Friday, June 15, 2012
Direct Instruction: A Relatively New Evolutionary Phenomenon?
Can we have schools without direct instruction? Probably not. However, it recently occurred to me that "direct instruction" as an evolutionary phenomenon is relatively new. Centuries ago, our forefathers learned through visual and auditory stimuli in the environment, not teachers or books. Our brains and bodies are wired for this type of "on the go" learning, and it is likely this predisposition that draws us to puzzles, sports, and yard work. (Okay, maybe not yard work...) There are immediate, tangible pieces of evidence that shape our next steps.
I also think that this is why games such as Angry Birds and Doodle Jump are so popular. There are no instructions or directions; you just play. As you put the pieces together and gain momentum, you become immersed and motivated by the situation. Inevitably, you get better. Before you know it, you are pretty darn good.
Recently, I saw two middle school students present their learning about Minecraft. Minecraft is a game where you build shelters by placing blocks strategically in an environment. Everything they learned was "self taught" and they expressed a growing enthusiasm for the game. No one "taught" them how to play, but through lots of trial and error, they garnered a sophisticated understanding of the environment.
Why do these types of activities inspire such focus? How can we replicate these types of open, ended learning activities in our classrooms? What should learning look like in our classrooms? Is direct instruction the most efficient way to develop understanding and strategic thinking?
Perhaps we should embrace our evolutionary heritage and foster learning beyond the classroom walls. What do you think?
CC Photo Credit: Congo's Caper Bots by Jenn and Tony Bot