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Rosenshine's Principles in Action

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Having published the little red and black booklet, Rosenshine’s Principles in Action, I now get asked to talk about it a lot. If you are focusing on developing scaffolding techniques then you might well end up working on ways to support learners moving from guided/controlled practice to independent practice.

Rosenshine describes the advantages of the principle for teaching and learning and often outlines specific case studies to demonstrate effective uses of each principle. For the ninth principle only, ‘Independent practice’, Rosenshine includes a third stage, ‘Students helping students’. I have a horror of SLTs that have already morphed this into a set of rules – expectations for every lesson, even to the point of them representing a linear sequence to form a lesson plan.

In future blog posts this term, we’ll explore Rosenshine’s principles and Sherrington’s strands in closer detail. Discuss how they apply in the context of each subject area – they need to make sense in the context of the material the instruction relates to.

The extent to which students complete problems by themselves is expressed by Rosenshine in terms of the number of steps in a learning process students are expected to complete by themselves. Teachers worry about questioning, reviewing and checking for understanding put undue pressure on less confident students. In that article, Rosenshine lists seventeen ‘principles of effective instruction’; these serve as a synopsis of the article (Rosenshine, p. Rosenshine expresses the principles succinctly and offers suggestions for the implementation of the principles in the classroom.Asking students the right kinds of questions has the benefit of giving teachers an idea of how successfully material has been learned, hence the link Sherrington draws between the first and sixth principles. It’s a pretty good resource, the first half is Sherrington’s take on Rosenshine’s principles and how to apply them. Sherrington summarises this strand with the recommendation that teachers ask more questions to more students in more depth. Rosenshine’s fifth principle states that teachers should build more time into lessons for guided student practice of the tasks and material learned. He provides many examples of activities employed in the teaching practices of ‘master teachers’ – i.

Asking questions is also important for teachers to receive feedback about how well material has been taught. The process of sequencing can aid the process of gradually removing the scaffolds, hence the connection between the second and eighth principles. Sherrington uses the strands to explain Rosenshine’s principles, by connecting the principles with those to which they bear the closest relations, illustrating how the principles complement and support one another, and offering practical advice for their implementation, in addition to that offered by Rosenshine.

Obviously, language learning entails a lot of learning of knowledge, but we know that deliberate learning is often not the best way of going about it. Sherrington emphasises that Rosenshine’s ‘Principles of Instruction’ is ‘a guide for professional learning’, rather than ‘a ticklist for accountability’.

I think language works differently and in a very basic way, the fact that we can learn a language without studying it, or without being fully aware of the bits that form the whole, seems to support that and go against the idea of teaching units of knowledge *about* language. This contradicts his earlier comment that there is likely crossover between the principles themselves, making it hard to focus on development in one particular area. Rosenshine suggests that the advantages of peer learning are likely to be that students have to explain material to one another; that explanations are provided by someone other than the teacher; and the students have the opportunity to receive peer feedback, which promotes engagement and learning (p. Rosenshine and Sherrington recommend that teachers provide many worked examples and then leave students to finish problems by themselves. Give them time to think, discuss their thoughts, prepare to give answers and rehearse them to one another.To avoid cognitive overload, Rosenshine argues that teachers should present information in small steps and only proceed to the next step once the previous steps have been mastered. Rosenshine suggests that more effective teachers are ‘able to narrate the decisions and choices they make’ – for example, where to begin with a maths problem or how to start an essay. Where there is more emphasis on collaborative learning, open-ended project work, devising, making and so on, then instructional teaching will be less of a focus.

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