absorb. It’s a traditional approach and can sometimes be likened to a one-way street of information flow.

Explicit instruction, on the other hand, emphasises making complex concepts clear and understandable. While it can include teacher-led components, it’s far from a monologue. Explicit instruction aims to actively engage students, promote questioning, and encourage exploration.

Debunking the Myth: Here’s where the misconception lies: people sometimes assume that because explicit instruction aims for clarity, it mirrors the one-sided nature of direct instruction. This is far from the truth.

The Power of Explicit Instruction:

  • Clarity and Understanding: Explicit instruction excels at making challenging concepts crystal clear. It provides step-by-step guidance and removes ambiguity, ensuring that students grasp the material thoroughly.
  • Active Student Engagement: Unlike direct instruction’s passive learning, explicit instruction encourages students to actively participate. They ask questions, seek clarification, and interact with the material.
  • Questioning and Exploration: Explicit instruction fosters a culture of curiosity. Students are prompted to ask “why” and “how,” exploring the depths of a subject rather than just skimming the surface.
  • Differentiation: It allows for differentiation. Teachers can adapt explicit instruction to suit individual learning styles and paces, ensuring that no student is left behind.
  • Balanced Approach: While explicit instruction may involve structured guidance, it also provides opportunities for critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity.

Embracing Diversity in Education: Education is not a one-size-fits-all endeavour. Instead, it’s a spectrum of strategies, each with its own merits. Debunking the misconception that explicit instruction equals teacher-centric direct instruction allows educators to harness the strengths of both approaches. It’s about blending the structured clarity of explicit instruction with the engagement and inquiry of student-centred learning.

As educators, our mission is to equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive. To do so effectively, we must recognize the value of various teaching methods. Explicit instruction, far from being a teacher-centric monologue, is a powerful tool for promoting understanding, engagement, and curiosity in our students. By debunking this common misconception, we open the door to a richer, more diversified educational experience.

Teaching is an art and as teachers we need to be adaptable. Our teaching must be organic and authentic. We need to be conscious of where students are at, fostering healthy relationships and building a positive classroom culture. A broad range of tools in a teacher’s toolkit is the only way this can all happen. Education isn’t one-size-fits-all; versatility ensures every student’s needs are met.

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