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Rosenshine's seventh Principle of Instruction: high success rates

Rosenshine’s seventh Principle of Instruction: High success rates

4 min read
  • Rosenshine’s Principles

If you are not already familiar with Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction, we’ve given a brief rundown of what his research suggests here.

For his 7th principle, Rosenshine believed that teachers should be obtaining high success rates from their students during classroom instruction. By having high success rates for tasks set during lesson time, students will perform better when practising alone as a result.

Let’s take a closer look at the research…

What does Rosenshine say?

Rosenshine suggests that the optimal success rate a teacher should strive for is 80%. This is because an 80% success rate highlights that student are understanding material and effective learning is taking place, but it also shows that student understanding is being challenged.

If students were consistently getting 90-100% on their tasks and assessments, it may indicate that the material is too easy. In contrast, the overarching benchmark of 80% highlights that student learning is predominantly error-free and students are more confident in their academic ability.

One of the most common misconceptions about motivation and success is that the former leads to the latter. But the reverse is also true. By obtaining a high success rate, we increase feelings of mastery and confidence, which serve to boost future motivation for the task.

What does the research say?

When assessing students’ individual work and oral responses to class discussions, Rosenshine found that the most effective fourth-grade math teachers had a student success rate of 82%. On the other hand, the least effective math teachers only had success rates of 73%.

What separated the most successful teachers from the rest is that they presented information in small steps, regularly checked student understanding throughout lessons, asked questions and monitored independent practice closely. They also placed greater emphasis on identifying misunderstanding early on so students did not practice making errors by getting too much wrong.

It is interesting to note that this benchmark of around 80% is not an exact figure, and as with all things regarding psychology and learning, there is wiggle room, nuance and context is needed. However, it is interesting to note that other research on constructing the ideal multiple choice exam has also found that this 80% benchmark seems to indicate a sweet-spot, which mean it may be worth considering.

Help your staff understand the research behind Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction, and how to apply them in the classroom.

Practical implications in the classroom

So how do you apply this to the classroom? Let’s take a closer look…

Have high expectations

Rosenshine emphasised that having a high success rate relied on all students achieving at least 80%, not just a minority of students carrying the class average. It is important that your expectations apply to all your students.

Research shows that having high teacher expectations can significantly improve academic achievement. This is often referred to as the Pygmalion Effect which is when people raise their achievement in order to live up to someone else’s high standards and expectations. On the other end of the spectrum is the Golem Effect, which shows how having low expectations of your students can hinder their performance.

It’s about balance

Achieving a success rate of 80% also relies on teachers observing and regularly assessing their students’ knowledge to determine whether lesson plans need to be altered in any way.

If your students aren’t performing well academically, then it may be worth dedicating more time to re-modelling and re-teaching information so they can develop stronger foundational knowledge of the topic.

On the other hand, if the success rate is too high, you may need to challenge students by making assessments harder, asking them to engage in more critical thinking, or provide them with ample opportunities to learn independently.

Have students acknowledge their successes

Part of this principle is based upon the emotional and motivational boost students will get when they achieve success. It is probably also in part based on the importance of learning information on a deep and fundamental level, so that it could be built on later. Therefore, it is important that students are aware of their successes in order to get the most benefit from them.

Final thoughts

Tangibly demonstrating high expectations in the classroom is necessary if you want to cultivate an environment where students will more readily meet the 80% success rate threshold Rosenshine proposes.

Student success should be constantly monitored to see how well they are engaging with syllabus content. If you find your students are struggling, asking more questions, modelling thought processes, and providing scaffolding tasks are a great way to start.

Read our complete guide to Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction…