In my last post, I declared myself a big fan of Barak Rosenshine. Rosenshine’s writing is sharp and illuminates some interesting ideas around the murky educational debates between teaching skills versus knowledge, and the relative merits of teacher- and student-led activities.
Rosenshine’s support for explicit teacher-led skills instruction shows why a binary split between “traditional” and “progressive” teaching is unhelpful. Rosenshine proposed that a central aim of education is to help novices become experts – and a fundamental characteristic of an expert is the way they use skills (or ‘cognitive strategies’) to deal with challenging or unstructured tasks.
In addition to boosting students’ knowledge, Rosenshine believed that effective teachers should make these strategies explicit to students and practise them in their lessons. For example, Rosenshine argued that in addition to teaching knowledge, such as new vocabulary, English teachers should spend time teaching comprehension skills by modelling the habit of regularly pausing to summarise the key ideas in a text.
I want to explore some of the developments in the field of cognitive strategy instruction since 1997, when Rosenshine’s paper, The Case for Explicit, Teacher-led, Cognitive Strategy Instruction, was published. During my research, I also discovered that Barak Rosenshine died in May this year so I was keen to understand how his ideas had influenced new research.