Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction have become increasingly popular in education due to their useful but familiar teaching strategies that can help enhance student learning. These 10 principles provide a much-needed bridge between scientific research and classroom practices.
From this, he originally proposed 17 principles which he perceived as being key to effective teaching and learning. In 2012, he narrowed this list down to 10 key principles to provide teachers with greater clarity.
Use pair work
Using pair work allows students to test and develop a greater understanding of each other’s opinion and knowledge on a topic. This can be beneficial as it allows students to develop different perspectives on how to approach complex tasks. Research shows that pair work is a great way to promote cognitive restructuring and enhance emotional, social and academic learning.
Use multiple-choice quizzes
Multiple-choice quizzes are a great way for students to practice retrieval when they’ve just learnt something new or complex. This is because they allow students to recognise the correct answer from a set of options rather than requiring them to know it instinctively. Consequently, students learn to recognise and differentiate relevant information from irrelevant information.
Use essay questions
Getting students to write a short response to an essay question from a past paper is another useful retrieval practice technique. Not only does it require students to test the depth of their understanding and perform some analysis, but it also gets students familiar with exam technique.
Use completion tasks
Teachers should usually use completion tasks when students are a little more confident with the topic but still need more practice, as it forces students to interact with the lesson material more closely. In essence, students need to use the information they’ve been provided to solve or complete the task.
Reduce the amount of information on your slides
Present too much information at once and students won’t know what to focus on. This is the basis of the Redundancy Effect. When putting your presentations together, it can be tempting to add a bunch of fancy diagrams, text and animations to keep students engaged but this can actually hinder their learning.
Teachers need to deconstruct the task they want students to complete so the students have a clear understanding of what to do and what is expected of them. Teachers should simplify tasks by breaking them down into step-by-step instructions.
Pre-questions are questions that you ask students before you teach them lesson material. Although this may seem like a redundant thing to do, research shows that students who were asked pre-questions remembered almost 50% more than students who weren’t.
Use wait times
It’s also worth mentioning that it’s not just what you ask, but when you ask the question that matters too. Teachers should ensure they’re providing students with enough time to retrieve the answer from their long-term memory. This serves two purposes:
Research shows that students who ask themselves metacognitive questions such as “How is this similar to a previous task?” or “How can I improve for next time?” whilst completing a task perform better academically. This is because it forces them to think deeply about the material they’ve just learnt, which benefits their long-term memory.
Rosenshine's 6 suggested questions
Need a prompt? Here are 6 questions Rosenshine suggests you use to get your students to think more deeply about their learning and for you to gauge their level of understanding:
But, what if you've asked the best questions you could, and are still met with silence and blank faces? You can't just pick someone every time, especially since participating in class has many benefits for students: it allows them to practise retrieval, develop metacognitive skills and even get better results. It can help you, too, by reducing your stress levels and nurturing a positive culture in your classroom.
Thankfully, Rosenshine thought about that too. He suggested 5 ways to get students to engage with questions in the classroom:
Model your thinking
Research shows that to successfully model a thought process, teachers need to ensure that their thoughts are organised. This way, they can clearly explain their thinking to students rather than confusing them further.
Use Elaborative Interrogation
Getting students to think about the “why” is a great way to ensure information is being transferred to their long-term memory. Questions such as “Why is this the case?” helps students make connections to prior knowledge.
Like in Rosenshine’s fourth principle, teachers can successfully guide student practice by showing students what they’re meant to be doing and in what order. This could be done by using completion tasks, thinking out loud or using Elaborative Interrogation.
Use worked examples
Providing students with some sort of structure, whether it’s a step-by-step guide on how to expand a complex quadratic equation or a writing frame on how to write a paragraph on the themes of a poem, is a great way to ensure students stay on the right track.
The power of “yet”
During this stage of learning, students are going to make mistakes and sometimes struggle; this will be the first time they’re applying their newly-acquired knowledge. Therefore, it’s important to motivate students who may be finding the task difficult so they reframe their “I can’t do this” to “
Ask students to summarise
Paraphrasing or summarising information forces students to determine what information is relevant and what information is irrelevant. This can benefit their memory.
Check students’ responses
Teachers should regularly check in with students to gauge how confident they feel about the topic. This could be done by having students hold up their answer to a question on individual whiteboards with a thumbs up or down to assess individual understanding and confidence in group settings, for example.
Have students acknowledge their successes
Students who acknowledge their successes are more likely to be self-aware of their progress and how far they’ve come. This can serve as a motivational tool that encourages students to push themselves academically.
It’s about balance
It’s a simple case of the Goldilocks Effect: if students’ average success rate is too high, teachers should ensure tasks are more challenging, but if the success rate is too low, teachers should spend more time re-teaching and supporting students.
Have high expectations
Having high expectations is referred to as the Pygmalion Effect, which has emphasised the importance of believing in your students. Students are more likely to rise to high expectations than low expectations.
Model task completion
Showing students what they need to do to successfully complete a task means they are less likely to make common errors or have any misunderstandings about what they’re meant to do.
Use checklists or structure
Providing students with checklists or writing frames whilst they complete a task means they can refer back to it when they get stuck or want to make sure they’ve done everything they’re supposed to.
Ask probing questions
Probing questions are questions that require more detail from students and are usually used to clarify a point or follow-up on an answer a student has already provided to assess the depth of their understandings. Questions such as “Can you explain what you mean by X?” or “What do you think would happen to X if Y happened?” will encourage students to think critically.
Set regular homework tasks
Research shows that students who are set regular homework tasks by their teachers perform better academically than students who aren’t. However, teachers should be careful not to set too much: after the 1-hour mark, homework provides so little benefit it does not justify the extra time.
Focus on the “why?”
Teachers should encourage students to think about the "why" behind factual information; not only does it force them to think more deeply about a topic, it also requires them to build upon and apply their previous learning. By getting into the habit of questioning information, students are more likely to become curious learners and think critically about information.
Beware the Planning Fallacy
The Planning Fallacy is our tendency to underestimate how long it will take us to complete a task. Research which asked students to estimate how long an assignment would take them shows that 70% of students completed theirs significantly later than they thought they would, taking on average 55 days compared to the predicted 34 days. Teachers should set regular deadlines and encourage students to build in some contingency time so they can make the most of their independent practice rather than rushing to complete the task.
Teachers should ask students questions so they can practice retrieval and engage with lesson material more deeply. Pre-questions, wait times, elaborative interrogation and cold-calling are some examples of effective questioning strategies in the classroom.
Flashcards are a great revision tool for students of all ages to review previously learnt information and revise for exams. In one study, 92% of students reported that flashcards helped them learn and 72% of students reported feeling less nervous about their upcoming exams. Teachers should encourage students to make their own, either through pen and paper or online, or create their own set of flashcards for their students to use.
Do weekly and monthly quizzes
Low-stress weekly and monthly quizzes are a great way to monitor student progress as retrieval practice works best when the stakes are low.
Spacing is another effective learning strategy that consists in learning little and often, at regular intervals rather than trying to cram all studying into a single day. One study found that students who had spaced out their revision, on average, performed 33% better on the final test than students who had crammed. The reason why it’s so effective is that leaving time between revision sessions provides students with the opportunity to forget previously learnt material and relearn it, resulting in better memory recall in the long term.
Unlike spacing, which is about the time between knowledge reviews, interleaving is about what students choose to cover during their study sessions. Specifically, interleaving involves mixing up the topics you choose to study within a given subject instead of focusing on the same thing for hours at a time (which is known as “blocking”).
Research has shown just how effective this technique is: it benefits students’ learning by requiring them to make links between different topics and access previous knowledge, leading to better memory recall. One study found that students who interleaved their studying performed 7% better on an exam than students who had used blocking.
Resilience refers to a person’s ability to cope and persevere through unexpected or difficult circumstances. People who can overcome these challenges and barriers are in a better position to deal with setbacks in the future by developing effective coping mechanisms to handle any stress or frustration felt. Students with high resilience are more likely to stay positive, learn from their mistakes and seek feedback on how to do better this time.