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Rosenshine’s principles of instruction

Discussing Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction
Students engaged in discussion

Barak Rosenhine (1930 – 2017) was a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois. Along with Robert Stevens, he explored teacher instruction, and identified the approaches and strategies that were features of the most successful teachers’ practice. His 2010 ‘Principles of Instruction’ are grounded in a varied range of evidence from three sources:

  1. Cognitive science research focusing on how the human brain acquires and uses new information. This provided insights into how to overcome the limitations of working memory when attempting to learn new things.

  2. Direct observation of ‘master teachers’, those whose students made the most academic progress as measured by attainment tests. These focused on aspects such as how they presented new information and made explicit links to prior learning, how they monitored and assess the understanding of their students, how they provided opportunities for rehearsal and practice, and the types of support used to scaffold the development of understanding and retention of knowledge.

  3. Research on cognitive supports and scaffolds, such as the use of models and instructional procedures, that helped students to learn complex tasks.

From these sources, he identified seventeen ‘instructional procedures’, the actions which ‘master’ teachers regularly employed within their lessons to enable learning to occur.

  1. Begin a lesson with a short review of previous learning.
  2. Present new material in small steps with student practice after each step.
  3. Limit the amount of material students receive at one time.
  4. Give clear and detailed instructions and explanations.
  5. Ask a large number of questions and check for understanding.
  6. Provide a high level of active practice for all students.
  7. Guide students as they begin to practice.
  8. Think aloud and model steps.
  9. Provide models of worked-out problems.
  10. Ask students to explain what they had learned.
  11. Check the responses of all students.
  12. Provide systematic feedback and corrections.
  13. Use more time to provide explanations.
  14. Provide many examples.
  15. Re-teach material when necessary.
  16. Prepare students for independent practice.
  17. Monitor students when they begin independent practice.

From these procedures, Rosenshine formulated ten key principles, which he argued underpin any effective approach to instruction in lessons:

  1. Daily review.
  2. Present new material using small steps.
  3. Ask questions.
  4. Provide models.
  5. Guide Student practice.
  6. Check for student understanding.
  7. Obtain a high success rate.
  8. Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks.
  9. Independent practice.
  10. Weekly and monthly review.

Rosenshine’s principles have a solid evidence base to support their effectiveness. However, as Rosenshine and Stevens (1986) point out, they are most effective where the objective is to master a body of knowledge or key skill involving clearly laid out steps, which the children are expected to apply later. As a result, some or all of the strategies may not be effective in certain situations, for example, if you are looking for a creative, unique response to a problem. Therefore, as with any educational strategies, it is down to the professional judgement of the teacher to decide how and when to apply them within their classroom.

For further information, please refer to Rosenshine’s Principles of instruction booklet and his 2012 article Research-Based Strategies That All Teachers Should Know.


Rosenshine, B. (2010). Principles of instruction; Educational practices series; Vol.:21; 2010. The International Academy of Education, 21(2010).

Rosenshine, B. (2012) Principles of Instruction: Research-Based Strategies That All Teachers Should Know. American Educator, 36(1), p12-39. Rosenshine, B. and Stevens, R. (1986) Teaching Functions. In Witrock, M.C. (Ed). Handbook of research on teaching, 3rd ed., pp376-391. New York; MacMillan.

Rosenshine, B. and Stevens, R. (1986). Teaching functions. In M. C. Wittrock (Ed.), Handbook of research on teaching (3rd ed., pp. 376-391). New York: Macmillan.

© University of East Anglia
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