I am the first person to agree with progressive education – foster interest, inquiry and questioning, opinions over basic instruction. However, I have to say, that I believe we cannot ever hope to remove direct instruction all together.
Every teacher who has been in the field for a while and had the chance to teach the same lesson more than twice will agree that they never teach the exact same lesson twice. Different kids call for different approaches.
As a high school teacher, I frequently see this; both of my Physics 30 classes are generally around the same point in the class, but my instruction to both periods is VERY different. Yes, the information is the same, but both classes require a different approach. While I try to have both classes investigate as much as possible, one group requires a direct lesson on the mathematics after discussing the physics in depth, while the other group requires more probing during investigation with little mathematics instruction following the activities.
While I would call myself an inquiry based educator, I must agree with product-based teachers. Across North America, educational institutions are falling to standards-based education and standard-based assessments to determine student progress. The problem with this is for another discussion. It does, however, beg the educators of our continent to ensure students have met standard – in growing classroom sizes and declining teacher positions, this generally brings us to direct instruction (particularly at the high school).
Direct instruction is not necessarily evil. Teachers can use it combined with inquiry and exploration to solidify both their teaching AND the activities done. So, don’t freak out if you have direct instruction – it’s a growing point.