The Origins and Evolution of Rosenshine’s Principles (1982-2017)

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How have Barak Rosenshine’s principles of effective instruction evolved?

As more secondary schools start to reshape their teaching and learning policies, influenced by Rosenshine’s principles, I’ve revisited his research papers and references to learn a little more.

One thing some teachers may be aware of is how Rosenshine’s 17 Principles of Effective Instruction have evolved since 1982.

In 2012…

RosenshinePrior to his death in 2017, Rosenshine wrote a paper in the American Educator; a journal published in 2012. This is the paper which has become most widespread with teachers.

I first published my thoughts on Rosenshine in my book, Mark Plan Teach (2017) having been influenced by his work around 2014/15 when I started to read widely about developing a teaching and learning policy in a deputy headteacher role I had at the time.

There is also a rare and interesting video of Rosenshine speaking at an event in 2002. In this video you will hear him struggle to provide a word for those teachers who are regularly effective.

Today, we may choose to use the word ‘outstanding’, but I’d argue that good teaching happens over time, beyond the lens of a research, and is defined more than by academic outcomes.

The 2012 paper provides 17 recommendations which I have summarised into this blog post which example resources and strategies. The above paper proving to be more popular. I suspect the simple graphics, plus the sub-heading were key factors, plus the journal and its audience too.

In 2010…

Rosenshine 2010Prior to 2012, Rosenshine published Principles of Instruction in the International Academy of Education journal in 2010. This is common for all academics as they seek to publish their work across multiple channels. I wonder how proud Rosenshine would be to see what an impact his research paper has had…

It’s important to note how Rosenshine developed these ideas. His sources derive from research on how we learn and use information; instructional procedures teachers use; and procedures invented by researchers to support learning. For example, ‘think aloud’.

Both these papers are largely the same in content, although the most obvious difference is how the 10 principles are broken down into 17.

For the benefit of this blog post, I’ve just listed below those key differences.

1. Daily review1. Begin a lesson with a short review of previous learning.
2. Present new material using small steps2. Present new material in small steps with student practice
after each step.
3. Ask questions3. Limit the amount of material students receive at one
4. Provide models4. Give clear and detailed instructions and explanations.
5. Guide student practice5. Ask a large number of questions and check for understanding.
6. Check for student understanding6. Provide a high level of active practice for all students.
7. Obtain a high success rate7. Guide students as they begin to practice
8. Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks8. Think aloud and model steps
9. Independent practice9. Provide models of worked-out problems
10. Weekly and monthly review10. Ask students to explain what they have 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. Reteach material when necessary.
16. Prepare students for independent practice
17. Monitor students when they begin independent practice.

What are the differences?

As I reflect on the differences between the principles of 2010 and 2017, do we need more detail? Are they obvious, helpful or making things a little too complicated? Of course, we need the details, but when I think of all those teaching and learning policies I am supporting schools to design, the depth is important, but what teachers need are some pragmatic steps to help change their teaching behaviours.

The 17 principles do offer a useful road map, but where they become problematic, is in schools where they have evolved into a one-off observation checklist. We could do such much better by equipping our school leaders to observe more reliably…

In 1982…

Rosenshine 1982Stripping back Rosenshine’s work, I’ve taken another look at his paper published for the National Institute of Education (Washington D.C.) called, Teaching Functions in Instructional Programs.

The paper itself will elicit memories for those educators in once wrote assignments on a typewriter!

Published in February 1982, Rosenshine references 45 other academic sources with most dating from the 1960s to 1980s. One name which will be familiar to all teachers Benjamin Bloom’s work: Human Characteristics and School Learning (1976).

Using Connected Papers, I experimented with a static network analysis to see how Rosenshine’s 1982 paper has influenced other research. This graphic below illustrates how widely his research has influenced other academics.

Connected papers

When you conduct a 2012 analysis, it features alongside seminal papers. For example, cognitive load theory.

The 6 Teaching Functions

On pages 8-10 of the 1982 paper, Rosenshine offers the original principles. Reading this paper alone will provide teachers will the context behind the emerging principles and I think it would be great for professional learning, or for part of a qualification project. Here are the 6 functions:

  1. Daily review, check in previous day’s work and reteaching (if necessary)
  2. Presenting new content
  3. Initial student practice
  4. Feedback and correctives
  5. Independent practice so that students are firm an automatic
  6. Weekly and monthly reviews

Of course, there is subtext under each, and with deeper exploration, one can see how the 17 principles have emerged. It’s also worth noting the ‘check for understanding’ features 17 times. I have always believed the most powerful tool any teacher possesses is the ability to ask a range of question types, and deliver them using a range of strategies.


It would be worth researching what other key terms feature so heavily.

I’ve been trying to simplify the principles into 4 stages which I think all schools could use to influence their methods. As ever, what I’m keen to learn is the nuance to support teachers working in a variety of contexts. For example, what does effective instruction look like in an early years setting or a pupil referral unit? Perhaps effective instruction in a virtual classroom or in a bottom-set year 9 maths class on a Thursday afternoon?

Effective Teacher Instruction

As with understanding working memory and cognitive load theory, these are some of the questions all teachers must be asking when translating research back into context. To end, Rosenshine’s conclusions from his 1982 paper still point us all in the right direction:

Now that we can list the major functions which are necessary for systematic instruction, we can turn to exploring different ways in which these functions can be effectively fulfilled.

Something for everyone to reflect on, including Ofsted policymakers.

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