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A brief guide to Rosenshine's 10 Principles of Instruction

A brief guide to Rosenshine’s 10 Principles of Instruction

7 min read
  • Rosenshine’s Principles

Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction are becoming increasingly popular in education (with good reason). So, we wanted to provide a one-stop introductory brief outline of what they are, the rationale behind them and what they may look like in the classroom.

Rosenshine’s Principles combines three distinct research areas (cognitive science, classroom practices, cognitive support) and how they complement each other by addressing how:

  • People learn and acquire new information
  • Master teachers implement effective classroom strategies
  • Teachers can support students whilst learning complex material

Initially, Rosenshine proposed 17 principles. But in 2012, he revised it down to 10 principles that should implement into everyday teaching for simplicity and clarity. So let’s explore those 10 principles in a bit more detail…

Rosenshines 10 principles of instruction

Rosenshine’s 10 Principles of Instruction

What are Rosenshine’s 10 Principles of Instruction?

1. Begin a lesson with a short review of previous learning

Rosenshine suggests devoting between five and eight minutes every day, preferably at the start of a lesson, to review previous learning. As our cognitive load is quite small, if we don’t review previous learning, then us trying to remember old information will get in the way of us trying to learn new information.

By dedicating a short period each lesson to reviewing and evaluating previous academic performance, students will ultimately perform better. This is because students will develop a more in-depth understanding of syllabus material, make connections between topics, and enhance their critical thinking skills.

This could be though self-marking homework, correcting mistakes from the previous lesson, getting students to go over what they found difficult or asking them what they remember about the topic so far.

Read more about Rosenshine’s first Principle of Instruction…

2. Present new material in small steps with student practice

Cognitive Load Theory explains how our working memory has a limited capacity. So, if students are presented with too much information at once, the brain suffers from something known as overload. This causes the learning process to slow down or even stop since the brain can no longer process all the information being presented at that one time.

As a result, this principle suggests that information should be presented in small steps. This can be done by removing any irrelevant material from your lesson plan and just focusing on what your students need to know.

Read more about Rosenshine’s second Principle of Instruction…

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

Engaging in effective questioning techniques is one of the most powerful tools a teacher can use to enhance student learning and encourage them to explore a topic in more depth. Questions allow teachers to:

  • Establish how well a class is engaging with material
  • Determine whether to dedicate more time to explore a topic
  • Improve their students’ metacognition
  • Encourage their students to be inquisitive themselves
  • Enhance student learning by requiring them to practice retrieval

Rosenshine himself suggested 6 question templates that you can use to get your students to think more deeply about their learning as well as gauge their level of understanding. These are:

  • “What is the main idea of …?”
  • “What are the strengths and weaknesses of …?”
  • “How does this tie in with what we have learnt before?”
  • “Which one is the best … and why?”
  • “Do you agree or disagree with this statement: …?”
  • “What do you still not understand about …?”

Read more about Rosenshine’s third Principle of Instruction…

4. Provide models

Providing a way for students to make connections and links within their learning not only enhances their memory recall, but also allows them to understand new information quickly. You can do this by providing your students with the appropriate support.

Worked examples, demonstrating how to solve a problem, and thinking aloud are all modelling strategies that teachers can use to aid student learning. This is because it allows students to focus on the specific task at hand, reducing the overall demand on their cognitive load.

Read more about Rosenshine’s fourth Principle of Instruction…

5. Guide student practice

We don’t necessarily think that practice makes perfect, but it certainly helps.

This principle highlights the importance of providing students with enough time to ask questions, practise retrieval, or get the help they need. It’s not enough for a student to learn information once, they have to keep rehearsing it through summarising, evaluating, or applying this knowledge. If teachers rush this process, then students’ memory on lesson material will be diminished.

Read more about Rosenshine’s fifth Principle of Instruction…

6. Check for student understanding

The sixth principle may be the most important of the ten, as getting it right allows you to implement the other nine effectively. We’ve explained why we think this here…

Take intermittent periods throughout the lesson to stop and gauge whether students are understanding the learning material. This can be done by asking students to summarise the information, asking questions about the material, what their opinion is, or asking them to make a presentation.

By stopping every now and then, you can identify any misunderstandings students may have and clarify any points that your students are still struggling with. As a result, when you’re ready to move on to the next topic, students have a clear foundation for their learning.

Read more about Rosenshine’s sixth Principle of Instruction…

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7. Obtain a high success rate

Research suggests that teachers who utilised effective teaching strategies were more likely to have students with higher academic success rates as evidenced by the work produced. Rosenshine suggests that the optimal success rate teachers should strive for is 80% (coincidentally, a similar rate of optimal success when using multiple-choice tests). These success rates show that although challenged, students still understood and learnt new material.

Read more about Rosenshine’s seventh Principle of Instruction…

8. Provide scaffolding for difficult tasks

When introducing students to more complex material, Rosenshine suggests utilising scaffolding in your lessons. Scaffolding is when teachers facilitate students’ gradual mastery of a concept or skill by gradually reducing teacher assistance. There is a shift of responsibility over the learning process from the teacher to the student. The temporary support it provides helps students reach higher levels of skill acquisition and comprehension that would have not been possible without assistance.

To use scaffolding effectively in the classroom, consider:

  • Asking your students questions to check for understanding
  • Using prompts such as “why” and “how” to help with retrieval
  • Breaking a big task into smaller sections
  • Proving students with worked examples or checklists they can refer to

Read more about Rosenshine’s eighth Principle of Instruction…

9. Require and monitor independent practice

Although scaffolding is important, your students should also be able to complete tasks independently and take responsibility for their own learning. Developing independent learners is important as it helps students to stay motivated and improve their academic performance.

By practising a task over and over again in their own time (or “overlearning”), students develop greater fluency and automaticity in the skill they’re trying to learn. By overlearning a topic, students can recall this information automatically, keeping the space in their cognitive load free for new learning.

You can develop independent learners in your classroom by encouraging students to:

Read more about Rosenshine’s ninth Principle of Instruction…

10. Engage students in weekly and monthly review

The final principle is an extension of the first, but involves spacing out reviews of previous learning over weekly and monthly timeframes. This combination of spacing and retrieval is a strategy called successive relearning which involves spacing out the use of retrieval practice techniques on several occasions over time, until a certain level of mastery has been achieved (I.e. correctly retrieved from memory multiple times).

Successive relearning ensures students relearn content and maintain the ability to correctly retrieve this information. This allows them to make connections between new information and old knowledge, enhancing their understanding of a topic. Setting your students weekly homework tasks, asking them to complete a monthly reflection, or doing a quiz each month are all effective ways of implementing this learning strategy into the classroom.

Read more about Rosenshine’s tenth Principle of Instruction…

The cognitive science behind Rosenshine principles

The cognitive science behind Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction

What is the science underpinning Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction?

It is the fact that they are rooted in research that make Rosenshine’s Principles so effective. Specifically, they interlink with seven areas of cognitive science we think every teacher should know about – here is what that looks like:

If that looks complicated, don’t worry – we wrote a full rundown of the links between these areas and Rosenshine’s Principles.

Final thoughts

What may seem like common sense at first glance is actually underpinned by a vast range of scientific research married with best practice. These principles are not intended to be seen as a checklist or requirement. Instead, they offer a framework or guidelines on how we may best help our students learn.

Want to learn more about each principle and how to use them in the classroom? We offer CPD workshops – click on the links below to find out more about:

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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