DIPs – Diagnostic Instructional Protocols

A Diagnostic Instructional Protocol is a generalized study guide which is not unique to a particular topical assignment, but outlines a set of conceptual relationships that underlie an entire category or class of such assignments.  Thus a DIP can be used for assessment purposes and as a basis for instruction.

DIPs Overview and Examples A

Here is an introduction to DIPs and a set of examples which include the following:

  • vocabulary
  • math problem solving
  • recipe
  • science experiment
  • sewing
  • arts and crafts

DIPs Examples B
Here is an additional set of examples on the following topics:

  • foreign language lesson
  • narrative (story) form
  • biography or autobiography
  • social studies
  • reading a poem
  • human geography
  • science
  • individual sports


Many, if not most, content teachers do the same standard presentation for each unit of material and for each class of students.  Thus they have no procedure for differentiating the strengths and needs of individual students, which could lead to more targeted and effective instruction.

The “DIP” monograph describes a successful strategy developed in collaboration with several content teachers to deal with this problem easily.  There is a simple teacher-developed diagnostic procedure.   The results are used to make instruction more effective.

Introduction to DIPs

DIP examples set A

DIPs examples set B

Toyota Toyolet


What’s with the picture?  Well, there’s a story…. First, the setting:  January, 1992, Seoul, Korea.

The building held our apartment; the car, a 1968 Toyota Toyolet classic (where the story comes in), was our assigned vehicle to use during the 4 months we were in Seoul teaching in a graduate program for the U.S. Air Force.

The Toyolet was a very large, luxurious vehicle.  We were told it had been planned to compete with the large luxury American sedans of that era.  That is, until someone discretely pointed out the name might present a problem.  It was suddenly decided to restrict the sales of those produced to the domestic Japanese market, and plans for its export to the U.S. withdrawn.

However, many were enjoyed for many years in Japan and Korea.  We enjoyed ours, but had to be very careful with it because of its size relative to local vehicles.

The Primacy of Direct Experience – The Dangers of Over-Protection: An Example

Joe, at eight was of at least average intelligence.  However, despite various attempts at intervention, he was also a non-reader of any kind of text.

I tried basic, introductory mostly – picture books.  Joe could not relate the contents of the pictures to the few, simple concrete word labels on the same page in any way.  His vision had been checked; it was fine.

After thinking about it further, I tried a book with no text and clearly drawn colored pictures with many concrete details.  In the instance that gave me the crucial clue, the book lay open with the picture on the left showing the shelves of a grocery store, on the right what to me was obviously a hardware store.  I asked Joe to tell me about the picture on the left.  Silence.  “This picture on the right?”  Silence.  “How is each picture like the other?”  Silence, with a shake of the head.  “How is this one different from that one?”  Silence, and another head shake.  “What kind of a place is this? – This?”  “I don’t know, I’ve never seen them before.”

I then asked Joe to tell me what he had done that school day, from the time he had gotten out of bed.  To summarize, he’d spent his time at home, to and from school, and after school being “done for” by doting affluent adult family members and servants.  He was the only child in a very large estate in which all of his choices were made for him, from food to clothing to toys to (mostly passive) activities.  He wasn’t allowed to play with other children (“none near or suitable”), was driven to and from school by the family chauffeur, was allowed to watch carefully selected and supervised TV.

Joe had never climbed a tree nor had ever been in a grocery – or any other kind of store.  He had been pampered, coddled, over-protected and essentially treated as a kind of human pet by his surrounding tribe of adults.

I worked on changing family behavior and attitudes toward their providing opportunities for direct, basic physical and social experiences from tree-climbing to exploring stores to play dates to getting a dog for him to care for.

I asked Joe to describe these activities to me; I’d record his words and he would sketch what he’d seen.  His own words describing his experiences became his “reading texts”.

Within a year Joe was back in school, reading and achieving generally at an average level for his age – and, at least as important, climbing trees and romping with his dog.