The End of an Era – Siegfried Engelmann

Zig Engelmann, Creator of Direct Instruction, has passed away.

Zig Engelmann created the Direct Instruction system of instruction. Direct Instruction placed first in every category in Project Follow Through, the longest, most exhaustive, most expensive, comparative research project ever conducted in the education of children at risk of school failure in the United States.

Zig was a fierce defender of children. “If the student didn’t learn, the teacher didn’t teach”. But he never blamed the teachers. He blamed their lack of effective training of proven methods. He blamed the colleges and universities who refused to look at the effective research. And he soldiered on, writing books and programs that were far superior to anything in the field.

He understood the other giants in the field of education, like B.F Skinner and Jean Piaget and often crossed swords with them. He understood their brilliance, but was critical of their lack of appropriate instructional design which allowed a student to accept more than one interpretation of a concept or operation and thus become confused. Without doubt, he was the premier instructional designer of education for the past few centuries and most likely well into the future.

I was fortunate to know Zig personally. He was my early trainer and mentor. He worked with me as a consultant in my public school district, sent me his staff as trainers, stayed at my home, broke bread and talked into the wee hours. I’m not sure he ever slept.

In my view, Zig’s work has never been given its due. In fact, quite the opposite. Two years ago, the What Works consortium, America’s national distribution source for all things educational, stopped disseminating the Follow Through data because it was more than 20 years old. Science now has a best-before date.

North America has lost its most able educator at a time when the effectiveness of schools continues to decline. This situation could be reversed, but all of the historical precedents indicate otherwise. Who wants change?- we do, we do!! Who wants to change? – silence.

Thank you Zig for everything you have done and for the children you have helped. You are already being missed.

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