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Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction

Barak Rosenshine's principles of instruction will absolutely transform your professional learning and development into something highly valuable for your organisation.

[1]Rosenshine (1930-2017) was formerly a professor of educational psychology in the College of Education at the University of Illinois

Rosenshine published his 10 principles of instruction in 2010 and we're aimed at helping teachers improve their effectiveness and subsequently the learning of their students.  Schools which have implemented and coached Rosenshine's principles with their teachers, consistently outperform those that don't.

However, Rosenshine's 10 principles of instruction apply directly to professional learning and development also. There is no smoke and mirrors with the 10 principles just sound practice based on cognitive science.

These principles are at the core of everything 360º Group Train and Coach. This is the main reason our training and coaching works.

So lets look at the 10 principles:-

1. Present using small steps

How do you eat an elephant?’ 

For any remotely complex subject, it is impossible to cover everything all in one go. Selling is an extremely broad subject, especially when considering complex sales and key account management. 

Fortunately, we already have this aspect covered with the course content broken down into seven distinct modules and then into three areas of focus.  The 360seven syllabus is built on a carefully curated selection of scientifically proven resources, (some of which you are probably familiar with), which have been broken down into digestible chunks.  

This will save you time and energy.  You won’t have to read the huge selection of books and resources for yourself. However you may want to gain a deeper understanding and will have an excellent reading list for further study.

2. Provide models

There’s absolutely no point asking the people you are coaching to do something without first modelling exactly what the desired result looks like. Remember effective coaching is delivered by experts, with a good working knowledge of the subject matter. 

This may involve simply talking through a subject or task, but will often require the coach to provide a demonstration of best practice. 

This is often overlooked or deliberately ignored in sales as it may involve live role play or demonstrating in front of a real customer, which many experienced sales people and managers aren’t comfortable with. The live customer scenario is understandable as customers are unpredictable, as we will see in the course content.

Sadly this can lead immediately to lethal mutation as, without knowing what the desired result looks like, the team being coached mutate the practice, leading to mixed results - occasionally good, but without consistency. 

3. Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks

With especially challenging tasks, there needs to be a support structure in place to give guidance at each stage of the task. Business planning is probably the best example of this, when related to sales.

If you are to ask a novice who has never produced a sales business plan to produce one, they will more than likely fail on their first attempt. In fact it is probably true to say that many experienced sales people struggle with producing business plans, which is a bugbear of managers and accountants. 

However, if you ask most sales professionals what coaching they have received in this area, they will almost unanimously say virtually none. What tends to happen is that a sales organisation will have a format or system they use for business planning.  There may be some cursory training given in how to operate the CRM software, spreadsheet or document, but not necessarily coaching around what information they require to make the business plan an effective tool. 

A successful way to teach school children how to write an effective, well ordered essay, is to provide them with a writing template. The teacher will walk the school children through what an excellent response at each step of the template looks like. After, a number of attempts to follow this pattern, the students start to understand how to do the task more fluently until finally they can complete the essay unaided without the template.  This is very similar to riding a bike with stabilisers.  The key skills of the coach is knowing when the stabilisers can come off - too soon and they may crash, too late and there will be a lack of independence. 

Where appropriate, we will use scaffolds as a coaching tool throughout this material. 

4. Ask questions

Rosenshine’s principles are taken from his extensive research in education but his fourth principle is a subject that is also already an established specialty in sales coaching. 

This provides a nice opportunity to dovetail and cross-pollinate coaching strategies, especially given one of the elements contained within the ‘Understand’ module of the 360seven syllabus explores in detail ‘using questions to effectively understand customers’. 

Specifically, in terms of instructional coaching, this part of Rosenshine’s 10 principles is:

  1. How we utilise questions to produce opportunities for practice, leading to deeper understanding,
  2. How we use them to determine the effect by checking for understanding. 

In this section we will also discuss how to provide feedback, rather than criticism, in a format that builds trust between the coach and delegate. 

5. Check for understanding

A common problem with any sort of training or coaching is determining whether all of the delegates have grasped the concepts and can demonstrate they have understood correctly. 

It is very tempting when coaching a group to focus on the delegates that pick things up quickly. It’s flattering to think that you have explained and modelled something so well that every delegate can perform the task or strategy to a proficient standard.  Often what happens is as much as 50% of the group haven’t fully understood and there is material that needs to be retaught. 

It is essential therefore that you continually check for understanding, not simply asking whether they have understood. There are various techniques that we can use, such a quizzing, role play and generating a group discussion centred around uncovering what they have understood. 

6. Guided  practice

‘Perfect practice makes perfect.’  

Practice is a fundamental element for learning, but it is essential that what is being practised is faithful to what has been modelled and demonstrated by the expert coach. 

It is quite possible, in group or paired work, that some delegates who feel they have understood the task or scenario, take on the mantle of coach. 

The motives for this kind of activity are to help others. However, without proper supervision the exercises can end up being lethally mutated from the outset.  If the surrogate coach is mistaken in their belief that they fully understand what they are practising, they may be guiding the practice in the wrong direction. 

It’s therefore paramount that each step of practice is guided by the expert coach.  Effectively the coach’s responsibility at this stage is to teach the delegates how to practise. 

7. Obtain a high success rate

Rosenshine determined that each stage of learning should have a high success rate at around 80% of the content being absorbed when tested.  Once the success rate drops below this level, it is a good indication that the content is moving too quickly or is too complex in its current format (again we are assuming you have recruited people with a sufficient level of intelligence).

Conversely, if the tasks you set aren’t sufficiently challenging and the success rate is high across the board, it's probably a good indicator that there isn’t enough stretch and challenge.  In many ways the idea is similar to the concept of the flow channel, which describes getting the balance between challenge and current skills in a zone which is most conducive to effective learning.  

8. Independent practice

Once you have established that the delegates have reached a certain level of skill, it’s important that they now go away and practise independently.  

There comes a moment when scaffolding and guided practice become a comfort blanket that hinders further development.  Simply put, there is a time when the stabilisers have to come off and delegates have to be prepared to make mistakes in the real world. 

This more challenging, and frankly scary, form of learning is often when the deepest insights are formed. A small amount of fear is extremely effective at generating memories that last. Memory is the residue of thought and, let's face it, you can probably bring to mind now all the most frightening experiences in your life more readily than the happy ones. 

The critical factor at this stage of learning is to make practice a daily activity.

9. Daily review

Dabbling in anything is a recipe for failure.  Consistent practice and review strengthens memory and reinforces learning. 

However, it is probably the biggest failure of professional training. Courses and learning in isolation can provide a useful stimulus but it is rare that they cause a meaningful change in day to day practice. 

We looked earlier at professional amnesia and how many people spend most of their time in unproductive forgetting loops. We learn something useful, but then neglect practice which, as we saw, is no good when you are dealing with perishable skills. 

The science of memory is really quite straightforward: repetition is king and repetition of a task, just as we are about to forget it, is the ideal time to strengthen memory. This is why daily practice is essential.

10. Weekly review 

Without regular review, we can see from the forgetting curve that any newly learned information is almost entirely forgotten after a number of weeks.

Usually, all that is left is a vague recollection of a concept. It’s why it is very common when you ask a group what they know about a subject that they will all remember the name of the topic but mistake this for a working knowledge.  

It is particularly frustrating as a coach to deal with individuals who claim to know a subject, but can only demonstrate a tiny level of skill. 

Regular practice and weekly review is essential, which is why it is imperative that you implement, via your training and management function, a system which ensures a regular appraisal of what learning has been retained, otherwise training expenditure is a waste of money.


In summary, there is nothing particularly surprising about Rosenshine’s principles and, let’s be honest, they are fairly obvious when you break them down. 

But this is the issue with most pursuits. Those that seek a magic bullet often forget that simple consistent practice is all that’s required to succeed. 

At each stage of learning there are many useful techniques and further insight we can call upon, but the intention of the proceeding sections is to break the subject of professional sales skills down into manageable chunks and use the wealth of knowledge already widely available to guide our learning and daily practice.  

The tennis player, Roger Federer, wasn’t born with an immaculate forehand - he spent hours from an early age practising the basic skills which, when pieced together, give the impression of super human talent. 

If you implement the proceeding learning systematically into your business, you will succeed.

If you need help implementing these principles into your business, the 360º Group is here to work alongside you and your sales management team to make it part of your day to day activities.

Contact now - 0208 2262 360 -