top of page
  • Writer's pictureJonathan Roe

Rosenshine's Principles In Action - Distilled Further!

Updated: Feb 8, 2023

These ideas are very current in England’s thinking about common sense basic pedagogy. Lot’s of Trusts ar

e referencing Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction. What follows is my precis (in bullet point form) of Tom Sherrington’s Book Rosenshine’s Principles in Action (2019). Tom adds his own practical slant onto Barak Rosenshine’s 2010 paper published in Educational Practices (the paper is very short and really worth reading).

Rosenshine identifies 10 principles. None of them will be new to you. What is interesting is that these common sense ideas are curated in one place - that’s what schools are enjoying about them at the moment I think.

The principles are the 10 practical things that effective teachers do. They represent the conclusion of Barak Rosenshine’s academic work. As such they are;

  • trustworthy as they are informed by research

  • authentic and are not a set of fads

Before delving into the principles there are some assumptions we need to make, and hence they are not covered in the book;

  • Teachers have a well structured curriculum

  • Teachers have good subject knowledge

  • Teachers understand principles of child development

  • Teachers have great communication skills

  • Teachers can generate pupil engagement (attention in the diagram below)

  • Students have good attitudes to learning (growth mindsets)

  • Students have well developed ability to self regulate

Students / Children / Pupils

Throughout I have mostly used students. Whilst students is a word that is almost exclusively used in secondary settings, and although Sherrington uses mainly secondary school examples in his book, I think that the principles apply equally to learners of all ages.

Numbering the principles

Rosenshine’s numbering 1-10 seemed pretty arbitrary. Sherrington groups them into 2 strands but keeps Rosenshine’s numbers. I’ve kept Sherringtons 4 strands and renumbered the principles in the order that Sherrington gives them 1-10. All is explained in Appendix 1.

Rosenshine’s principles and our current TTT thinking

Sherrington pleads with readers not to turn the principles in a checklist to enter into a scrutiny type data base; “Use them to lift people up, not to tie them down!” he advises. This being said I think there is a collective insight here that can inform our current discussion.

Who was Barak Rosenshine?

Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois. Born in Chicago, 1930, he studied psychology at the University of Chicago. After working as a high school history teacher for six years he pursued his Ph.D. in education at Stanford University, afterwards teaching at the University of Illinois. Barak Rosenshine died in 2017.

Theory of action: what is the underlying model?

Teachers benefit from understanding the neuroscience behind an idea (in the same way that they do with Growth Mindset theory and evolutionary brain development).

  • Conceptual information enters the working memory from the teacher / lesson via the teacher grabbing the attention of the pupil.

  • Working memory is rather small and can become overloaded.

  • Long term memory has practically an unlimited storage capacity. This is where schema are constructed.

  • We process information (this is the bit that teachers need to help students with) so that it moves from working memory to long term memory, and we retrieve information back into our working memory as needed.

  • We organise information into schema. New knowledge best sticks in LTM if it connects to an existing schema (i.e. there is prior knowledge).

  • The more complex and interconnected or schema are, the easier it is to make sense of new information because it is more likely to make sense.

  • ‘Forgetting’ is a product of new information not connecting to an existing schema, or not being retrieved frequently enough.

  • Frequent retrieval leads to automaticity (think about learning to drive).

  • The more fluent we are with retrieval of stored information, the more capacity we have in working memory for new information (i.e. less cognitive overload).

So teaching needs to be highly interactive with high flows of feedback so that teachers can gauge how well the learning is going and what the next small steps need to be.

Strand 1: Sequencing Concepts and Modelling

Principle 1: Present new material using small steps

  • Working memory can only cope with so much before cognitive overload sets in so break down concepts and procedures into small steps.

  • “Teachers need to invest time in analysing their curriculum material to see how it can be broken down.”

  • “A great deal of teacher development time would be wisely spent analysing the curriculum” - this will create ‘sequencing’

  • “Another form of sequencing involves moving from the big picture of a subject down to a detailed area of focus and back again” - students need context all the time to build schema.

Principle 2: Provide models


  • “Physical representations of completed tasks - exemplars”

  • “Conceptual models” e.g particles in solids, liquids and gases

  • “Explicit narration of our thought processes when thinking through how to solve problems or undertake a creative activity” - letting others hear our thinking


  • Link abstract ideas to concrete examples - e.g. bar modelling, e.g. molecular diagram - pictures, diagrams, similes. “Move to and fro between the abstract and the concrete”

  • Link abstract knowledge to experiential ‘tacit’ knowledge - e.g. hands on activities after the basic material has been introduced. Observations / visits / field work / demonstrations. These need adding in to curriculum sequencing.

  • Narrate the thought process … making the implicit explicit” - e.g. where to begin with a maths problem - how to plan a piece of writing, how to choose the right vocabulary.

  • Organise the information - complexity can be brought into a schema by modelling how to compare / contrast / categorise. Organised information is more easily recalled. For / against, strong arguments / weak arguments. “The more teachers illustrate the formation of relational models, the more likely it is that students will grasp the ideas and form sound schemata of their own.”

  • Worked examples, “Effective teachers will tend to provide pupils with many worked examples so that the general patterns are clear … the trick is to gradually reduce the level of completion, leaving students to finish problems off and ultimately do them by themselves.” “it’s often the case that when I observe a teacher struggling with students who seem stuck, I want to say ‘show them another example’.”

Principle 3: Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks

“Rosenshine tells us that it can be important for students to undergo a form of ‘cognitive apprenticeship’ whereby they learn cognitive strategies from a master teacher who models, coaches and supports them as they develop a level of independence.”

This is a form of guided practice before independent practice. Examples;

  • Writing frames

  • Content mnemonics

    • PEE - Point, Evidence, Explain

    • SQuID - Statement, Quotation, Inference, Development

    • PETAL - Point, Evidence, Technique, Analyse, Link

  • Exemplars

    • WAGOLLs

    • Teacher’s writing

    • Other student’s writing

  • Pathways into a problem (strategic thinking)

    • Adding further notes, diagrams, scales to a mathematical problem

    • Organising historical information into a timeline

    • Mindmapping

    • 6 thinking hats (Edward de Bono)

  • Sentence stems (see Teacher Toolkit video). E.g. Primary;

    • The main idea is…

    • The most important details are…

    • The text structure is…

    • The text features include…

    • The author wrote that…

    • I learned…

    • I believe that…

    • My partner pointed out…

    • My partner mentioned that…

    • He/She noted that…

    • We agreed/disagreed that…

    • We decided that…

    • We still want to know…

E.g. Secondary;

  • Who is it that…?

  • Can you tell why…?

  • Can you give an example of…?

  • What do you think will happen next if…?

  • How would you use…?

  • How is this similar to…?

  • How is this different than…?

  • What is the relationship between…?

  • What would happen if…?

  • How can I develop a plan to…?

  • What is a better solution to…?

  • What is the most important…?

  • Anticipate errors and misconceptions

    • Teacher states the common misconceptions and errors that pupils are likely to make (e.g. grammatical, spelling, keeping place value aligned, attending to BIDMAS), e.g. stating that the shadow of the earth does not cause the phases of the moon, e.g. £2.5 after multiplying £0.50 by 5 on a calculator.

    • Provide tick list of things to check

Strand 2: Questioning

“Effective questioning lies at the heart of great instructional teaching”. So;

  • Ask a large number of questions and check for understanding

  • Ask students to explain what they have learned.

  • Check the response of all pupils.

  • Provide systematic feedback and corrections.

Questioning is about the teacher getting feedback so that they can correct misconceptions.

Principle 4: Ask questions

“More effective teachers ask more questions, involving more students, probing in more depth and taking more time to explain, clarify and check for understanding. In addition they ask students to explain the process they have used to answer a question - to narrate their thinking.”

  • Cold calling (see Doug Lemov : Teach like a champion 2.0). At all costs avoid asking the usual students who are always eager. There must be no hiding place. Have a ‘no hands up’ policy. Use sticks of fate or a web based student randomiser (e.g. Class Dojo)

  • No opt out (see Doug Lemov : Teach like a champion 2.0). Return to those students who got it wrong, or who couldn’t answer the first time around. This avoids students who routinely say ‘I don’t know’ to get out of answering, as they will be able to answer more fully, if not completely second time around. They will be able to say it again, better.

  • Think, pair, share - Give paired students a timed period of thinking and then bring back into a whole class response via cold calling. Then take another pair’s response and in the process refine answers towards the best answer.

  • Whole class response - using whiteboards - instant feedback. Choral repetition of vocab or times tables.

  • Probing - to really understand how well developed a student’s current schema is as them 3/4/5 questions “each time getting deeper understanding and checking for misconceptions, adding extra challenge.” e.g.

    • “That’s interesting, what makes you say that?

    • That’s true, but why do you think that is?

    • Is there a different way to say the same thing?

    • Can you give an example of where that happened?

    • Can you explain how you worked that out?

    • So what happens if you make it bigger or smaller?

    • Why? Are you sure? Is there another explanation?

    • Which of those things makes the biggest impact?

    • What is the theme that links all those ideas together?

    • What is the evidence that supports that suggestion?

    • Does anyone else agree with that? Why?

    • Does anyone disagree? What would you say instead? Why is that different?

    • How does that answer compare to the previous answer?

    • But what’s the reason for that, and how is that connected to the first part?

    • How did you know that? What made you think of that? Where did that idea come from?

    • Is that always true or just in that example?

    • What would be the opposite of that?

    • Is it true for everyone or just some people?

    • Is that a direct cause of the effect or is it just a coincidence, a correlation?”

Principle 5: Check for student understanding

“The wrong way to check for understanding is to ask only a few questions, call on volunteers to hear their (usually correct) answers, and then assume that all of the class either understands or has now learned from hearing the volunteers’ responses. Another error is to ask, ‘Are there any questions?’ and , if there aren’t any, assume that everybody understands. Another error (particularly with older children) is to assume that it is not necessary to check for understanding, and that simply repeating the points will be sufficient.”

“A silent self-checking process is powerful in itself but we might get the class to explain to each other in pairs. The teacher can then sample the class to check the understanding of individuals. Importantly, they should be asking the student to run through their whole explanation to determine the accuracy of their scheme, not just a small part of it.”

“Instead of ‘Have you understood?’, you should ask ‘Can you tell me what you have understood?’ It’s a radically different question.

There are two key benefits from checking for understanding:

  1. For the teacher - it is assessment for learning and indicates what needs to be revisited, re-taught or given more practice time.

  2. For students - it strengthens connections between different ideas and improves long-term retention (schema building).

“In general I would advocate placing ‘Checking for Understanding' right at the centre of a teacher's thinking during their lessons.”

Strand 3: Reviewing Material

“Retrieval practice supports building our long-term memory and our level of fluency in recall .”

  • Begin each lesson with a short review of previous learning.

  • Re-teach material when necessary.

Principle 6: Daily review

  • “Allows students to re-activate recently acquired knowledge, reducing cognitive load at the beginning of a lesson that’s designed to build on this knowledge.”

  • Brings prior learning into working memory so new layers can be added.

  • Quizzing could be used, or involving everyone independently in a multi-choice question based on previous lesson. These approaches make students explore their understanding.

  • Other approaches include asking for some straightforward factual recall of previous material.

  • “It is entirely natural for students to experience some short-term confusion and lack of fluency as they encounter new material because we don’t re-wire our brains instantaneously.

Principle 7: Weekly and monthly review

  • The purpose is to “attenuate the natural rate of forgetting. It is also to ensure that, through frequent revisiting of a range of material, students are able to form ever more well-connected networks of ideas - more extensive schemata.

  • “We are all prey to the illusion of familiarity … we can easily think we’ve learned something if the information is continually presented to us … In order to evaluate our recall and understanding, we must generate versions of that information from memory without looking at the source.”

  • “Daily, weekly and monthly review activities give students opportunities to generate versions of what they know and understand, helping to strengthen future retrieval of the knowledge involved, build fluency, and identify where they might have residual gaps or areas of uncertainty.

  • Principles:

    • Involve everyone - no one hides

    • Make checking accurate and easy - students should quickly know what they got right and what they got wrong.

    • Keep it generative - it must come from them, not cue cards, prompts or cheat sheets. It means closing workbooks and thinking for themselves.

    • Vary the diet - teacher led / pupil led, self-quizzing, written / verbal, explanations, telling the story (e.g. water molecule in water cycle), multiple-choice and open response tests, summarising, creating schema maps, demonstration and performance.

    • Make it time efficient

    • Make it workload efficient - students check and mark.

Primaries have this visual from TTEd to assist in these review processes.

Strand 4: Stages of practice

“Nobody ever excels at anything without lots of practice and that starts with the way we conduct lessons.

  • Provide a high level of practice for all students.

  • Guide students as they begin to practice.

  • Prepare students for independent practice.

  • Monitor students when they begin independent practice”

Principle 8: Guide student practice

  • “The most effective teachers give more time for guided practice.”

  • Students need to spend additional time rephrasing, elaborating, and summarising new material in order to store this material in their long-term memory.”

  • As students gain in knowledge and confidence, the guided practice phase can become shorter or can cover large amounts of material at once.”

  • “Guided practice is typically where learning activities involve:

    • Teacher circulating the room, looking closely at student responses to check for early errors or successes

    • Students giving thorough explanations

    • Students attempting high frequency, short-answer questions or simple tasks

    • Teacher and students are engaged interactively, with plenty of modelling

    • Corrective or affirming feedback

    • Re-teaching where gaps remain

    • Choral repetition, e.g. Number bonds to 10, or key phrases in French

Principle 9: Obtain a high success rate

  • “If students are getting too much wrong then they are effectively practising making errors.”

  • Aim for 80% of student responses being correct before moving into practice phases.

  • “It is a well-established aspect of growth mindset research that, in order to succeed, students need to approach challenges with a positive attitude, understanding how to learn from mistakes and not to be afraid of making them.” (But don’t actively encourage continual misconception).

  • “The 80% goal is more appropriate as an overarching benchmark over the course of a series of lessons - supporting more here, challenging more ther, nudging, stretching, pusing, giving clues, adding support, taking support away.”

Principle 10: Independent practice

  • “In many ways, this is the ultimate goal for teaching: to construct learning so that students are able to do challenging things by themselves without help.”

  • “Judging the transition from students being guided enough to becoming independent is a subtle skill, a central element of teacher expertise that develops with knowing the material, knowing how to break it down into practicable elements and, knowing the students.”

  • “During independent practice, success rates need to be as high as possible, especially if the teacher is not present to provide corrective feedback.”

  • “The basic flow of many learning experiences is this:

    • Teacher explains.

    • Teacher models

    • Teacher checks for understanding

    • Student engages in guided practice with scaffolding as needed

    • Scaffolding and support are gradually withdrawn

    • Student engages in independent practice

    • Student becomes fluent”

  • “I do it; we do it; you do it” … “I. We. You.”

  • “The teacher’s role is to provide students with the tools they need to do this, including teaching them explicit strategies for checking their own work against a set of standards in a form they can understand, using exemplars, mark schemes and so on.”

Further reading / watching / listening

Rosenshine, B (2010) ‘Principles of Instruction’, The international Academy of Education (UAE) Educational Practices Series 21.

Rosenshine Master Class Intro, Tom Sherrington on Youtube

Rosenshine Master Class I, Tom Sherrington on Youtube

Rosenshine Master Class II, Tom Sherrington on Youtube (Covers Strand 1)

Rosenshine Master Class III, Tom Sherrington on Youtube (Covers Strand 2)

Rosenshine Master Class IV, Tom Sherrington on Youtube (Covers Strand 3)

Rosenshine Master Class V, Tom Sherrington on Youtube (Covers Strand 4)

Sherrington, T (2019) Rosenshine’s Principles in Action. John Catt Educational Limited

Teacherhead Blog Article Rosenshine Re-ordered. A Poster by @olicav

Teacherhead Blog Article Rosenshine Masterclass Captured. Free CPD!


bottom of page