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Research School Network: Ready to be back? Back to school and back to basics – The 10 Principles of Instruction


Ready to be back?

Back to school and back to basics – The 10 Principles of Instruction

by Blackpool Research School
on the

Who would have thought a year ago that we would have spent more time teaching online than in the classroom? Amongst many other things, the pandemic has taught us how quickly we can adapt to changes. Resourceful as ever, the flexible and proactive switch to online delivery from teachers has been fantastic. But what else has the last year taught us?

Lessons learned

Teachers very quickly realised that the characteristics of effective remote teaching were very much like the ones seen in the classroom. There was no surprise when the best evidence on remote learning from the EEF suggested that the priority was the quality of teaching, rather than the logistics of how the lessons are delivered, and this finding provided schools with a useful response to those outside the profession who focused on the medium rather than the quality of teaching.

Online or in the classroom, the elements of effective teaching remain broadly the same, with Rosenshine’s 10 classroom-based principles of instruction applying to remote learning as well. However, teachers had to think hard about how to make them work online, for their classes, and in their own context. The tools used remotely might have been different to the ones used face-to-face but the principles remained the same.

What are Rosenshine’s Principles?

1.Begin a lesson with a short review of previous learning

2.Present new material in small steps with student practice after each step

3.Ask a large number of questions and check the responses of all students

4.Provide models

5.Guide student practice

6.Check for student understanding

7.Obtain a high success rate

8.Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks

9.Require and monitor independent practice

10.Engage students in weekly and monthly review

Back to school – where…

The importance of re-establishing routines with our pupils and recreating a positive learning environment where pupils feel safe and happy to be back must surely be one of our initial areas of focus. Classroom interaction will be key, as this is something that pupils will have missed the most so planning some pair-work activities, discussion work, and think-pair-share tasks might be useful.

As teachers, we will want to check face-to-face where our pupils are, what they can do independently, what they can remember, and if any misconceptions have emerged. The first consideration when planning will be to decide what knowledge we want pupils to check and re-activate, and how we might go about doing this.

Reviewing prior learning
can be done in a number of ways. We might use quizzes, tests, creating or completing concept maps, pupils writing everything they can remember about a topic (free recall), flashcards to self-test and so on. Low-stakes is likely to work best, so there should be no need for formal written tests to be our default method of assessment. 

As memory is the residue of thought’ (Willingham, 2010), the crucial part is to encourage pupils to think, and retrieval practice should always be carried out without access to notes or previous work. It should be followed by an opportunity for pupils to check whether they correctly recalled the information.

Checking for student understanding
will also be crucial. What have pupils mastered? What do they need to work on? Strategies used should help us to find out what pupils do and don’t understand and crucially this should inform the next steps in our teaching. Formative assessment strategies will be useful: asking pupils to explain, using mini whiteboards and appropriate questioning will also play a key role. We might also use this assessment to identify those pupils who might need some additional targeted academic support, away from the usual classroom teaching.

So what?

The most important aspect of reviewing learning and checking student understanding on our full return to school is what we then do with that information. Teachers will have to guide pupils so that they understand what the big picture is, where they are in their learning journey, what they know and what they should know by the end of the year, establishing targets with them to move forward.

Jennifer Wozniak-Rush is an Evidence Lead in Education and an Assistant Head at The Hollins in Accrington

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