How Rosenshine can help - or rob us of teacher freedom

Rosenshine's principles have lots to offer teachers, but remember they are principles - not rules, says Deborah Gibbs

Education research: Why schools need to be careful with Rosenshine's Principles of Instruction

Even Dylan Wiliam probably wouldn’t have recognised the numerous Assessment for Learning (AfL) strategies his book Inside The Black Box spawned up and down the country when it was released more than 20 years ago. 

Instead of taking the undoubtedly sensible, honest and excellent advice, we sidetracked deep and meaningful application in favour of tricks and quick fixes. 

Instead of getting into the "Black Box", we ran down the rabbit hole of lolly sticks with names on, thumbs up and mini-whiteboards. This, of course, did not work.

Rosenshine's principles aren't a lesson plan 

I fear that we are going down the same path with Rosenshine Principles of Instruction – the latest magic bullet. The clue is in the title: "The Principles of Instruction."  It's not a "model lesson plan" to be repeated in every classroom.

A  principle is a belief, an attitude, a theory, but I fear these 10 principles being placed in an order and rebranded as a school-wide lesson structure that is expected to be seen in every 50-minute lesson; a new incarnation of the three-part lesson plan. 

By morphing the principles in this way we will deny teachers the chance to engage in intelligent lesson planning and the opportunity to deliver outstanding teaching.

Conversely, we will also lose the significance and integrity of these principles – just as we have done with AfL.

The principles themselves I see as an aide-memoire for lesson planning and the basis of good teaching.

There is no doubt that in the vast majority of lessons most of the principles will be seen, but it might be that the 10 are sequenced over a series of lessons, not shoehorned into one.

Magic, not robots

It is the context of the desired learning outcome, the class and the individual students that an outstanding teacher will engage with and take into account when planning a lesson and, using their own teaching style, they will deliver truly engaging, motivating and exceptional lessons. 

Teachers have to be responsive to their students, their misconceptions and the unexpected learning opportunities that present themselves every day. This is where the magic lies.

Or maybe we are happy with teacher robots delivering the same diet to students every lesson? I doubt it.

In my school we will be developing a teaching and learning policy over the next term and this will be based on the Rosenshine principles because in them I recognise what I have observed as the key aspects of outstanding teaching in the 30 years I have been a teacher. 

The difference is that this will be a policy – not a straitjacket.

As such, I will continue to encourage, value and love those off-piste lessons where individuality and passion for teaching really deliver for students and teachers.

Deborah Gibbs is a secondary academy principal at a school in the South West who has been teaching since 1989

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