What are Rosenshine’s Ten Principles of Instruction?

Dec 7, 2023 | Teaching

What are Rosenshine’s Ten Principles of Instruction?

by Drew Perkins, Director of ThoughtStretchers Education

Barak Rosenshine’s Ten Principles of Instruction have evolved over several decades and are grounded in educational research and practice. Rosenshine, an American educational psychologist, developed these principles based on his extensive work in the field of instructional design and effective teaching. The principles have become influential in shaping teaching practices and have been widely cited and adapted in various educational contexts, especially by advocates of direct and explicit instruction.

The principles themselves were not introduced as a cohesive set initially. Instead, they emerged gradually from Rosenshine’s research and observations of effective teaching practices. Over time, he identified key strategies and instructional techniques that consistently led to positive learning outcomes. The principles were formally presented in Rosenshine’s paper titled “Principles of Instruction: A Theory of Teaching” in 2010. This paper brought together his extensive research and outlined the ten principles that encapsulate effective instructional strategies for educators.

What Are The 10 Principles?

1. Begin with a short review of previous learning:

At the heart of Rosenshine’s principles lies the idea of building on prior knowledge. A quick review not only refreshes students’ memories but also sets the stage for connecting new information to existing mental frameworks. This principle acknowledges the importance of anchoring new concepts in a familiar context, facilitating a smoother transition to more complex ideas.

2. Present new material in small steps with student practice:

Breaking down new content into manageable chunks is a cornerstone of effective instruction. By introducing information incrementally, educators allow students to grasp and practice each component before moving forward. This principle recognizes the cognitive load that learners can handle at a time, promoting deeper understanding through step-by-step assimilation.

3. Ask a large number of questions and check the responses of all students:

The power of questioning cannot be overstated in the learning process. By posing a multitude of questions, educators engage students in active thinking, fostering participation and gauging comprehension. This principle advocates for inclusivity, ensuring that every student’s understanding is assessed and addressed.

4. Provide models:

Learning is often enhanced through observation and emulation. By offering clear models, educators provide students with exemplars to follow, aiding in the development of skills and strategies. This principle emphasizes the importance of visualizing success and providing a reference point for learners to aspire to.

5. Guide student practice:

Practice is key to mastery, and this principle underscores the role of guided practice in the learning journey. Educators play a crucial part in scaffolding students’ efforts, providing support and feedback as they navigate through exercises. Guided practice ensures that students develop skills accurately and efficiently.

6. Check for understanding frequently and correct errors:

Assessment isn’t just a post-learning event; it’s an ongoing process. Frequent checks for understanding allow educators to identify misconceptions early on and provide timely corrections. This principle reinforces the idea that learning is an iterative process, with constant feedback shaping the path to mastery.

7. Obtain a high success rate:

Success breeds confidence and motivation. Ensuring a high success rate during practice builds students’ self-efficacy and encourages a positive attitude towards learning. This principle recognizes the psychological impact of success on the learning experience, fostering a sense of accomplishment and fueling further engagement.

8. Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks:

Not all tasks are created equal, and some may require additional support. This principle advocates for the strategic use of scaffolds—tools or frameworks that assist students in tackling challenging tasks. By gradually removing these supports, educators guide learners towards independent mastery.

9. Require and monitor independent practice:

Independence is a vital skill in lifelong learning. This principle emphasizes the transition from guided practice to independent application. Educators need to monitor and encourage students as they apply newly acquired knowledge and skills on their own, fostering a sense of autonomy in the learning process.

10. Engage students in weekly and monthly review:

Regular reviews consolidate learning and combat the forgetting curve. This principle acknowledges the necessity of revisiting previously covered material, promoting long-term retention. Weekly and monthly reviews help solidify knowledge, ensuring that it becomes ingrained in students’ memory.

Rosenshine’s Ten Principles Condensed into Four Strands

In their 2019 book, Rosenshine’s Principles in Action, Tom Sherrington and Oliver Caviglioli (recent guests on this episode of our ThoughtStretchers Podcast, Essential Teaching Techniques) distilled these principles into four essential strands, each weaving together key elements of Rosenshine’s wisdom.

Strand 1: Sequencing Concepts and Modeling (Principles 1 and 10):

The first strand revolves around the strategic sequencing of concepts and the power of modeling. Aligning with Rosenshine’s principles 1 and 10, this strand emphasizes the importance of a short review of previous learning and engaging students in weekly and monthly reviews. Through intentional sequencing and modeling, educators pave the way for a structured learning journey, ensuring that each concept builds upon the last.

Strand 2: Questioning (Principles 3 and 6):

The second strand, Questioning, is a dynamic interplay of curiosity and assessment. Rooted in Rosenshine’s principles 3 and 6, this strand underscores the significance of asking a large number of questions and checking for understanding frequently. Through thoughtful questioning, educators foster active participation, encouraging students to articulate their thoughts while providing a continuous gauge of comprehension.

Strand 3: Reviewing Material (Principles 2, 4, and 8):

Strand 3 is dedicated to the art of reviewing material, blending principles 2, 4, and 8. Here, educators guide students through the process of reviewing previous learning, providing models, and offering scaffolds for challenging tasks. By intertwining these principles, this strand ensures that the journey of learning is not just forward-looking but also grounded in a solid understanding of foundational concepts.

Strand 4: Stages of Practice (Principles 5, 7, and 9):

The fourth and final strand, Stages of Practice, encompasses principles 5, 7, and 9. It acknowledges the importance of guided and independent practice, as well as the need for scaffolds in tackling difficult tasks. By recognizing the different stages of practice, educators empower students to navigate their learning journey—from structured guidance to autonomous application.

Why These Principles Are Important

While there is a spectrum of desirable educational outcomes those teaching with intent should identify and pursue, these strands weave together the timeless principles of Rosenshine with the contemporary insights of Sherrington in a way that can be very helpful in achieving changes in long-term memory and building of important knowledge.

In our inquiry-based and project based learning workshops we advocate for inquiry exercises and collaborative activities as part of building surface, deep, and transfer learning but we must acknowledge the importance of direct and explicit instruction as part of this process. Rosenshine’s Ten Principles are a great tool for educators striving to create impactful learning experiences. By integrating these principles into their teaching practices, educators can build a foundation that promotes understanding, engagement, and independent learning.


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