a-game-of-chessChess requires knowledge and deliberate practise to develop a deep understanding of what moves to make, how to make them and why they should be made.  It mirrors teaching; subject knowledge and teaching strategies, and a deep understanding of what strategies to use to ensure students know what to do, how to do it and why they should do it.  As a reflective practitioner – I say game on.

Rosenshine’s ‘Principles of Instruction’ offers ten strategic moves to help classroom practitioners organise their game plan for maximising learning.  His principles come from three areas of research.  The first area is in cognitive science – on how our brains acquire and use information. The second, teacher classrooms where the highest gains were seen on achievement tests, and finally, cognitive supports: effective instructional procedures such as scaffolding, models and thinking aloud.   With the EEF guidance on metacognition and self-regulation, I feel it is timely to consider Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction not only as cognitive support ‘solutions’, but as a reflective tool to consider the extent to which they are used in our classrooms.  The Principles seem straightforward, but conceal a whole level of complexity that doesn’t feature on the list.

Rosenshine’s Principles are listed below:

Begin a lesson with a short review of previous learning.

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

Limit the amount of material students receive at one time.

Give clear and detailed instructions and explanations.

Ask a large number of questions and check for understanding.

Provide a high level of active practice for all students.

Guide students as they begin to practise.

Think aloud and model steps.

Provide models of worked-out problems.

Ask students to explain what they have learned.

Check the responses from all students.

Provide systematic feedback and corrections.

Use more time to provide explanations.

Provide many examples.

Reteach material when necessary.

Prepare students when they begin independent practise.

Easy as one, two, three?

I don’t think the above principles are easy and they shouldn’t be simply used as a tick list. Teaching requires deep subject knowledge, but passing on this knowledge requires an understanding of how students learn (I have reflected this previously in my blog ‘Think like a Mastermind’ which can be found here https://thethinkingvoice.com/2018/03/25/think-like-a-master-mind/ and ‘Metacognition and Self-Regulation’ which can be found here https://thethinkingvoice.com/2018/04/29/metacognition-and-self-regulated-learning/)

Let’s take Rosenshine’s principle ‘ask a large number of questions and check for understanding’.  Reflecting on my own classroom practice, I would consider:

  • What questions will stimulate student thinking in my classroom?
  • What are the best questions to re-direct student thinking?
  • What questions will help me evaluate the learning and revise aspects of the lesson?
  • What questions will give pace to my lesson and at times, slow it down?
  • What questions should my students be asking? (Students too, should ask questions to check for self and peer understanding)
  • How have I used questioning to support my student understanding?
  • Could I have used questioning more effectively to make the learning deeper?
  • Did my questioning stimulate student recall and deliberately practise retrieval of their weaker areas of knowledge?

As can be deduced, questioning has the potential to greatly facilitate the learning process and form a crucial part of instructional interaction.  It stimulates recall, deepens understanding, and encourages problem solving. It also forms a platform for teacher reflection on their own knowledge of how students learn and how to challenge student thinking.

Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction are a great resource for reflection on classroom practice. When each lid is lifted off each principle, it becomes clear that each is an iceberg of instruction.  It’s the hidden depths of understanding that make the principles strong instructions to drive student learning.  So, chess and the classroom?  I see classroom learning like a game of chess in that we don’t want to waste a strategic move.


Picture taken from roundhousepoetrycircleWordPress.com