Coaching with Rosenshine

Coaching sport using Rosenshine

Rich Molloy looks for a middle path in the theory of coaching sport and finds it in Rosenshine’s ten principles of pedagogy.

Uniting pedagogy and coaching through Rosenshine’s teachings

Most coaches working in club programmes have few opportunities to access high level pedagogical speakers. Others, like me, are fortunate enough to work in schools that prioritise teacher professional development. Those of us in this latter category have the opportunity to take the plunge into the connections between pedagogy and coaching – something that can be eye opening and will challenge our own beliefs, but it comes with a willingness to be uncomfortable and learn from other disciplines.

Where does coaching theory stand on communication?

Coaching sport as a profession has come a long way in the last 20 years but remains behind theories of pedagogy in seeking to verify approaches through evidence-based research. Learning from a coach has long been depicted – and rightly so – as the process of forming beliefs and skills developed by ‘doing’ and ‘listening’ to senior coach’s experience enriched by a coaching qualification or two added in for good measure.

Coaching literature has widely focussed on two key lines of instruction. ‘Discovery-based’ approaches have become synonymous with athlete centred coaching. This approach provides a link to how learning occurs and the facilitation of the learning process. Unfortunately, it has also become a ‘one size fits all’ model which lacks the depth necessary to recognise the changeable nature of learning, and the capability of learners to deal with problems without a teacher/coach’s guidance.

The other line of instruction widely discussed is the ‘direct’ method of coaching, which is seen as the poor relation of the popular freedom associated with all things discovery-based. Arguments against direct instruction include athlete disempowerment, lack of decision-making opportunities and minimal development of athlete engagement.

Either or?

Here lies the issue. From a pedagogical perspective, neither of these models sit at the end of the instructional spectrum and neither should be considered the only method.

In reality, coaches must engage a range of communication styles based upon the scenario they are faced with. The ability of a coach to be reflexive and consider their role in providing this clarity. Research in coaching circles has been too focussed on a generalisation of the term ‘verbal instruction’ which has led to inconsistency in how it is portrayed in both coaching courses and popularised training methods.

An alternative approach to coaching using Rosenshine’s pedagogical model

This is where Rosenshine and his principles come into the conversation. The argument in coaching needs to move away from ‘which approach is better’, towards understanding that there is strong evidence showing that direct instruction can be appropriate in supporting learning – when it has been fully understood. The two apparently irreconcilable worlds of ‘discovery’ and ‘direct’ coaching need to collide.

The 10 principles

Rosenshine’s (2012) 10 principles of instruction have been a key feature of the Continuous Professional Learning offerings in the last 18 months at Bangkok Patana with the support of Tom Sherrington, using an instructional approach focussing on more than a single coaching behaviour.

Rosenshine’s approach rewards task proficiency with a decrease in teacher support, all the way down to independent practice. The use of concepts like scaffolding and questioning can be key contributors to an ideal learning environment in coaching, just like teaching. Here are the ‘Rosenshine 10’:

  1. Begin a lesson with a short review of previous learning
  2. Present new material in small steps with student practice
  3. Ask a large number of questions and check the responses of all students
  4. Provide models
  5. Guide student practice
  6. Check for student understanding
  7. Obtain a high success rate
  8. Provide scaffolding for difficult tasks
  9. Require and monitor independent practice
  10. Engage students in weekly and monthly review

If this seems like good, common sense, then that’s what it is on one level. However, the approach has also been validated by research and it is supported by convincing evidence.

Taking Rosenshine to the field of play

The adoption and integration of Rosenshine’s principles can go far beyond the classrooms, onto our sports fields and into our swimming pools, gymnasiums and studios. With this foundation in a common, evidence-based approach, our coaches at Patana have been given the tools to keep learning at the centre of the conversation while giving students the skills to excel on the sports field as well as in the classroom.


Rich Molloy, is the Cross Campus Head of Sport at Bangkok Patana School in Thailand.




Click on the cover of Tom Sherrington’s Rosenshine’s Principles in Action to link to Amazon