Program

Aug 31, 2007


OVERVIEW

In a random assignment study, two preschool curricula for
students with special needs were compared: Direct Instruction and Mediated
Learning. Direct Instruction involves explicit, systematic,
teacher-directed instruction. Mediated Learning, by contrast, strives to
be student-led and emphasizes the development and organization of cognitive
process. Following a year of instruction, students from the two
interventions did not significantly differ from one another on any
measure. Interactional analyses indicated that higher-performing students
gained more from the Direct Instruction program, whereas lower-performing
students gained more from the Mediated Learning program.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Special needs preschool students
with mild to moderate disabilities

This study compares two different preschool curricula: an
academically-based Direct Instruction program and a cognitively-based Mediated
Learning program.

Direct Instruction involves explicit, systematic,
teacher-directed instruction. Instruction is fast-paced and is directed
toward very specific, measurable outcomes. Teachers work to elicit
imitation from children and are provided with specific procedures for error
correction and reinforcement. In this study, Direct Instruction was
taught using DISTAR materials: DISTAR Language, DISTAR Math, and DISTAR
Reading.

Mediated Learning emphasizes the development and
organization of cognitive processes, rather than specific academic
content. The curriculum includes two- to three-week-long units, each
focusing on a specific area of social or cognitive development. Units
include memory strategies, identifying and understanding feelings, changing
perspectives, making choices, identifying and developing patterns, planning
ahead, controlling behavior, using senses, and making comparisons. Instruction
follows the child’s lead; teachers work to direct
attention to aspects of each child’s current
interests that demonstrate the cognitive function under consideration.
Reinforcement systems are not used in Mediated Learning classrooms because
internal locus of control and self-monitoring are key goals of Mediated
Learning.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Cole, K. N., Dale, P. P., Mills, P. E., & Jenkins, J.
R. Interaction Between Early Intervention
Curricula and Student Characteristics. Exceptional Children, 60(1),
17-28.

Evaluated population: 164 children between the ages
of three and five served as the study sample for this investigation.
Children were special education students at a laboratory school in the United States.
112 of the subjects were boys; 52 were girls. 101 of the children were
white; 47 were black; and 16 were of other ethnicities. Approximately 80%
of the students had delayed language abilities; 50% had delayed cognitive
abilities; 60% had delayed fine motor abilities; 60% had delayed gross motor
abilities; and 60% had delayed social-emotional skills. Approximately 20%
also had a medical diagnosis, such as cerebral palsy or Down syndrome.

Approach: Four cohorts of students took part in this
study. Each year, students were randomly assigned to classrooms using a
two-step procedure. First they were assigned to either the Direct
Instruction or the Mediated Learning condition. Then, within condition,
they were assigned to one of the classrooms using that approach. Each
classroom had a head teacher with a master’s degree
in special education, an assistant teacher, and additional staff, resulting in
a student-staff ratio of approximately 4:1.

Head teachers in Direct Instruction classrooms either
studied Direct Instruction during college or received inservice
or on-site training. Using DISTAR materials, these teachers implemented
the Direct Instruction curriculum over the course of the school year. A
consultant with extensive Direct Instruction training experience monitored the
fidelity of the intervention.

Some head teachers in Mediated Learning classrooms were
trained in the methods of Mediated Learning prior to the commencement of the
intervention. These teachers led other Mediated Learning teachers in
ongoing staff development over the course of the project.

Each year of the project, students underwent pre-testing
from October through December and post-testing from May through August.
Tests included the McCarthy Scales of Children’s
Abilities (MSCA), the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test – Revised (PPVT-R), the Test
of Early Language Development (TELD), and the Test of Early Reading Ability
(TERA). The Preschool Language Assessment Inventory (PLAI), the Basic
Language Concepts Test (BLCT), and the Mean Length of Utterance derived from
language samples (MLU) were also given, but not to all student cohorts.

Results: At pre-test, students in the two programs
did not differ from one another on any measure. Nor did students from the
two programs differ from one another on any measure at post-test. The
programs did not lead to differential gains.

Interaction analyses indicated that students who were
higher-performing at baseline gained more from the Direct Instruction program,
whereas lower-performing students gained more from the Mediated Learning
program.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

More information on Direct Instruction available at:

National Institute for Direct Instruction: http://www.nifdi.org/

Association for Direct Instruction: http://www.adihome.org/

Mediated Learning resources available at:

Mediated Learning, LLC: http://www.mediatedlearning.com/

References:

Cole, K. N., Dale, P. P., Mills, P. E., & Jenkins, J.
R. Interaction Between Early Intervention
Curricula and Student Characteristics. Exceptional Children, 60(1),
17-28.

KEYWORDS: Education,
Academic Achievement, Early Childhood Education, Preschool, Social/Emotional
Health and Development, Cognitive Development, Early Childhood (0-5), Children,
White or Caucasian, Black or African American, Kindergarten, co-ed, mathematics,
manual

Program information last updated on 8/31/07

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