Exploring Barak Rosenshine’s seminal Principles of Instruction: Why it is THE must-read for all teachers.

This post is based on a talk I gave at ResearchEd in Rugby.  The paper in question is Barak Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction published in American Educator in 2012, downloadable in full as a pdf here:

I first came across if after seeing Oliver Caviglioli’s superb graphic summary for How2 – available here:

My admiration for Rosenshine is largely informed by my experience working with teachers in various schools and colleges where I’ve been trying to engage people with research in order to support them to improve their practice.  For me, it is the best, most clear and comprehensive guide to evidence-informed teaching there is.

Here are some of the reasons:

Interestingly, within the document, Barak Rosenshine offers a further list of 17 principles  that overlap and flesh out the 10 sections.  It’s a good simple summary of the whole document.  However, as I stress continually, summaries are meant as a prompt – you really need to read the whole thing; it’s packed with insights and it warrants multiple close readings.

I find that, in exploring the document with teachers, it helps to break it down into the four strands (NB these are strands that I am suggesting, not Rosenshine.)

Reviewing material: 

Daily review is important in helping to resurface prior learning from the last lesson -let’s not be surprised that students don’t immediately remember everything. They won’t! It’s a powerful technique for building fluency and confidence and it’s especially important if we’re about to introduce new learning – to active relevant prior learning in working memory.

Weekly and monthly review is about longer-term retrieval practice – to continue the process of building long-term memory to support future learning.


These two sections are brilliant. The main message I always stress is summarised in the mantra: ask more questions to more students in more depth.  Rosenshine gives lots of great examples of the types of questions teachers can ask.  He also reinforces the importance of process questions – we need ask how students worked things out, not just get answers.  He is also really good on stressing that asking questions is about getting feedback to us as teachers about how well we’ve taught the material and about the need to check understanding to ensure misconceptions are flushed out and tackled.

Sequencing Concepts and modelling 

The three stages give a superb guide to how to sequence knowledge.

Stages of Practice

I haven’t read a better explanation of the difference between guided and independent practice.  They are both vital.

Rosenshine concludes the paper by discussing their research process, combining a range sources of evidence.  He suggests:

“Even though these principles come from three different sources…….ideas from each of the sources overlap and add to each other. This overlap gives us faith that we are developing a valid and research-based understanding of the art of teaching.”

and finally….

My final messages about engaging with this paper are:

  1. Don’t turn it into a checklist.  It’s a guide for professional learning – not a ticklist for accountability freaks! Don’t kill it!!! Please!!!
  2. Take time to explore the implications at a subject-specific level.  The ideas of practice, modelling, questioning… each have meaning only in the context of curriculum content.  The principles need to be articulated in context, in situ…

Thanks to Barak for giving us this gift – and to Oliver for bringing it to my attention!

This blog by Mark Enser is a superb example of putting Rosenshine’s principles into practice –  in this case, his subject is Geography.  https://heathfieldteachshare.wordpress.com/2018/04/23/putting-theory-into-practice/

Update: Oliver Caviglioli has now produced a new poster using this blog as a basis – reorganising the 10 principles into four themes.


This is really interesting – the original material that later featured in American Educator is here: https://www.iaoed.org/downloads/EdPractices_21.pdf


Here is a video of me giving my ResearchEd Talk in Haninge, Sweden, recorded for Swedish TV