The Dilemma of Scripted Instruction: Comparing Teacher Autonomy, Fidelity, and Resistance in the Froebelian Kindergarten, Montessori, Direct Instruction, and Success for All

From Section:
Instruction in Teacher Training
Mar. 10, 2011

Source: Teachers College Record, Volume 113 Number 3, 2011, p. 395-430.

Purpose of Study

The author examines how teachers reacted to four different models of scripted instruction.
The author choses to compare the Froebelian kindergarten, Montessori, Direct Instruction, and Success for All.
The author focuses on the scripts' theory and research base and teacher training, and on teachers' assessments of the scripts' effectiveness, and ask how these factors might influence teachers' autonomy, fidelity, and resistance when using scripts.

Research Design
Using historical methods, the author summarizes the history of scripted instruction; selectively survey research on teacher autonomy, fidelity, and resistance; and interpret primary and secondary sources on the Froebelian kindergarten, Montessori, Direct Instruction, and Success for All.


Teacher autonomy, fidelity, and resistance varied in these four scripts. Froebelian kindergarten and Montessori teachers autonomously chose to receive scripted, lengthy, intensive, pre-service training and professional development in closed professional learning communities.
Direct Instruction and Success for All teachers receive scripted, relatively limited pre-service training and ongoing professional development in schools in which teachers often do not autonomously choose to teach.

Despite the scripted training, most Froebelian kindergarten teachers, and many Montessori, Direct Instruction, and Success for All teachers modified these scripts at the classroom level; some Froebelian and Montessori teachers made very overt, substantial changes when the social class backgrounds of the students changed.
Many Froebelian and most Montessori teachers seemed to believe that these scripts helped their students learn.
Direct Instruction and Success for All teachers express more mixed views of these scripts' effectiveness.

Conclusions and Recommendations

This research raises questions about teachers' reactions to scripts.
The examples of Froebelian kindergarten, Montessori, Direct Instruction, and Success for All teachers the author studied suggest that there may be unpredictable contradictions in scripted instruction.

Scripted, autonomously chosen, intensive training may strengthen teacher fidelity and resistance, by giving teachers a deep repertoire of pedagogical skills that some continue to use and others use to autonomously modify scripts in response to students' perceived needs.
Scripted, externally imposed, less extensive training may give some teachers a sense of security but also create tensions between the scripts' perceived effectiveness and the teachers' desires for autonomy, and, for new teachers, between autonomy and the difficulty of independently designing curricula and methods.

The author argues that these reactions suggest that educators in traditional pre-service teacher education programs may want to experiment with offering an autonomous choice of distinctly different instructional models, including scripted ones such as Direct Instruction and Success for All, in which teachers in training in professional learning communities may become deeply skilled.
The author also argues that script developers may want to experiment with giving teachers more explicit autonomy, both in choosing scripts and in modifying them, and more extensive pre-service training.

Updated: Jan. 17, 2017
Comparative analysis | Direct instruction | Kindergarten | Models | Montessori method | Professional Autonomy | Resistance