Thursday, September 05, 2013

Barak Rosenshine's principles of direct instruction


While in Australia, I managed to get hold of the DSF (Dyslexia -SPELD Foundation) Bulletin (Vol 46) extolling the virtues of John Hattie and Barak Rosenshine. In her piece in the Bulletin ‘Improving achievement ... What does the research tell us?’ Mandy Nayton quotes from Rosenshine’s article ‘Principles of Instruction: Research-Based Strategies That All teachers Should Know’ in the American Educator (Spring, pp 12-19) in 2012, which outlines the ’17 Principles of Effective Instruction’.
This set me to thinking because I had just been reading Rosenshine’s essay ‘The Empirical Support for Direct Instruction’ in Constructivist Instruction: Success or Failure ((2009), Routledge). In it, Rosenshine outlines the six guiding principles behind 'process-product' and 'direct instruction' approaches to classroom teaching.
What Rosenshine is attempting to do here is establish which kinds of classroom procedures used by teachers are most effective. Educators interested in the teaching of reading and spelling will probably readily see the link between 'direct instruction', what Stanovich called 'explicit teaching', and what others have termed variously 'systematic teaching', and 'systematic instruction'.
Although not hierarchised, Rosenshine’s first principle is daily review. He proposes that every lesson begins with a daily review, lasting around five to eight minutes. The function of this review is to re-rehearse the concepts, skills and code knowledge presented previously. If done properly, this draws out questions arising from previous lessons and foregrounds areas of difficulty and the types of errors that are still occurring.
A further rationale for this kind of practice is that recalling previous learning strengthens the 'connections in our knowledge structures' so that learning becomes automatic and is recalled effortlessly.
The second principle is a consideration of how new material is presented and, no matter what the subject area, the evidence is clear: for reasons of the limits on working memory, new material should always be presented in short steps, developed through the medium of many examples, and delivered within a series of carefully guided and scaffolded examples.
Rosenshine maintains that good teachers spend more time on the presentation of new material, on offering explanations, and on asking questions that test the understanding of the learners. In addition, more effective teachers spend time checking for student understanding. They do this in a variety of ways: asking open questions, rather than yes or no type questions; and, asking pupils to summarise, elaborate, reformulate, or repeat instructions, procedures or outcomes. 
 
Tomorrow I’ll be looking at principles three and four.

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