A culture that promotes learning

A culture that promotes learning


A culture that promotes learning is driven by the analysis of student learning needs and supported by a positive, safe and secure learning environment which recognises each student as a unique individual.

A culture that promotes learning

NSW School Examples

  Classroom teachers at MacKillop Catholic College, Warnervale, illustrate the benefits of consistent and structured teaching approaches that engage students in meaningful learning experiences. 
  A video from Chester Hill High School illustrates how the Smarter Schools National Partnerships have supported this school in a low SES community to engage students, particularly refugees and Aboriginal students, to improve literacy and numeracy outcomes and teacher practice. 
  This PowerPoint from St Felix Primary School, Bankstown, shows how the Leadership Team worked with a Teacher Educator, teams of teachers and with parents to collaboratively plan and implement reforms that encourage data-driven teaching and to promote the school as a community of learners
   St Joseph’s School, Walgett outlines in this PowerPoint a range of strategies adapted by the Kindergarten teacher to engage all students, including those shy and reluctant learners, in enriching activities to boost reading, comprehension and story-telling skills. 
  This PowerPoint from Waratah West Public School, located in the Hunter Valley region, demonstrates a collaborative and sensitive approach to engage learners, describing effective practices that are adopted in common by teachers across the school. 
  A video from Cowra Public School shows how differentiated teaching strategies have provided meaningful learning experiences, especially among Aboriginal students and their families. 
  • A culture that promotes learning - in detail


    Students need to be ready and able to learn

    Case studies on NSW schools revealed the key role of the disposition of students to learning – described also as purposeful student engagement, or

    the promotion of a systematic approach towards student engagement in learning that is driven by a clear analysis of student learning needs in literacy and numeracy. This approach is accompanied by a positive, safe and secure learning environment that ensures appropriate learning provision for each student as a unique individual who is empowered to take responsibility for their own learning (Erebus International 2013).


    High expectations and “no excuses”

    Other research identifies a clear link between purposeful student engagement and the promotion by teachers of high expectations for all students. Masters (2010) describes this as an approach to learning which is characterised by “no excuses”. That is, no teacher can make excuses for children not learning, based on their background or learning ability. The teacher has a critical role in the classroom in terms of impact on student attitude and productivity (Hattie 2009).

    Students feel they can control their learning

    Hattie (2009) suggests that a key technique for enhancing purposeful student engagement is for teachers to provide the opportunity to ensure that students experience control over their learning in such a way that they can make purposeful choices that impact directly on their outcomes. These could include the sequence of learning, alternative strategies, and selection of texts where appropriate, within a framework guided by the teacher.


    Classroom strategies for effective engagement

    The research by Effective Philanthropy (2011: 360) also suggests strategies that teachers can undertake to enhance purposeful student engagement:

    • staff set up the classroom environment to support student participation to remove as many barriers to engagement opportunities as possible
    • classrooms are set up to be bright, vibrant learning spaces
    • classrooms are well resourced
    • classrooms are designed and laid out in a way that supports student learning, that is in terms of classrooms being well lit, acoustics allowing students to hear throughout the room and all students being able to see the chalkboard
    • classroom spaces are large enough and all can be changed around to support a range of different learning formats
    • classrooms include individual “time out” spaces
    • classrooms include individual “extension learning” spaces
    • common classroom organisational systems are used across the year level groupings to help students feel comfortable and make it easy for them to engage in class
    • student work is displayed on classroom walls to celebrate student effort, improvement and achievement, to demonstrate what professional high quality work looks like and encourage students to set high expectations for themselves


    What does effective engagement look like?

    Effective Philanthropy (2011) identified the key outcomes of these strategies, which build on include positive expectations for student behaviour, potential and performance and greater encouragement of constructive classroom participation:

    • students’ improved ability to connect with and engage at school
    • increased student attendance, retention and motivation
    • greater encouragement of constructive classroom participation and
    • a reduction in challenging student behavior.


    Teachers set the conditions for efficient learning

    While there is no direct cause and effect among these factors and enhanced student engagement, or even between student engagement and enhanced student learning outcomes, they set the conditions for an effective teaching and learning environment.

    Zbar et al (2010) refer to the underlying ‘moral purpose’ of teachers’ classroom interactions with students, where teachers strive to create classrooms where they would be happy to have their own children. Teachers must also feel that they can make a difference with students, irrespective of their background and ability, and must find a way to ensure that all students in their class become fully engaged in the learning process.

    Recent work by ACER (2010) on factors impacting on student engagement in a tertiary education context highlights that the sense of ‘moral purpose’ is not enough. This research highlights the importance of ensuring that students receive timely feedback on performance and teachers and students have the opportunity to discuss the grades and achievements with teachers and that the students themselves feel a sense of being strongly supported by teaching staff. Indeed the importance of providing feedback to students in the school context is consistently identified by Hattie (2009) as a key factor in enhancing purposeful student engagement.


    Effective Philanthropy (2011). Successful Schooling: Techniques & Tools for Running a School to Help Students from Disadvantaged & Low Socio-Economic Backgrounds Succeed”.

    Erebus International (2012). Evaluation of the take-up and sustainability of new literacy and numeracy practices in NSW schools – Final Report for Phase 1, undertaken on behalf of the NSW Minister for Education

    Erebus International (2013). Evaluation of the take-up and sustainability of new literacy and numeracy practices in NSW schools – Final Report for Phase 2, undertaken on behalf of the NSW Minister for Education

    Hattie, J.  (2009) Visible Learning: a synthesis of over 800 Meta- Analyses relating to Achievement. London: Routledge

    Masters, G. (2010) Teaching and Learning School Improvement Framework. Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)

    Zbar, V.,Kimber, R. and Marshall, G. (2010). Getting the Preconditions for School Improvement in Place: How to Make it Happen. Centre for Strategic Education Seminar Series Bulletin 193: Melbourne

Whole school factors

Leaders create  whole-school culture of high expectations and set the conditions in the school for improved learning outcomes when student needs are effectively addressed.


Classroom/teacher factors

Effective teachers understand their students and utilise class time to focus on specific student learning needs.

Extended uninterrupted blocks of time “quarantined” for teachers and students to engage in literacy and numeracy activities significantly enhance student achievement.


Individual factors

Student engagement with learning is fundamental to confidence and enhanced achievement in literacy and numeracy.


See also

View this video from Cowra Public School to see how strategies under the Smarter Schools National Partnerships have facilitated personalised approaches to teaching and meaningful learning experiences, especially among Aboriginal students and their families.

Read the report from the Fair Go Project ‘School is for me’, a joint initiative of the DEC and the University of Western Sydney exploring ways to engage low SES students.

Read Cores Issues 5 from the What Works Program for practical activities to boost school engagement, attendance and belonging among Indigenous students, produced by the Australian Government.

Read the ACER Research Report by Sue Fullarton on Student Engagement with school—individual and school-level influences.

Explore the findings from South Australian schools that trialled the understanding student engagement resource – Learner Wellbeing Framework.

View the Student Engagement Policy Guidelines produced by the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development for some helpful ideas and strategies.