Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction — 8.5 out of 10 ain’t bad

I posted last year on my understanding of Barak Rosenshine’s concept of “learner rehearsal” and how it might be applied in coaching.

Rehearsal is a key concept in Rosenshine’s 10 Principles of Instruction, developed in the context of teaching in the classroom. Leaving aside, for now, the question of whether coaching for (sports or movement) skill acquisition really does follow the same process as teaching an academic curriculum, Rosenshine’s 10 principles do (mostly) look to be applicable to sports coaching.

I found myself applying no.1 on an after-school club this week — I only see the group for 1 hr a week, and on Tuesday the start of the session was disrupted by a fire alarm. A quick “review of learning” (“what did we do last week?”) felt like the best way to start, for players _and_ coach! And it feels as if there will be value in revisiting previous learning at the start of every session.

Presenting new materials in small steps (no.2) — you don’t learn the basics of cricket by playing in a Test match (although you can learn from playing at any level — see my interpretations of Principle no.10, below). I do now try not to break down a discrete skill into arbitrary components, however — hitting off a tee removes too many contextual cues in batting, for example.

Questions (no.3) and CfU (no.6) go hand-in-hand, for me, although we perhaps don’t need players always to verbalise their answers. “Questions” might take the form of a subtly varied feed to a batter in practice (and the answer is the deployment of an appropriate skill) — can you pick the right delivery to play a particular stroke to? Understanding can be amply demonstrated by the performance of a specific skill or tactic under match conditions, competitive or simulated.

Practice (no.5) and independent practice (no.9) are essential, as is putting the new skill into practice (perhaps Whitehead’s “generalisation” step), but it is interesting to note the importance placed on the teacher monitoring independent practice, which sounds rather like checking homework! In a sports coaching concept, player rehearsal, and the feedback from game or gamified drill, is perhaps more important than the coach knowing that the player is practicing…

There is a great quote in Rob Gray’s “How We Learn To Move”

— when kids struggle to master the “fundamentals” in sports training or physical education class they typically drop out of sports.

Leaving aside motivation & mastery, this is why we need to see high rates of success in our sessions (no.7)…although not so high that the player thinks she already knows it all!😉

Scaffolding (no.8) is an interesting concept, but one I don’t think I properly understand, yet.

In a sports context, I see it as perhaps more relevant to tactical knowledge — initially a player might need to be prompted as to an appropriate tactical response (when to adopt a more or less aggressive approach to batting or bowling, for example; bowling & field changes bellowed from the boundary by a coach).

Perhaps the natural progress of making practice more challenging as a skill develops might constitute scaffolding, of a sort — the “scaffold”, then, is the already acquired skill (or the appropriate session design)?

Weekly & monthly review (no.10) might best be implemented in a coaching context by (just) playing games — conditioned to reward or challenge a newly acquired skill.

In fact, that is the model I am trying to follow in the after-school club I mentioned earlier. Every week we will work on an aspect of the game (e.g. bowling or hitting straight, fielding for run-outs), then finish with a 4- or 5-a-side game. After bowling practice, clean bowling a batter accrues extra runs for the bowling side; after practicing controlled hitting, our game featured a bonus scoring zone — hit the ball into the zone and score 2 runs automatically.

Which leaves just Principle no.4 — provide models & worked examples.

One of the core coaching skills when I was trained was the ability to demonstrate a (playing) technique. In fact, I heard stories (possibly apocryphal) of candidates being failed simply because their pull stroke demo did not match the coach-tutor’s ideal!

But what is an “ideal” technique? How many international players actually comply strictly with the text-book model? (The MCC Coaching Book, still quoted as the definitive guide to playing the game by some commentators, was last published in 1994!)

Research shows that even the most “skilful” performers do not perform a skill movement in exactly the same way, repeatably, time after time. And individual players display idiosyncratic variations of style and movement to achieve the same outcomes.

There really isn’t one, perfect technique.

BTW — take with a pinch of salt what commentators on TV or radio say about technique. So often, how they describe a stroke will match the ideal (e.g. “foot to the pitch, head over the ball” for a cover drive), but simply does not correspond with what the batter has actually just done (foot on off stump, head and weight leaning into the stroke, bat thrown out to meet the ball as it passes 9” outside off — still thrilling; not text book).

Today, I am much less inclined to give a demo, or prescribe a YouTube viewing, except for inspiration. I might provide advice on a core principle (e.g. “bat high-to-low” or “hands like a soup bowl”), or demonstrate (or get someone else to demo) a model outcome, but offering a model solution seems almost limiting.

So my modelling or worked examples per Rosenshine’s Principle no.4 are probably a fail.

But 9 out of 10 (8.5, given a scaffolding failure) ain’t bad!

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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