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Field Testing DI Programs

All Direct Instruction programs are developed with extensive field testing. Most traditional programs are routinely published without first being subjected to extensive trials in actual learning situations. In contrast, Direct Instruction programs are field tested to determine the extent to which students actually master the material that is presented in a program and the extent to which teachers are able to follow the program’s presentation specifications.

Field testing begins as the Direct Instruction programs are being developed. The authors select several classrooms in which to field test the first version of the curriculum. These classrooms are selected to include a variety of students and teachers. At least some of these classes must include the lowest performing students who will be placed in the program. This is important because the lower-performers make all the mistake that higher performers make and additional mistakes that higher performers tend not to make. 

Every activity in the field-test version of the program is assessed. Data are kept on the number of students who miss particular items and the incorrect responses that were made by the students. Rules are established about what student performance levels indicate a need to revise the teaching sequence. Student errors are analyzed to determine how the sequence of instruction likely led to the student problems. Revisions may include:

    • making the initial explanations more clear
    • including more thorough teaching of component skills that were not adequately taught
    • providing for more scaffolding to prompt students to apply strategies
    • providing more practice to help students discriminate when to apply strategies
    • other elements that will improve the instruction

The revised version of the curriculum is then field tested and revised again. Data are kept on student performance on each item. In addition to the data on student performance, information on how long tasks take to present are collected as well as feedback from teachers about the clarity of directions.

Each element of this field testing procedure is essential to providing teachers with a program capable of being an effective instructional tool for all students. The extensive testing that underlies the development of Direct Instruction programs is the primary reason that they are so effective.


For more information on the theory and process that underlies the field testing of Direct Instruction programs, see:

pdf Research on Direct Instruction: 25 Years Beyond DISTAR, Chapter 2: “Features of Direct Instruction Programs” (Adams & Engelmann, 1996)

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