Part 2 - Principles of Instruction Rosenshine's principles, perfect for any teacher's toolkit - Mr T Beattie Harris Academy

This is the second instalment of my thinking on Barak Rosenshine's principle's of instruction. You can read Part 1 here.

As previously shared, Barak Rosenshine's work has contributed immensely to the world of education, his research has a clear focus on learning and teaching; how teachers instruct pupils, how pupils attain and achieve and how teachers perform. After reading his article on 10 research-based principles of instruction, I thought to myself that if I were to implement some of this work into what I do in the classroom, it could definitely make me a better teacher.

I am going to take a snapshot and explore some of his principles over the next few weeks. All ten are definitely worth looking into, so take some time and read his complete article at your own speed now in American Educator.

SIX - Check for student understanding, this will help students learn new material with fewer errors.

I am a fan of crime drama on TV. Over the years there have been many detectives that have graced our screens and worked their way across a library of books. John Luther, Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Inspector Morse, Veronica Mars and even Scooby Doo are amongst the greats. I've always fancied myself as a bit of a detective but found teaching as a higher calling. One that I just couldn't resist. However, Rosenshine's principles might have just allowed me to realise my dreams (whilst also still ply my craft in the classroom)!

Classroom teachers need to be detectives. Checking for student understanding needs to be our bread and butter... Rosenshine explains that during his observations less effective teachers simply asked pupils "Are there any questions?", they then simply assumed students understood or had learned the material and continued on with the learning. NO, no, no, no and no. I am just imagining Sherlock Holmes asking the evil villain if he had committed the crime, the villain says no, so Holmes acceptedly nods his head and continues on his merry way to the next suspect.

This is your opportunity to be a detective in the classroom, and the best detective work involves good questioning.

Effective classroom practice should mean that you ask questions, different types of questions, many questions, ask students to summarise what they have learnt up to that point, ask pupils whether they agree or disagree with their peers, why they are taking that stance or argument, create wobble, use minimal encouragers and the list goes on. Rosenshine explains that this type of checking has two purposes.

  1. Answering the questions might cause the students to elaborate on the material that they have learned and augment connections to other learning in their long term memory.
  2. This will alert the teacher to when parts of the material need to be retaught.
less effective teachers simply asked pupils "Are there any questions?", they then simply assumed students understood or had learned the material and continued on

When left to their own devices students often make errors as they begin to connect bits of understanding together. A pupil will often construct a mental summary of what they have been learning, an overview if you like and these overviews often need teacher intervention to make sure they are correct. Any whole is only as strong as its weakest link - just ask anyone that has tried to run with a broken toe. As Rosenshine argues however, it might be a little harsh to call these overviews errors, as they are really just attempts by the students to be logical in an area where their background knowledge is weak. But that's were mistakes creep in. Hence, why our job as a teacher is so important. We need to do the detective work to check for errors in learning. We need to be actively reviewing the learning...and as highlighted in some of Rosenshine's other principles, we can also try to ensure that the background knowledge pupils have is not only error free, but has more depth and strength by teaching in small steps and guiding the practice as highlighted in the earlier steps.

From Rosenshine's principles of instruction
SEVEN - Obtain a high success rate during classroom instruction.

This might just be the million dollar question in teaching...How do teachers obtain a high success rate during classroom instruction. The answer seems to be short, simple and too good to be true.

Rosenshine highlights that the most effective teachers obtained a high success rate by;

  • teaching in small steps
  • giving plenty of supervised practice
  • allow time for individual practice on each part before moving on to the next step.
  • ...The most effective teachers also constantly checked for understanding and required responses from all pupils.


EIGHT - Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks.

Scaffolding comes in many shapes and sizes. This summer I had the joy of using some scaffolding in order to replace a concrete lintel, under an upstairs bedroom window at my mother in laws house. I was maybe only about 15 feet of the ground, but without the support of the scaffolding I was never getting myself or the concrete lintel of the ground. In my opinion the scaffolding we use in the classroom can have the same impact...it can support getting the learning off the ground. Temporary supports and scaffolds are needed for difficult tasks, but they go beyond that, one thing scaffolding has really helped me with is clarity for my learners in my teaching. Especially with worked examples and the WAGOLL (What a good one looks like). There is such a benefit for the pupil in giving them expert models to compare their work to. I have found this works a treat.

without the support of the scaffolding I was never getting myself or the concrete lintel of the ground. In my opinion the scaffolding we use in the classroom can have the same impact...it can support getting the learning off the ground.

There are a plethora of ways to scaffold learning inside the classroom. Rosenshines research mentions a few;

From Rosenshine's principles of instruction

In terms of a knowledge organiser for RMPS I use tablemats. The general idea and especially the idea behind the first tablemat can be adapted to any kind of learning though. You can have a read here... it might be useful in your subject area.

NINE -Require and monitor independent practice.

To gain mastery in any learning, pupils need extensive independent practice. Effective teachers need to facilitate this and monitor it. The research is pretty straightforward, "independent practice is necessary because a good deal of practice (overlearning) is needed in order to become fluent and automatic in a skill. When material is overlearned it can be recalled automatically and doesn't take up any space in working memory...Independent practice provides students with the additional review and elaboration they need to become fluent".

This is all about loneliness. Open up space and time for your pupils and then allow them to...practice, practice, practice and practice some more.
From Rosenshine's principles of instruction
TEN - Engage students in weekly and monthly review.

Once a pupil learns something in our classroom, to embed that learning we need to review that learning. Rosenshine elaborates, explaining that an example of one way to do this is "to review the previous weeks work every Monday and the previous months work every fourth Monday. Some effective teachers even gave tests after their reviews...These reviews and tests provided the additional practice students needed, to become skilled, successful performers who could apply their knowledge and skills in new areas".

I love the learning scientists website, it has some great resources, resources that you can use and also share with your pupils. Their work on spaced practice brings some pragmatism and practical clarity to this principle. You can find their poster for spaced practice here, it complements Rosenshine's tenth principle like maple syrup does bacon, or Abercrombie does fitch, or...you get the picture.

As always I hope this is useful. Please get in touch with any helpful ways you have been applying Rosenshine's principles in your classroom, I'd love to hear from you ddtbeattie520@glow.sch.uk


Created with images by geralt - "board learn training" • Emily Morter - "untitled image" • TeroVesalainen - "thumbs up okay good" • Ricardo Gomez Angel - "untitled image" • wgbieber - "stadium football viewers" • Maddi Bazzocco - "untitled image"

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