When we talk about the teaching methods that work best for children with learning difficulties, we use the term explicit instruction and contrast it with implicit instruction. But what exactly do these terms mean?
Typical classroom teaching exposes children to words and reading materials without pointing out patterns in the reading material and without directing the students toward a specific goal. This is called implicit instruction and children who do not have language-learning problems will easily discover the patterns for themselves. But children who are dyslexic or have other neuro-linguistic challenges will not see the patterns or understand the purpose of the reading materials.
Explicit instruction, on the other hand, will offer the very same materials along with guidance on goals and expectations for the task, as well as examples, practice and feedback. With that additional framework and practice, a child with language-learning problems, such as dyslexia, can keep pace with his or her peers at grade level.
We might say that implicit learning is unconscious or intuitive, while explicit learning is conscious and directed.
The National Reading Panel, which studies the effectiveness of various approaches to teaching children how to read, suggests that explicit instruction can also boost comprehension for all types of learners: “…explicit or formal instruction in the application of comprehension strategies has been shown to be highly effective in enhancing understanding.”
Further information available from American National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)