Direct Sex Education: The Direct Instructional Model

Direct instruction diagram

The Direct Instructional Model incorporates behavioral psychology, social learning theory, and cognitive learning theory (Estes, Gunter, & Mintz, 2011). Behavioral psychology informs us that the way people learn can affect their behaviors and the way people perceive their environment.  The Social Learning theory reveals that people learn by observing others. The Cognitive Learning theory purposes that learners process and learn new material based on previous cognitive structures in their lives. The Direct Learning theory is a great way to introduce new copious amounts of information to an audience.

The method consist of six steps (Estes, Gunter, & Mintz, 2011):

  1. Review previously learned material
  2. State objectives for the lesson
  3. Present new material
  4. Guide practice, assess performance, and provide corrective feedback
  5. Assign independent practice, assess performance, and provide corrective feedback
  6. Review periodically, offering corrective feedback if necessary

The Direct Learning method can be utilized with any audience on any level.  When introducing a lengthy or broad topic, it is good to understand what students already know.  Reviewing previous material can be done informally with group discussion or formally via some assessment, such as a pre-test.  When performing guided practice, an educator should have questions prepared for their audience.  Guided practice questions are used to identify where students are in relation to the lesson’s objectives; they provide review and repetition, which are essential in learning new material (Estes, Gunter, & Mintz, 2011).

The Direct Instructional Model and Sexuality Education

When introducing sexuality-based topics, one does not want to come off as preachy or overly educated — “a know it all.”  An educator would be more prepared if they are able to figure out what the class/audience knows about a particular topic and build on that previous knowledge.  Neither children nor adults want to sit and listen to information they already know.  If an educator gives a presentation to parents about puberty, the direct instructional model could be beneficial.  An educator can review what parents remember about puberty, state the objective of the lesson, present new material, occurrences or topics parents may not have considered or an expansion of the review.  An educator can use different activities that will assess performance both independently and individually, constantly review information that is given and provide feedback.  A role-playing demonstration can be included to allow for independent practice, to assess independent performance, and to provide corrective feedback.  An educator can have parents role-play a conversation about puberty with a classmate who plays their adolescent child.  A role-play shows the educator what the parent learned and will give the parent practice for talking to their adolescent about puberty.

A sex educator can use the direct method when teaching adolescents about STIs and contraception.  Any of the lessons can start off with an exercise or discussion to learn what the students previously knows about each lesson and topic discussed.  Stating the objective allows for learners to have an idea of what to expect from the lesson.  An educator can assess individual performance via a quiz, or homework assignment(s), if he/she will see the students again.  The educator will also need to provide prompt and positive feedback.  Encouraging students as well as correcting miss-information can give students the need and want to absorb the information that is being presented.

For learners who like lecture and note-taking, or the learner who agrees with discussion, the direct method would benefit either.  The model also allows students to develop proficiency by providing specific, timely feedback-a necessary requirement for students to accurately construct new capacities (Estes, Gunter, & Mintz, 2011, p. 65).  When delivering bulk amounts of information, an educator needs to break the information into chunks and allow the learner to absorb the material.  A subject like sex education contains copious amounts of information as well as many myths and misconceptions.  An educator that uses the direct instructional model, will be able to both provide information that will be absorbed, and correct misconceptions if the six steps are followed.


Estes, T.H., Gunter, M. A., & Mintz, S. L. (2011). Instruction: A models approach (6th Ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

One response to “Direct Sex Education: The Direct Instructional Model

  1. I love these six steps. These steps can be addressed in a clinical setting or in a classroom setting. Assessing what people know is also “meeting the learner where she is”. It honors people’s pre-existing knowledge or lack thereof and allows for individual needs to be met through education. Stating objectives prior to introducing new material could possibly take less than a minute but it can be such a useful educational tool bringing learners together. By guiding, assessing and providing feedback during the same step allows for academic, personal and clinical growth. By encouraging independence and offering feedback allows for growth and confidence building. Maybe I am off base, but it seems that these 6 steps could effectively be applied to almost any teaching opportunity.

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