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Lit Review: Direct Teaching and Emotional Disorders

The topic that will be examined in the following literature review is that of direct teaching. More specifically, the effects, advantages and disadvantages on students with emotional behavioral disorders will be examined in depth in this post from Ultius as well.

This will, of course, be directed onto the purview of physical education, in all the different forms that takes, although many of the philosophies and conclusions here can be extrapolated. There are a number of intricate elements behind this direct teaching, which might be surprising to some, considering just how salient this mode of teaching is.

Advantages of direct teaching students with emotional behavioral disorders

For starters, one of the core advantages of direct teaching is that it allows for a large amount of flexibility, provided the teacher is able to do so effectively. To that end, there are a number of instructional tools and techniques that can be leveraged in order to improve the overall teaching process for these students that have emotional disorders. One of the most important ways to achieve this is simple: ensure more personalized instruction. This means that having smaller class sizes is one of the most crucial steps to facilitating direct teaching for this purview in particular.

Advantages and disadvantages of direct teaching This table helps to demonstrate some of the ways that direct teaching can improve students, as well as how it can go awry. .

Advantages Disadvantages Teacher’s Role Learner’s Role
Practice Opportunities Difficulty with Feedback Task Planning Follow commands of teacher
New Skill Introduction Student Variation Complicated Lead Students through tasks Learn and develop
Time-Tested Applications Teacher-Centered Provide Feedback
Time efficiency

As this field research mentions, the coach provided simple questions about what it means to be a leader to the students. This, along with providing the students assigned tasks, through the provision of task sheets with clear criteria, proved to be an effective way to implement direct teaching.

This table also mentions some of the key attributes of direct teaching. For one thing, there are a number of advantages that can be leveraged within physical education, along with students with emotional disorders. These include things like increased time efficiency and the introductions of new skills. It is also possible to create time-tested applications as well, further improving this.

In terms of disadvantages, the chart is fairly clear. Feedback is made more difficult through these more limited channels. Further, student variation here tends to be more complicated and can hamper long-term results. Lastly, there is a stark element of it being teacher-centered, which is likely another of the reasons for why student variation is more difficult.

As the chart mentions, the teacher maintains a relatively small number of important roles. For one thing, they must be able to efficiently plan tasks, especially for students with emotional behavioral disorders. Furthermore, they must also be able to lead these students through tasks in an encouraging way. Lastly, they must be able to provide accurate and constructive feedback for students.

In terms of the students’ role in this process, it is simple, but not less important. Their role is to follow the commands of the teacher, in all the forms that can take. These students can also provide feedback, which would go a long way toward improving their own performance (especially when it comes to writing essays), as well as the performance of the teacher. They must also be able to learn and develop effectively, through instruction.

Autism spectrum disorder

One of the most common of these emotional behavioral disorders that can be observed is that of autism spectrum disorder. This is where some of the literature comes into play. According to one article, inclusive, direct teaching, is one of the most effective and important steps here because it stresses adaptation to learning styles (Gunn & Delafield-Butt, 2016). Through the application of this direct teaching style, then, it is possible to be much more inclusive and welcoming.

Direct teaching can also improve the overall abilities and confidence of these individuals by removing restrictions that might be able to be observed between these students with emotional behavioral disorders and the overall learning process here. The concept of restricted interests, as they are called, is one that the research has found can be extremely beneficial if integrated into direct teaching (Gunn & Delafield-Butt, 2016). This is because it enables these students to feel a closer bond with their teacher.

These restricted interests will be able to integrate the students themselves, complete with their unique personality traits, into the direct teaching process. However, another key element can be observed here that alludes to the importance of formulation of these sorts of bonds here: emotional skills modules. As another source points out, these sorts of emotional skills modules are effective largely as a means of improving these aforementioned restricted interests (Datyner, Kimonis, Hunt & Armstrong, 2016). This enables instructors utilizing direct teaching to be able to integrate their curriculum into the minds of these students with emotional behavioral disorders more easily.

Empirically-supported interventions for students with emotional behavioral disorders

Another important dimension to this concept is that of empirically-supported interventions. According to this same literature, these sorts of interventions have the potential to ameliorate many of the most salient of these callous-unemotional traits, including that of a lack of empathy or guilt, as is all too common in students with autism, and leads to long-term success more easily (Datyner et al., 2016). The key element here is that these sorts of approaches are by far the most effective when implemented within the context of direct teaching.

This is because those using direct teaching are able to be much more efficient with the integration of these sorts of elements, meaning that the overall instruction for other students need not necessarily suffer as a result here. To that end, creating various skill modules will be extremely effective when it comes to allowing the students to overcome some of the objective challenges, especially those that place a major emphasis on thinking and emotional reasoning abilities (Datyner et al., 2016). This will eventually be done without supervision, which helps to encapsulate just what direct teaching is all about, improving students to be self-sufficient.

This is another reason for why direct teaching is such an effective tool for this subset in particular. There are many more specific tools that can be leveraged by these teachers here, including that of Coaching and Rewarding Emotional Skills, or CARES (Datyner et al., 2016). The treatment here facilitates short-term improvements to increase the amount of empathic reasoning that these students are able to put forth, allowing for increased emotional recognition through CARES (Datyner et al., 2016). This might seem to be out of the purview of practitioners of direct teaching, but it actually enables changes and improvements to be made much more easily.

Bringing parents into a student with emotional behavioral disorder’s education

Integrating the parents into the educational process has long been a standby of direct teaching, but this source emphasizes its importance even more. Indeed, it states that adjunctive interventions that increase socio-emotional behaviors are one key concept that can, and should, be implemented into direct teaching more readily (Datyner et al., 2016). Through implementation of these sorts of concepts, it becomes possible for teachers and, by extension, the parents themselves, to take a more proactive role in the development of their students.

Simply because a teacher is utilizing this direct teaching, though, does not mean that it is not possible for them to implement other concepts in order to better aid the students that they are teaching. In this particular case, these teachers are making use of direct teaching, but should also be making use of emotion regulation, particularly for those students that have behavioral disorders.

This is because this emotion regulation allows for these students to be able to integrate with society much more easily. For instance, according to another of the pieces of literature here, a lack of proper emotion regulation was correlated with antisocial behavior as well as an overall lack of an ability for the student to function properly in society (Berkovits, Eisenhower & Blacher, 2017). As a result, these elements of emotion regulation have emerged as prominent and integral components for the direct teaching process.

The idea behind integration of these elements of emotion regulation into direct teaching is to ensure that these students are going to avoid the snowball effect of problems that can so oftentimes arise if these students are not given the help that they need. Of course, teachers are not psychologists, and for this reason, they will not integrate deeper solutions. The philosophy here, then, is simple, students who are experiencing these issues are not going to be able to learn effectively. Therefore, reducing the impact of these issues will improve their cognition and maximize their chances for success.

Of course, this is much easier said than done, and emotion regulation, in particular, can be an extremely difficult component because it requires such a heavy-handed examination of one’s emotional state at many different levels. Age, for example, is a prevalent component of the judgment of one’s emotional state, necessitating long-term solutions that can set the stage for success (Berkovits, Eisenhower & Blacher, 2017). Understanding these various demographic factors is the key to success.

Addressing physical education for students with emotional behavioral disorders

When it comes to physical education, there are a number of elements of cognitive conflict, as they are referred to, and direct teaching serves to improve these elements in a number of core ways. For one thing, according to another source, cognitive conflict can actually be effective in the sense that it increases the level of interaction between the students and teacher (Zohar & Aharon-Kravetsky, 2005). When thinking about it in this way, it might be tempting to assume that teacher, in this sense, is simply a classroom teacher.

However, on the contrary, there are a number of these examples that can be observed wherein the teacher is actually a gym teacher or similar physical education instructor. What is particularly interesting here is that many of these same concepts of direct teaching and learning, including for students that have some sort of emotional behavioral disorder, are present here as well.

This makes it much more important to interact directly with students for direct teaching, as its name might imply, and this is because of the myriad of ways that teaching can be done. As this same source points out, challenging the overall perception of students, even when it might seem counterintuitive to do so, has been routinely linked with student achievement (Zohar & Aharon-Kravetsky, 2005). Again, these elements are not merely limited to physical education, but many different purviews of direct teaching.

Feedback can be critical to teachers of distressed students

Feedback is an important component of this direct teaching style, both within and without of the purview of physical education. According to another source, this feedback is important because it allows for the reinforcement of the subject matter, or changing it, if necessary (Mosston& Ashworth, 2002). Furthermore, it also allows for the self-concept of these individual students to be shaped over time (Mosston & Ashworth, 2002). The simple fact of the matter here is that this feedback is key for long-term success in physical education when it comes to these students with emotional disorders.

Understanding the four feedback categories is also effective when it comes to improving the physical education process via direct teaching. For instance, providing positive judgment words for these students with emotional problems could be a useful way of ensuring that they are aware of the progress that they are making, as this source points out (Mosston & Ashworth, 2002). This can take the form of simply telling the student that they performed well. These value statements, then, are perhaps the single most important of these feedback categories because of their flexibility.

Not all feedback need be this way, though. Indeed, the use of corrective statements is another of these elements that will enable these students with some sort of emotional issue to be able to better succeed both within physical education, and in general. As this same source points out, these corrective statements can identify an error and provide a simple avenue toward correction (Mosston & Ashworth, 2002). It is easy to see how this can set the stage for long-term development within these students, especially when they are experiencing a great deal of uncertainty about their abilities.

Neutral statements are another tool that direct teachers can leverage in order to improve their overall performance and, by extension, the performance of their students. This article mentions that neutral statements can take many forms, such as that of descriptive and nonjudgmental statements (Mosston & Ashworth, 2002). Through these statements, it becomes much easier to understand just what is expected of the student, and how they can improve themselves, in turn.

Ambiguous statements can help with confidence in emotional students

Lastly, it is necessary to take a look at what are known as ambiguous statements. These are fairly self-explanatory. As the article mentions, though, these statements help to provide a feeling of warmth and acceptance for the student (Mosston & Ashworth, 2002). For those that have some sort of emotional behavioral disorder, this sense of acceptance can be the difference between success and failure for them. In this regard, these sorts of ambiguous statements can and should be utilized early and often in order to ensure that physical education, or any subject, for that matter, can be learned effectively.

Ultimately, the findings of the various articles here are consistent with what has been observed in the field. Although their overall purviews are different, it is clear that the fundamentals of direct teaching remain effective no matter the context. It enables these students to become more confident and, by extension, more effective at physical education, despite their emotional behavioral disorders. As such, the field research is consistent with the literature findings.


Berkovits, L., Eisenhower, A., & Blacher, J. (2017). Emotion regulation in young children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 47(1), 68-79.

Datyner, A., Kimonis, E. R., Hunt, E., & Armstrong, K. (2016). Using a novel emotional skills module to enhance empathic responding for a child with conduct disorder with limited prosocial emotions. Clinical Case Studies, 15(1), 35-52.

Gunn, K. C., & Delafield-Butt, J. T. (2016). Teaching children with autism spectrum disorder with restricted interests: A review of evidence for best practice. Review of Educational Research, 86(2), 408-430.

Mosston, M., & Ashworth, S. (2002). Teaching physical education, 5th Ed. Boston: Benjamin

Zohar, A., & Aharon‐Kravetsky, S. (2005). Exploring the effects of cognitive conflict and direct teaching for students of different academic levels. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42(7), 829-855.

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