Rosenshine’s 10 Research-Based Principles of Teaching

Rosenshine’s 10 Research-Based Principles of Teaching

By: Matt Ehlers

While most of this issue is on evidence-based learning strategies, Barak Rosenshine spent most of his career identifying research-based teaching strategies. Let us look at those as well. Rosenshine wrote several good articles on Evidence-Based Teaching, including (this, this, and this), and made the point in an interview that novices and experts learn differently. He advises that beginners should be taught using direct instruction (although experiential-style approaches are OK after the students know the material), while experts can be taught using less direct methods where the teacher acts as a facilitator.

Rosenshine eventually whittled his original 17 research-based principles to a simpler 10-point list. High school teacher Paul Stevens-Fulbrook summarized the list here. We have copied in the key part of Paul’s summary below. You can find more on his teacherofsci site.

#1 Begin the lesson with a review of previous learning.

Rosenshine suggests investing 5-8 minutes to review previous learning. This can be in the form of questioning techniques to check understanding and to uncover and challenge misconceptions, peer or self-marking work, or correcting mistakes. This will strengthen understanding and the connections between ideas in the learners’ minds.

#2 Present new material in small steps.

Presenting new information in small, bite-sized chunks increases the progress made by the students. Introducing too much at once will see progress rates fall as they can only process so much at one time. Reducing the cognitive load allows metacognition to take place (it allows students to think about how they are thinking about the task).

#3 Ask a large number of questions (and to all students).

Questions are a teacher’s most powerful tool; they can highlight misconceptions, keep a lesson flowing, and challenge students to think more deeply into a subject. The greatest value of questioning, though, is that it forces students to practice retrieval, which strengthens and deepens memory.

#4 Provide models and worked examples.

Delivering new information to students by linking it to something or some process they are familiar with allows students to understand it more quickly It also gives them deeper retention. This is especially true of more conceptual ideas. 

In Science, we may explain the flow of electrons in a circuit by using the model of the water in a “lazy river.” The water being the flow of electrons, the pumps providing the voltage (power), and the people in the water providing resistance.

#5 Practise using the new material.

Practice makes perfect, right? Rosenshine postulates that this is true of physical, vocal, and mental practice. He suggests that successful teachers allow more time for guidance, questioning, and repetition of processes. Actually, in teaching, I prefer to use the phrase “Practice makes Progress.”

#6 Check for understanding frequently and correct errors.

Regularly asking direct questions (rather than “does anyone have any questions?”) allows teachers to check a class/student’s understanding and to catch misconceptions, therefore informing the teacher whether any parts of the topic need reteaching.

#7 Obtain a high success rate.

Teaching for mastery ensures all students in a class are ready to move on to the next stage in the topic, thus preventing students from taking misunderstanding into their future learning.

From his research, Rosenshine found that in a class the optimal success rate is an 80% understanding. This shows that not only have the students learnt the material but they were also challenged in doing so. Any higher and the work may not have been challenging enough; lower would mean it was too challenging.

#8 Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks.

When introducing a more difficult lesson, Rosenshine suggests employing Vygotskian scaffolding, providing students with a framework that makes it easier for them to make progress.

The scaffolds can then be gradually removed as the students’ competency grows. Examples of scaffolds include; checklists, cue cards, and writing frames. Teachers can also anticipate commonly made errors and build tools into the scaffolding tasks that reduce the chances of students making these mistakes.

#9 Independent practice.

Following scaffolded tasks, students should be competent in the item being taught and therefore can practice it independently. This repetition of the task will promote deeper fluency, Rosenshine called this “overlearning.”

#10 Monthly and weekly reviews.

An extension of the first principle, monthly and weekly reviews of previous learning aid recall of information and processes.

Be sure to click on the Paul’s article to see some lovely graphics to help you remember these topics…

…and read his final comments. Paul points out that most people say “I already know that; I do it already,” which is how he felt at first. But once he started mapping out lessons that clearly included Rosenshine’s principles, he found he wasted less time and his teaching skills improved.

Matt Ehlers has taught math in Tanzania as a Peace Corps Volunteer, has taught English in South Korea and Nicaragua, has worked as a tutor for college students in Oklahoma, and is currently an MA TESOL candidate at SIT Graduate Institute. In his free time, he enjoys reading, history, photography, and learning about cognitive psychology.

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