This is all about an interesting piece of quite old action educational research produced by Robert Stevens and Barak Rosenshine and has revised many times over.
They were trying to produce a commonality between lessons and what is required to produce “good learning”. They initially came up with 6 instructional teaching functions which I would say for most teachers who have done the job for some time would recognise without any issues. It is what you are doing every day for pretty much every lesson.
- Review, checking previous day’s work (and reteaching if necessary).
- Presenting new content/skills.
- Initial student practice (and checking for understanding).
- Feedback and correctives (and re-teaching if necessary).
- Student independent practice.
- Weekly and monthly reviews.
His 2010 they produced work on the ‘Principles of Instruction’ which was grounded in a range of evidence from three sources:
- Cognitive science research focusing on how the human brain acquires and uses new information. This provided insights into how to overcome the limitations of working memory when attempting to learn new things.
- Direct observation of teachers whose students made the most academic progress as measured by attainment tests. These focused on aspects such as how they presented new information and made explicit links to prior learning, how they monitored and assess the understanding of their students, how they provided opportunities for rehearsal and practice, and the types of support used to scaffold the development of understanding and retention of knowledge.
- Research on cognitive supports and scaffolds, such as the use of models and instructional procedures, that helped students to learn complex tasks.
Rosenshine further researched and modified the ideas to finally come up with 17 Principles of Effective Instruction (version expanding on his initial 10 principles)
- 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 practice.
- Think aloud and model steps.
- Provide models of worked-out problems.
- Ask students to explain what they have learned.
- Check the responses of all students.
- Provide systematic feedback and corrections.
- Use more time to provide explanations.
- Provide many examples.
- Reteach material when necessary.
- Prepare students for independent practice.
- Monitor students when they begin independent practice.
It’s also quite interesting that when you read through each one and mentally tick off those lists, we can all see that all of us use these all the time. Some teachers also look at a simplified version of just 10 of the key teaching functions as 17 is a lot of remember.
- Begin the lesson with a review of previous learning.
- Present new material in small steps.
- Ask a large number of questions (and to all students).
- Provide models and worked examples.
- Practise using the new material.
- Check for understanding frequently and correct errors.
- Obtain a high success rate.
- Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks.
- Independent practice.
- Monthly and weekly reviews.
I also think that all of us should not get in too much of a panic about ensuring that these are present in every lesson. Clearly the way it is written is to think about a sequence of lessons and different functions should come into that series of lessons.
I have produced a quick review of what a 9 lesson SOW might contain, and you can see how the 1-10 ideas apply in different ways. I think if you are following something like this a SOW should work. I also think that the key to a good SOW is to have a really good mixture of activities and styles within the unit which are key focus points: a practical, a video, a literacy activity which you really can go to town on and build understanding and context.
Lesson | Topic | Examples |
1 | Key terms/ Intro / Check Prior learning | 1, 2, 3, 6, 7 |
2 | Content | 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 |
3 | Content | 1,2 ,3 ,4, 5, 6, 7, 9 |
4 | Recap/ Review | 1, 6, 7, 9, 10 |
5 | Content | 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 |
6 | Content | 1,2 ,3 ,4, 5, 6, 7, 9 |
7 | Revision | 1, 6, 7, 9, 10 |
8 | Exam | 5, 9, 7, 10 |
9 | DIRT | 4, 6, 7, 8, 10 |
Expanded Ideas….
I found a really good list of expansions online for the 10 key ideas. Which may help you understand what is meant by each one if you are an NQT. I think they are very well written.
1 Begin the lesson with a review of previous learning.
Rosenshine suggests investing 5-8 minutes to review previous learning. This can be in the form of questioning techniques to check understanding and to uncover and challenge misconceptions, peer or self-marking work and correcting mistakes. This will strengthen understanding and the connections between ideas.
2 Present new material in small steps.
Presenting new information in small, bite-sized chunks increases the progress made by the students. Introducing too much at once will see progress rates fall as they can only process so much at one time. This reduction in cognitive load allows metacognition to take place (it allows them to think about how they are thinking about the task).
3 Ask a large number of questions (and to all students).
Questions are a teacher’s most powerful tool, they can highlight misconceptions, keep a lesson flowing and challenge students to think deeper into a subject. The greatest value of questioning though is that they force students to practice retrieval, this strengthens and deepens memory.
4 Provide models and worked examples.
Delivering new information to students by linking it to something or some process they are familiar with allows students to gain an understanding quicker, it also gives them deeper retention. This is especially true of more conceptual ideas.
In Science, we may explain the flow of electrons in a circuit by using the model of the water in a “lazy river”. The water being the flow of electrons, the pumps providing the voltage (power) and the people in the water providing resistance.
5 Practise using the new material.
Practice makes perfect right? Rosenshine postulates that this is true of physical, vocal and mental practice. He suggests that successful teachers allow more time for guidance, questioning and repetition of processes. Actually, in teaching, I prefer to use the phrase “Practice makes Progress”.
6 Check for understanding frequently and correct errors.
Regular asking of direct questions (rather than “does anyone have any questions?”) allows teachers to check a classes/student’s understanding and catching misconceptions, therefore informing the teacher whether any parts of the topic need reteaching.
7 Obtain a high success rate.
Teaching for mastery ensures all students in a class are ready to move on to the next stage in the topic, thus preventing students from taking misunderstanding into their future learning. From his research, Rosenshine found that a class that the optimal success rate is an 80% understanding. This shows that not only have the students learnt the material but also were challenged in doing so. Any higher and the work may not have been challenging enough and vice versa.
8 Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks.
When introducing a more difficult lesson, Rosenshine suggests employing Vygotskian scaffolding. Providing students with a framework that more easily allows them to make progress. The scaffolds can then be gradually removed as their competency grows. Examples of scaffolds can include; checklists, cue cards or writing frames. Teachers can also anticipate commonly made errors and build tools into the scaffold tasks that reduce the chances of students making the same mistakes.
9 Independent practice.
Following scaffolded tasks, students should be competent in the task and therefore can practice the task independently. This repetition of the task will promote a deeper fluency, Rosenshine called this “overlearning”.
10 Monthly and weekly reviews.
An extension of the first principle, monthly and weekly reviews of previous learning aids recall of information and processes. Also it fits into the idea of spaced learning.
References:
Rosenshine, B. (2010). Principles of instruction; Educational practices series; Vol.:21; 2010. The International Academy of Education, 21(2010).
Rosenshine, B. (2012) Principles of Instruction: Research-Based Strategies That All Teachers Should Know. American Educator, 36(1), p12-39. Rosenshine, B. and Stevens, R. (1986) Teaching Functions. In Witrock, M.C. (Ed). Handbook of research on teaching, 3rd ed., pp376-391. New York; MacMillan.
Rosenshine, B. and Stevens, R. (1986). Teaching functions. In M. C. Wittrock (Ed.), Handbook of research on teaching (3rd ed., pp. 376-391). New York: Macmillan