Improved student outcomes through use of direct instruction in the laboratory

2020 IJRSE – Volume 9 Issue 6

Available Online: 29 July 2020


Heneghan, Mary
Institute of Technology Sligo, Ireland (

Cronin, Michael
University College Cork, Ireland (

McCabe, Anthony*
Institute of Technology Sligo, Ireland (


Student centered learning approaches are almost universally applied in modern education settings. Student centered models often use inquiry-based learning and student teamwork in their delivery. However, not all students benefit equally from these inquiry-based approaches and some may benefit from a more instructor-led approach. This study investigates the impact of either direct instruction or teamwork on student outcomes in a biology laboratory class. Students were taught either by demonstration and teamwork in pairs, or with individual or small group direct instruction, during two laboratory experiments of varying difficulty. Following the laboratory classes, the students were assessed individually. Three outcomes were assessed: laboratory skills, understanding and efficiency. Our findings show that direct instruction had significant benefits to students’ ability to execute complex laboratory tasks and that these tasks were executed significantly quicker when compared to students taught by demonstration and working in teams. These significant differences were not apparent when students performed the easier and less complex experimental procedure. The data suggests that when designing curriculum, consideration should be given to how complex procedures are taught, and where possible, students should avail of direct instruction to improve student outcomes.

Keywords: instructor-led; individual teaching; improved skills; grade improvement



Cite this article:
Heneghan, M., Cronin, M., & McCabe, A. (2020). Improved student outcomes through use of direct instruction in the laboratory. International Journal of Research Studies in Education, 9(6), 13-23.

*Corresponding Author