Assessing Literacy and Numeracy (ALAN)

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The disruption to face-to-face teaching in NSW in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 required schools to rapidly implement remote learning to ensure students continued to learn from home. This disruption to normal practice in schools has occurred as part of wider disruptions to everyday life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, many families may be experiencing sudden financial difficulties, health and wellbeing difficulties, or new work demands that may create additional challenges to student learning (Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment 2020; Victoria University 2020). This explainer summarises the evidence in relation to effective remote learning and highlights key considerations for learning in the face of COVID-19. It focuses on teaching quality, supporting teachers to implement high quality teaching practices, ensuring students can access learning, encouraging effective engagement with parents and carers, and considerations for the return to face-to-face teaching.

Putting the evidence in context

The disruption to face-to-face teaching in schools around the world has prompted a rapid research response to help inform effective
approaches to continuing learning. It is worth noting, however, that there are gaps in this research. This is largely because most of the existing research was not developed during mass disruption to normal school operations, but rather investigates remote learning more generally. Most previous research has focused on a well-planned, intentionally designed and implemented remote learning curriculum for students who have chosen to undertake their learning in this way (Education Endowment Foundation 2020). There is also very little research on primary schools with most of the existing research focused on the higher education sector or high schools. As such, these research findings may not be as applicable to younger students who need more adult support to facilitate their learning (Education Endowment Foundation 2020). This explainer should be read keeping in mind these limitations in the research base.

Teaching quality matters

Teaching quality is fundamental to the effectiveness of learning irrespective of whether a student is learning remotely or is in the classroom. The Education Endowment Foundation (2020) conducted a rapid evidence assessment of meta‑analyses and systematic reviews related to remote learning and teaching and concluded that the quality of teaching is more important than how the remote teaching occurs. They found that as long as teachers were using high quality teaching practices there was no difference in achievement between students who were experiencing synchronous learning and teaching (students undertaking learning in ‘real time’, for example, video call classrooms) or asynchronous learning and teaching (students undertaking learning at their own pace, for example, pre‑recorded instruction videos or assigned learning activities) (Education Endowment Foundation 2020).

There is evidence to suggest some high quality teaching practices, in particular, may be important for effective remote learning. These are explicit teaching, feedback, and assessment practices. The Education Endowment Foundation’s (2020) rapid evidence assessment found that remote learning achievement is greater when teachers use explicit teaching practices, in particular, providing clear explanations that build on prior learning and scaffolding. Remote learning often requires students to learn with less direct and less frequent support from teachers and other adults, which can limit their opportunities to clarify understanding. Using explicit teaching practices that provide students with a clear understanding of what they have to do and how they can do it (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 2020) is a way teachers can address the challenge of students having limited adult support. In addition, explicitly teaching strategies for independent learning skills that support students’ persistence in the face of challenges, motivation and time management (for example, encouraging students to think of strategies to use if they get stuck, or facilitating use of routines and schedules) have been found to be important for successful remote learning (Education Endowment Foundation 2020).

The Education Endowment Foundation’s (2020) rapid evidence assessment also found that student remote learning achievement is greater when students receive effective feedback than when they do not (Education Endowment Foundation 2020). Effective feedback can support students’ positive feelings of self-efficacy, providing motivation for continued effort and engagement (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 2020). This support may be especially important in the context of sudden disruption to face-to-face teaching because students are at greater risk of feeling disconnected from their teacher and less engaged in their learning (National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education 2020). Teachers may need to adapt their feedback processes when students are learning remotely to ensure students continue to receive timely feedback, especially if there is limited synchronous teacher-student interaction. This could include using online quizzes or educational games with automated feedback, audio recording verbal feedback, sending images of written feedback, or providing students with a dedicated time to receive feedback on work (Education International 2020).

Another important consideration for high quality remote teaching is the use of formative and summative assessments (Education International 2020). Assessments are important tools for ensuring students and teachers know how learning is progressing, to inform next steps, and to have meaningful data to determine the effectiveness of chosen teaching strategies (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 2020). However, when students are learning remotely teachers may not be able to rely on incidental formative assessment opportunities that occur frequently during face-to-face teaching, and may face equity, logistic, and integrity challenges to administering summative assessments (Education International 2020). Therefore, when students are learning remotely teachers may need to be more intentional and systematic in their formative assessment practices (for example, using exit tickets, online quizzes, creating prompts for discussion threads, or creating opportunities for students to create portfolios of their work), and adjust their summative assessments to ensure all students are able to access the assessment, understand the success criteria, are familiar with any technology needed to complete the assessment, and undertake the task independently (Education International 2020).

Learning remotely may impact student wellbeing

Learning remotely may contribute to students experiencing challenges to their wellbeing, including increased anxiety and a lower sense of connection to school, their teachers, and their peers (National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education 2020). For effective learning to occur, it is important for student wellbeing needs to be addressed (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 2015). Under normal operating conditions schools provide an access point to a large variety of services that are important for student wellbeing. Creating systems for remotely checking in with students (for example, regular phone calls to students and parents/carers, and using questions about wellbeing as part of marking attendance) and continuing to connect students to available services is vital for continued provision of wellbeing support while students are learning remotely (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 2020; Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment 2020). Creating opportunities for students to connect with teachers and peers in a more general sense may also be important for ensuring students feel connected to school despite physical distance (National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education 2020). There is some evidence from remote learning research with older students that opportunities for peer interactions may be particularly beneficial for motivating students to engage in remote learning. Peer interaction opportunities might include giving peer feedback, sharing examples of good work, and opportunities for live discussions (Education Endowment Foundation 2020).

Teachers need support to implement high quality teaching practices

Effective remote learning approaches require teachers to translate high quality teaching practices into a new mode of delivery that continues to meet the needs of their students (Australian Council for Educational Research 2020; Education International 2020). Evidence from the higher education sector suggests that when redesigning curriculum for remote learning, teachers benefit from dedicated time for planning pedagogical practices, and training and support for technologies required to support remote learning (Australian Council for Educational Research 2020; Education Endowment Foundation 2020). To provide dedicated time for pedagogical planning, schools may need to consider strategic ways to use or reallocate resources, for example by employing casual teachers or redefining roles within the school to maximise planning time for classroom teachers. Training and support for any technologies required to support remote learning is also critical because teachers need to be able to effectively use these technologies to implement remote teaching practices and support students to access remote learning (Australian Council for Educational Research 2020; Education Endowment Foundation 2020).

Evidence from the higher education sector also suggests that meaningful collaboration with colleagues and formal professional learning opportunities are important for translating high quality teaching practices into a remote learning context (Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment 2020). Creating opportunities for meaningful collaboration between teachers may be particularly important when there is a sudden shift to remote learning (as opposed to a more planned move) because it allows teachers to rapidly share effective practices and can improve consistency of remote teaching quality across the school (Education International 2020). It may also increase teachers’ sense of collective efficacy (Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment 2020) which is important because, more generally, collective efficacy is a key driver of student learning outcomes (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 2020). In addition, formal professional learning opportunities may be critical for addressing gaps in knowledge or to further build expertise in translating high quality teaching practices into the school’s remote learning approach (Education International 2020; Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment 2020).

Some students need additional support to access remote learning

There are some groups of students who are more likely to experience barriers to remote learning than others. These groups of students may include:
• Students from low-income families
• Students living in regional or remote areas
• Aboriginal students
• Students from non-English speaking backgrounds
• Students with disability or health conditions who have complex learning needs (Australian Council for Educational Research 2020; Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment 2020).

Barriers to remote learning might relate to the home environment (for example, insecure and/or overcrowded housing, food insecurity, lack of physical and/or psychological safety, and not having access to appropriate learning materials, resources or learning space) or student skills and capabilities (for example, low levels of digital or reading literacy, or less well-developed independent learning skills). If these barriers are not addressed then existing disparities in learning outcomes are likely to be exacerbated (Victoria University 2020). Students who face barriers to learning may increase in number and/or be further impacted as a result of the wider disruptions caused by COVID-19, such as financial stress, physical disconnection from support services and/or health and wellbeing challenges (Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment 2020).

Schools can address barriers to remote learning by knowing their students and their communities, harnessing available resources to meet students’ needs, and designing their remote learning approach with accessibility as the first consideration (Australian Council for Educational Research 2020; Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment 2020). It is particularly important that schools regularly check-in with every student and parents/carers identify and address accessibility issues, including any additional issues that may have arisen as a result of COVID-19 (Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment 2020). In addition, if concerned about a student’s lack of engagement in remote learning, it may be beneficial for schools to take a ‘trouble shooting’ approach that addresses accessibility in the first instance.

What schools can do to address barriers to remote learning

Strategies collated from Australian Council for Educational Research 2020; Education Endowment Foundation 2020; Education International 2020; OECD 2020; Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment 2020; Rapid Research Information Forum 2020.

Home environment

• Continue to work with students and families to connect them to available support services.
• Consider if food related school programs (for example, breakfast clubs, food technology budget) can be adapted to deliver food to students’ homes.
• Ensure that child safety procedures and systems are continued and adapted where required.
• Provide required learning materials and resources such as pens and pencils, books, and computers, tablets and internet service (if learning online).
• Ensure that Aboriginal students continue to have learning experiences that involve culturally responsive teaching practices.
• Work with parents and carers of students with disability or health conditions to, where possible, transfer learning supports into the home environment.
• Design learning and teaching to not heavily rely on learning support from parents and carers.
• Work with parents and carers and students to create the best learning space possible.
• Make adjustments to accommodate students who may be learning in spaces that are not ideal, for example, provide text-based discussion options for students who are not able to join live video discussions due to background noise.

Student skills and capabilities

• Minimise the level of digital literacy required to access learning resources, for example, by providing a one-click access point to all online learning platforms, and limiting the number of platforms used.
• Minimise the level of reading literacy required to access learning resources by providing brief, plain language instructions, or by providing real time or recorded audio instructions for how to access learning resources.
• Support the development of students’ independent learning skills by explicitly teaching strategies for time management, motivation, and persistence in the face of challenge.

Effective engagement with parents and carers is important for facilitating remote learning

Effective engagement with parents and carers is critical for remote learning because parents and carers are often directly involved in facilitating their child’s learning from home. Ensuring parents and carers are supported to facilitate remote learning is particularly important for students who may require more extensive adult support (including younger students and students with additional needs) and for parents who may be limited in the level of learning support and resources they can provide (for example, because of their own education level, English language skills, health and wellbeing, household income, or work commitments) (Australian Council for Educational Research 2020; Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment 2020).

Research about the importance of parent and carer engagement in student learning in general suggests that engagement is most effective when there is clear understanding about the different roles parents/carers and teachers play in learning, and where interactions are voluntary and focus on the student’s learning and wellbeing (Australian Council for Educational Research 2020). In the context of remote learning, these findings suggest the importance of schools providing families with clearly communicated role expectations, ways to initiate contact with the school and/or teachers, and opportunities for sharing feedback about student learning and wellbeing. Care must be taken, however, to encourage parent and carer engagement without placing additional burden on them during a time when many other aspects of their lives are likely to be challenging (Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment 2020; Education International 2020). Examples of ways in which schools could reduce the risk of overwhelming parents and carers during remote learning include: limiting the number of platforms parents and carers are expected to access, using communication methods that are familiar and comfortable for parents and carers, and coordinating the frequency of school communications (Education International 2020).

Return to face-to-face teaching

All students will need time to adjust back to face-to-face teaching, but some students may need additional support with the transition, including those most at risk of disengagement prior to the disruption, those with less well developed self‑regulation skills, those who have experienced wellbeing challenges, or those from families that are newly experiencing challenges due to wider disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment 2020). Teachers may benefit from professional learning about how to best address the learning and wellbeing needs of these students (Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment 2020). Student learning progress will also need to be determined, and additional learning support provided where required to address any learning loss (Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment 2020; OECD 2020). Some research has noted that there are likely to be significant losses in learning for students from disadvantaged backgrounds in particular (Centre for Independent Studies 2020; Victoria University 2020). The Grattan Institute (2020) has recommended small-group tuition programs and expanding successful literacy and numeracy programs to address these losses. It is also important that the expertise developed and the opportunities for professional learning that have occurred during this time are maintained and built upon. Teachers are now better prepared for any future disruptions to face-to-face teaching (for example, school closures caused by bushfires) and also better able to meet the needs of some students who may at times be unable to attend school but are able to continue learning at home (Australian Council for Educational Research 2020; Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment 2020).


 

References

Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) 2020, Ministerial briefing paper on evidence of the likely impact on educational outcomes of vulnerable children learning at home during COVID-19.
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 2015, Student wellbeing, NSW Department of Education.
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 2020, What works best: 2020 update, NSW Department of Education.
Centre for Independent Studies 2020, Pain without gain: Why school closures are bad policy, report prepared by B Joseph & G Fahey.
Education Endowment Foundation 2020, Remote learning: Rapid evidence assessment.
Education International 2020, Thinking about Pedagogy in an Unfolding Pandemic: An Independent Report on Approaches to Distance Learning During COVID19 School Closures, report prepared by A Doucet, D Netolicky, K Timmers & F Tuscano.
Grattan Institute 2020, COVID catch-up: Helping disadvantaged students close the equity gap, report prepared by J Sonnemann & P Goss.

National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education 2020, The impact of ‘learning at home’ on the educational outcomes of vulnerable children in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic, report prepared by C Drane, L Vernon & S O’Shea.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 2020, A framework to guide an education response to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, report prepared by M Reimers & A Schleicher.
Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment 2020, Learning at home during COVID-19: Effects on vulnerable young Australians, University of Tasmania, report prepared by N Brown, K te Riele, B Shelley & J Woodroffe.
Rapid Research Information Forum 2020, Differential learning outcomes for online versus in-class education, Australian Academy of Science.
Victoria University 2020, Impact of learning from home on educational outcomes for disadvantaged children: Brief assessment, Centre for International Research on Education Systems and the Mitchell Institute, report prepared by S Lamb, Q Maire, E Doecke, S Macklin, K Noble & S Pilcher.

Introduction

When students feel a sense of belonging at school, they have positive relationships, value learning and engage with their school environment. This synthesis of research explains why students’ sense of belonging is important and provides practical suggestions for schools to support and care for their students.

Student sense of belonging in NSW public schools

Students report on the level of belonging at school that they experience in the student survey offered to NSW public schools – Tell Them From Me (TTFM). TTFM reports on student, parent and teacher perspectives of their school and provides data on students’ wellbeing and engagement, as well as the teaching practices they encounter in the classroom. This paper presents findings on how to support students' sense of belonging, drawn from longitudinal modelling of TTFM data, NSW case studies and literature reviews conducted by the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE). Accompanying papers provide findings on how to support high academic expectations and advocacy at school and to support school improvement with TTFM.

Key findings

  • Students who experience a positive sense of belonging at school also have improved overall wellbeing, mental health and long-term academic success.
  • Sense of belonging is linked to both student engagement and wellbeing and teaching practices.
  • Students who experience a positive sense of belonging are more likely to experience positive friendships, an absence of bullying at school and co-curricular participation at school. They also tend to value learning, show high levels of effort, interest and motivation, as well as positive homework behaviour.
  • Effective classroom management, teaching relevant content, leading by example in the classroom, positive teacher-student relationships and advocacy (or support) at school can all enhance students’ sense of belonging.
  • A positive sense of belonging is important throughout a child’s schooling, particularly during periods of transition.
 

 

What is sense of belonging?

Sense of belonging measures a student’s perception of being accepted, valued and included in their school setting by their peers and others in the school. A student’s sense of belonging is influenced by a complex set of relationships with peers, teachers, families and the broader community.

Why is a positive sense of belonging important?

A strong sense of belonging is associated with positive outcomes for students’ academic achievement and wellbeing. Research suggests that students with a positive sense of belonging are more likely to stay in school longer, have less absenteeism and higher academic outcomes. Students who have a high sense of belonging in school generally put in more effort and are more motivated at school. Schools offer a unique environment for students to develop their sense of belonging. A sense of belonging is particularly important during periods of transition, including primary to secondary school1 and post-school transitions. Students who experience a caring and nurturing school environment, where they feel they belong, have a strong base to achieve their academic potential. A school’s social and organisational culture can provide a caring framework for students to mature into adults who feel they belong in the wider community beyond school.

How do we measure sense of belonging?

In NSW, schools are able to examine the extent to which their students experience a positive sense of belonging at school through data collected in the Tell Them From Me student survey. This survey asks students whether they feel included and accepted at school and if they make friends easily. Sense of belonging is not a simple construct; many elements work together to ensure a student feels like they belong in their school environment.

What is happening in NSW?

Findings from the Tell Them From Me student survey suggest that students experience different levels of belonging at different stages of their schooling2. Primary school students have a very strong sense of belonging at school. Sense of belonging drops in the middle years of high school with a slight increase in the senior years.
Gender has an impact on sense of belonging (Figure 1). Female students’ sense of belonging at school is lower throughout high school. Sense of belonging for girls has a significantly sharper drop from Years 7-9 than boys. Positive relationships have a significant impact on students’ overall sense of belonging.

'I know my culture is really supported and accepted here...it helps me feel proud of who I am.'
Year 9 Aboriginal student, Engadine High School

 

Figure 1

 

Socioeconomic status (SES) also makes a difference (Figure 2). Students from low-SES backgrounds have a lower sense of belonging compared to students from high-SES backgrounds. The gap between low- and high-SES students increases significantly when students transition to high school and continues to increase through to Year 9. Australian and NSW results on international assessments of students, such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)3, also highlight this gap between the most and least socio-economically advantaged students in our schools. Furthermore, PISA results show that there has been a slow decline in sense of belonging at school among students, both in Australia and overseas. This decline is most pronounced for students from the lowest SES background.


Figure 2

 

Developing a student’s positive sense of belonging at high school begins while they are in primary school and requires ongoing attention as relationships and attitudes continue to develop and evolve4. A student with a positive sense of belonging in Year 6 is three times more likely to feel they belong in Year 7 after the transition to high school, compared to a student who does not feel a strong sense of belonging in Year 6.

Improving students' sense of belonging

What does the evidence say?5

CESE has conducted longitudinal modelling using the TTFM data for both primary and secondary students. The models identified which classroom practices, engagement and wellbeing factors drive a positive sense of belonging for students in a primary or secondary school setting. A student’s prior sense of belonging is the single largest indicator of their current sense of belonging, over the transition from Year 6 to Year 7. Schools can influence students’ sense of belonging by providing a positive learning climate, and teachers can engage in frequent and meaningful conversations with students to know their students and be an advocate when required. Outside of the classroom, positive friendships, the absence of bullying, being optimistic and having a positive self-concept are all factors that can affect an individual’s sense of belonging.
Several practices can improve levels of students' sense of belonging.

Foster positive relationships

Positive relationships are a protective factor for students. Relationships with peers and teachers help a student to feel accepted and cared for in the school community. Students are more likely to perceive that they have positive relationships with their teachers when teachers are caring, fair and help students work out personal issues. Students with positive friendships are more likely to be involved in extra-curricular activities and have a stronger network of friends.

Minimise bullying

Bullying has long-term detrimental effects on students’ sense of wellbeing, mental health and academic outcomes. There is a large and growing body of evidence6 that suggests school-based interventions can be successful in reducing bullying behaviours. Characteristics of effective anti-bullying programs include:

  • a systematic and holistic, school-wide approach and implementation
  • educational content that supports students to develop social and emotional competencies, and learn appropriate ways to respond
  • professional development for teachers and other school staff on how best to maintain a positive school climate.

Lead by example in the classroom

Teachers play an important role in nurturing students’ sense of belonging. Teaching practices used in the classroom can model appropriate behaviour and promote a positive sense of belonging for students. This requires teachers to prioritise high-quality teacher-student relationships to create supportive and caring learning environments based on principles of respect and fairness. A positive learning climate is a powerful tool for teachers to promote belonging for all students.

How are schools effectively supporting students' sense of belonging?

Encouraging positive behaviour

Establishing clear expectations for behaviour in the playground and classroom helps students to understand appropriate behaviour in different situations, within and beyond school. Blue Haven Public School7 explicitly teaches students clear and consistent expectations of acceptable behaviour in the playground and classroom. Teachers model acceptable behaviour across all school environments. They also participate in structured activities during break times to assist students who may have trouble in displaying appropriate behaviour, which helps students to build positive friendships. Participation in activities outside the classroom allows teachers to demonstrate how to resolve issues appropriately. These activities and structures ensure that students have a clear understanding of expectations and consequences across the school. At Whalan Public School8, a consistent and supportive classroom environment for all students was developed through the successful introduction of Positive Behaviour for Learning9. The school has shifted the focus from behaviour management to support for learning.

Smooth transitions from primary to secondary school

Providing students with an introduction to the structure of high school in a familiar setting can help support students as they transition to high school. The middle school approach used at Homebush West Public School10 ensures students are familiar with the structures of high school, teaching students to be responsible for their own learning and encouraging them to take on more responsibility and leadership roles. The model uses a co-teaching approach in Years 5 and 6 with all students physically moving around the school with their belongings as they will in high school. Students receive a taste of what high school is like and learn to build relationships with different teachers and peer groups. This approach can help facilitate strong relationships with teachers and peers, leading to improved relationships and a positive sense of belonging.

A whole-school approach to wellbeing

Embedding a culture of collaboration is often the starting point for improving student wellbeing. Cecil Hills High School11 carefully plans programs and initiatives to foster student wellbeing. Strong leadership, dedicated staff and the commitment of the wider school community help to ensure that these efforts are successful in supporting students at the school. Embedding wellbeing in a whole-school approach ensures that it is not considered an additional component of a student’s education, but essential to developing the whole student.
The school leaders at South Wagga Public School12 believe student wellbeing is a pre-requisite for learning and an essential part of school culture. The school provides students with many opportunities to build their social, emotional and academic skills. Students participate in cross-stage buddy groups to develop a sense of belonging, and promote responsibility and wellbeing. Buddy groups facilitate the development of friendships between like-minded students, and the collaboration between different groups within the school provides students with a basis for stronger friendships.

Find out more

For more information on what you can do to support students' sense of belonging, refer to the following CESE publications.

Anti-bullying interventions in schools – what works?

This literature review outlines which bullying interventions work in a school setting.

Case studies

These case studies describe strategies used in NSW public schools to promote positive outcomes for students, including a positive sense of belonging at school.

Every student is known, valued and cared for in our schools – an environmental scan

This publication outlines the framework for the department's strategic goal and provide data to describe how NSW public schools are currently performing against wellbeing indicators.

Supporting students’ learning

The publication highlights the role that advocacy, both within and outside school, plays in promoting positive outcomes for students.
The resources and case studies provide suggestions for what schools can do to promote advocacy at school.

Tell Them From Me: Gender and engagement

This publication explores the gender gap in NSW schools and how boys have a stronger sense of belonging than girls.

The role of student engagement in the transition from primary to secondary school

This publication shows the impact that high levels of engagement at school can have on facilitating a successful transition from primary to high school.

What works best: Evidence-based practices to help improve NSW student performance

This publication brings together seven themes, including high academic expectations, for what works to improve student educational outcomes.

Additional references

Positive Behaviour for Learning - education.nsw.gov.au/student-wellbeing/whole-school-approach/positive-behaviour-for-learning-pbl
OECD (2019), PISA 2018 Results (Volume III): What School Life Means for Students’ Lives, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris, doi.org/10.1787/acd78851-en
PISA Australia in Focus: Number 1 – Sense of belonging at school - research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1031&context=ozpisa

 


 

1The role of student engagement in the transition from primary to secondary school

2Tell Them From Me: Gender and engagement

3OECD (2019), PISA 2018 Results (Volume III): What School Life Means for Students’ Lives, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/acd78851-en

4The role of student engagement in the transition from primary to secondary school.

5Findings are drawn from literature reviews in publications highlighted in the 'Find out more' section as well as from unpublished longitudinal modelling conducted in partnership with University of Queensland – Institute for Social Science Research.

6Anti-bullying interventions in schools - what works?

7Blue Haven Public School case study

8Supporting students' learning

9Positive Behaviour for Learning is an evidence-based whole school approach to student wellbeing and behaviour.

10Homebush West Public School case study

11Every student is known, valued and cared for case studies: Cecil Hills High School

12Every student is known, valued and cared for case studies: South Wagga Public School

 

Introduction

When students feel that they are advocated for at school, they feel that they have someone who they can turn to for help and advice, they feel cared for and are supported to achieve their best. This synthesis of research explains why student advocacy at school is important and provides practical suggestions for schools to support their students.

Advocacy at school for students in NSW public schools

Students report on the level of advocacy at school that they experience in the student survey offered to NSW public schools – Tell Them From Me. Tell Them From Me (TTFM) reports on student, parent and teacher perspectives of their school and provides data on students’ wellbeing and engagement, as well as the teaching practices they encounter in the classroom. This paper presents findings on how to support student advocacy at school, drawn from longitudinal modelling of TTFM data, NSW case studies and literature reviews conducted by the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE). Accompanying papers provide findings on how to enhance student sense of belonging and high expectations for success and to support school improvement with TTFM.

Key findings

  • Students who experience high levels of advocacy at school have improved learning and wellbeing outcomes and are also more likely to have:
    • increased motivation and effort in lessons
    • an enhanced sense of belonging
    • an improved chance of completing school.
  • Advocacy at school is linked to both student engagement and wellbeing and teaching practices.
  • Teachers and staff can be effective advocates at school by encouraging student voice and incorporating it into decision-making at school. Teachers can encourage student voice by investing time in getting to know their students, having conversations with students about their learning and aspirations, and responding to student surveys and student feedback.
  • Students experience different levels of advocacy at school at different stages of their schooling. Students from high socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to report higher levels of advocacy at school than those from low socioeconomic backgrounds, while girls and boys experience advocacy differently at different stages of their schooling.
  • Schools are able to promote advocacy for students by focusing on periods of transition, providing opportunities to build relationships, encouraging student voice, establishing programs to get to know their students and providing targeted support.

 

 

What is advocacy at school?

Advocacy at school refers to the support students receive from adults in the school who can provide encouragement and who can be turned to for advice. Students feel advocacy at school when they have adults who will listen to them and act in their best interests. Although parents and carers play the most vital role in the lives of most children, relationships with adults at school help ensure that students are cared for and supported to achieve their best.

Why is advocacy at school important?

Advocacy at school promotes positive outcomes for both students’ academic achievement and their wellbeing. Research shows that having good relationships with teachers is positively linked to students’ motivation and effort in school. In turn, higher levels of motivation and effort positively impact students’ academic achievement. Good relationships with teachers or counsellors at school is particularly beneficial for students who are at risk of low achievement. Good relationships with learning support officers and school administrative staff are also beneficial for all students, particularly students with disability or additional learning needs. Advocacy at school can also help to support students as they transition to high school, as it has a positive impact on students’ sense of belonging, which, in turn, promotes enhanced wellbeing and achievement at school1. Positive teacher-student relationships are also important for promoting school completion.

How do we measure advocacy at school?

In NSW, schools are able to examine the extent to which students report high levels of advocacy at school through data collected in the Tell Them From Me student survey. The survey asks students if they have someone at school who cares about them, provides encouragement and who can be turned to for advice.

What is happening in NSW?

Findings from the Tell Them From Me student survey suggest that students experience different levels of advocacy at school at different stages of their schooling, and that advocacy is lower in secondary school than in primary school (Figure 1).

 

Figure 1

 

Students’ reports of the level of advocacy that they experience at school differ by gender and by socioeconomic (SES) status. Students of high-SES backgrounds are more likely to report higher levels of advocacy at school than those of low-SES backgrounds, while girls and boys experience advocacy differently at different stages of their schooling (Figure 2)2. Girls are more likely to experience higher levels of advocacy than boys at primary school, but this pattern changes as students enter high school. It is only in the senior years of high school that girls and boys start to report similar levels of support from their teachers3.

 

Figure 2

 

Improving advocacy at school4

Talk to students about their learning

Engaging students in conversations about their learning demonstrates to them that they are known and valued, and helps them feel that they are supported at school. Regular use of informal formative assessments, such as quick one-to-one feedback activities, can help to open the communication channels between teacher and students. In-class conversations during lessons also demonstrate to students that their teachers are interested and care about their learning and wellbeing.

Encourage student voice

When students have opportunities to have their say, they feel listened to and valued. Promoting student voice by asking for feedback, conducting surveys and encouraging suggestions can lead students to feel an enhanced sense of advocacy at school. In the classroom, teachers can encourage students to express any areas of confusion or concern, and should act on this information to help support students as they learn. Encouraging student voice shows students that their opinions and experiences are valued and important to their teachers and the school.

Provide targeted support

Some students are less likely to experience advocacy at school than others. Students also experience advocacy differently as they progress through school. Recognising when students are at risk of experiencing lower levels of advocacy is an important first step in ensuring that all students are supported throughout their schooling. Students of low-SES backgrounds and students in the early years of high school, particularly girls, are likely to require additional support from their teachers in order to reach their potential. Other student groups that may benefit from targeted support include those with English as an additional language/dialect (EAL/D), students in Schools for Specific Purposes (SSPs) and students in support classes.

'The teachers are very enthusiastic and if you have an issue they will always do their best to fix it, even a little thing.'
- Year 8 student, Ryde Secondary College

How are schools effectively supporting advocacy at school?

Building relationships across the school and parent community

For Whalan Public School5, advocacy at school refers to the active consideration and support of students’ academic and wellbeing needs. The school provides high levels of advocacy for its students through a school environment focused on providing consistency and familiarity, and a commitment to improving parent and community engagement. The school implemented the 'Whalan 5', a set of five questions to focus its teachers and students on learning intentions, success criteria, goal-setting and feedback.
Establishing and encouraging mentorship programs for students fosters positive student-teacher relationships and helps students feel that they have an adult at school that they can turn to for support and advice. At Penrith Valley School6, each student is assigned a mentor teacher who is responsible for developing their Personalised Learning Plan and other documentation that enables staff to cater to their individual needs. Students have breakfast with their mentor twice each week, which provides them with opportunities to set goals and touch base about how they are travelling. This helps students feel supported at school and to develop the skills needed to build positive, respectful relationships outside of school.
At Girraween High School7, mentors support senior students as they prepare for the transition to life after school. The mentoring program is designed to allow students to select their own mentor, with meetings structured around different themes throughout the school year. The program provides support for students at this critical stage of their schooling, and strengthens relationships between teachers and students.

Building relationships with the parent community is also key to making sure students are supported at schools. Plumpton High School8 runs parent-focused sessions around a host of issues, including literacy, numeracy, and mental health. These sessions allow the school to work with parents in a partnership to support their students.

Getting to know students

Whole-school programs and initiatives, as well as classroom practices, can help students to feel that they have a voice at school and are known and cared for by school staff. Marrickville High School9 uses wellbeing pastoral care programs and their Tell Them From Me data to better understand their students. These initiatives have enabled the school to identify student needs and develop targeted programs, focused on building students’ motivation and overcoming anxiety, to promote students’ success.
Sir Joseph Banks High School10 focuses on developing internal and external relationships, establishing proactive support systems and using data to focus school priorities to create a highly supportive school environment. The school’s Learning and Support Team coordinates and develops support plans for students experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, difficulties at school, so that they can receive quick and appropriate attention.

Focussing on transition

Targeted programs for students in Years 6 and 7 help support students as they transition to high school, ensuring that they are ready to learn from day one at their new school. Homebush West Public School11 places a strong emphasis on preparing its students for the transition to high school. Students in Year 5 and 6 participate in ‘middle school’, where each student has their own timetable that requires them to change classrooms, classmates and teachers according to ability and subject. The 'middle school' approach allows students to build relationships with more than one teacher and become familiar with differing teacher expectations and approaches. This helps students prepare for high school and raises awareness of the type of support teachers can provide.
At Cecil Hills High School12, Year 7 year advisers play a leading role in laying the foundations for a positive transition to high school through a carefully planned and implemented transition program. This program begins when students are in Year 5. The appointed year adviser visits the school's three feeder primary schools and future students are invited to participate in 'sample high school' lessons at Cecil Hills. The strong relationship between Cecil Hills and its feeder schools means that the high school's teachers are able to work closely with their primary colleagues to understand their future students and plan appropriately to ensure a successful transition. These activities ensure that, as students enter Year 7, they are familiar with their new school and have a familiar teacher on hand to support them from day one.

Find out more

For more information on what you can do to promote high levels of advocacy at your school, refer to the following CESE publications.

Case studies

These case studies describe strategies used in NSW public schools to promote positive outcomes for students, including high levels of advocacy at school.

Every student is known, valued and cared for in our schools – an environmental scan

This publication outlines the framework for the department's strategic goal and provide data to describe how NSW public schools are currently performing against wellbeing indicators.

Supporting school completion: The importance of engagement and effective teaching

This publication and accompanying resources and case studies shows the importance of positive teacher-student relationships in promoting school completion.

How high expectations and engagement in primary school drive student learning

Case studies on how Liverpool West and Warwick Farm primary schools advocate for their students to promote academic success.

Supporting students’ learning

The publication highlights the role that advocacy, both within and outside school, plays in promoting positive outcomes for students.
The resources and case studies provide suggestions for what schools can do to promote advocacy at school.

The role of student engagement in the transition from primary to secondary school

This publication shows the impact that high levels of advocacy at school can have on facilitating a successful transition from primary to high school.

Using Tell Them From Me data to make school improvements - case studies

These case studies highlight how a variety of government schools have used Tell Them From Me survey data to identify and make broad improvements to student engagement, wellbeing and teaching practices.

What works best: Evidence-based practices to help improve NSW student performance

This publication brings together seven themes, including high academic expectations, for what works to improve student educational outcomes.

 


1The role of student engagement in the transition from primary to secondary school.

2Supporting students' learning: Insights from students, parents and teachers.

3Supporting students' learning: Insights from students, parents and teachers.

4Findings are drawn from summaries of the literature in publications highlighted in the 'Find out more' section.

5Supporting students' learning: Resources and case studies for schools, teachers and parents

6Every student is known, valued and cared for case studies: Penrith Valley School

7Supporting students' learning: Resources and case studies for schools, teachers and parents

8Supporting students' learning: Resources and case studies for schools, teachers and parents

9Supporting students' learning: Resources and case studies for schools, teachers and parents

10Supporting students' learning: Resources and case studies for schools, teachers and parents

11Homebush West Public School case study

12Every student is known, valued and cared for case studies: Cecil Hills High School

Introduction

When teachers hold high academic expectations of their students, they tend to know their students well, value them as learners and understand how to progress their learning. This synthesis of research explains why high expectations are important and provides practical suggestions for schools to support their students.

 

High academic expectations in NSW public schools

Students report on the level of academic expectations they experience in the student survey offered to NSW public schools – Tell Them From Me (TTFM). Tell Them From Me reports on student, parent and teacher perspectives of their school and provides data on students’ wellbeing and engagement, as well as the teaching practices they encounter in the classroom. This paper presents findings on how to support high academic expectations, drawn from longitudinal modelling of TTFM data, NSW case studies and literature reviews conducted by the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE). Accompanying papers provide findings on how to enhance student sense of belonging and advocacy at school and to support school improvement with TTFM.

Key findings

  • Students who experience high expectations have improved learning outcomes and are also more likely to have:
    • increased interest and motivation in lessons
    • greater attendance
    • more positive school behaviours
    • a higher likelihood of completing school.
  • Higher academic expectations are linked to both student engagement and wellbeing and can also impact the teaching practices that students experience in the classroom.
  • Teachers promote high expectations of their students when they differentiate instruction, provide individualised feedback and engage in frequent, meaningful classroom interactions in order to challenge their students and encourage continuous improvement.
  • Schools demonstrate their high expectations of students by using data to inform practices, building a culture of school pride and partnering with the community to indicate pathways for students’ success.
 

What are high academic expectations?

High academic expectations are a measure of students’ experiences in the classroom. They are a reflection of the extent to which teachers value academic achievement and hold the expectation that every student can and should work towards their potential.

Why are high expectations important?

High expectations promote both students’ academic achievement and their wellbeing. Research shows that the expectations of teachers, parents and peers affect students’ self-esteem, feelings of self-efficacy and their academic motivation. These motivational factors are strongly linked to learning and achievement. Research also suggests that teachers adjust their teaching behaviours in line with the expectations they hold of their students. As students typically adjust their own expectations and behaviours to match those of their teachers, it is essential that teachers model high expectations for all of their students.

How do we measure high academic expectations?

In NSW, schools are able to examine the extent to which their students are experiencing high expectations in the classroom through data collected in the Tell Them From Me student survey. This survey asks students whether they feel that their teachers value academic achievement and encourage them to work hard and do their best in their schoolwork.

'My teachers want me to be the best person I can be. It inspires me to be better and work harder.'

- Year 10 student, Engadine High School

What is happening in NSW?

Findings from the Tell Them From Me student survey suggest that students experience different expectations at different stages of their schooling (Figure 1). In primary school, 95% of students report that their teachers have high academic expectations of them. The proportion decreases steadily throughout secondary school, to 70% in Year 10, before picking up again in Years 11 and 12.

 


Tell Them From Me research also found that it is never too late for students to experience the benefits of high expectations. If a student experiences low expectations in Year 5 but then reports high expectations in Year 6 or 7, they are likely to see a large boost to their learning (the equivalent of up to four months)1.

 

Teacher expectations not only have a direct, positive impact on student learning, they also have benefits for students’ engagement at school. Students who experience high expectations from their teachers have increased interest and motivation in lessons, greater attendance and more positive school behaviours2.

High levels of academic challenge, which are reflective of high teacher expectations, also benefit students. Students in senior years of high school are more likely to finish Year 12 if they report experiencing higher levels of challenge in their work3.

Improving high academic expectations4

Differentiate instruction and encourage personal-best goal-setting

All students need to be continuously challenged to learn new things. This means that teachers may have to provide a variety of learning opportunities to cater for the range of abilities present in their classroom, while maintaining the same high expectations of success for all students. Planning learning opportunities that allow students to achieve challenging goals which are appropriate to their current understandings and abilities ensures that every student is expected to continuously develop. Appropriately differentiated instruction is a powerful mechanism by which teachers can enhance the learning of all their students.

Provide feedback

Feedback is an important means by which teachers convey and communicate their expectations to their students. Feedback should focus on students’ performance on a task, identifying where and why mistakes have been made and emphasising opportunities to learn and improve. Such feedback supports the development of positive feelings of self-efficacy, providing motivation for continued effort and engagement. Feedback is consistently found to be one of the most important classroom factors that can impact students’ academic outcomes.

Engage students in classroom interactions

Teachers’ expectations of their students are formed, in part, through classroom interactions. When teachers have frequent interactions with their students, they know their students better, which facilitates more effective feedback and differentiation. Positive classroom interactions, both of a general nature or centred on specific learning activities, help students see that their teachers know them and want them to succeed. These interactions can help foster students’ motivation and engagement in lessons, leading to improved academic outcomes.

 

How are schools effectively supporting high expectations?

Developing strong teacher-student relations

CESE conducted four in-depth case studies from low socioeconomic status secondary schools in regional and metropolitan NSW with high levels of student transition to post-school education and training5. For Temora High School, Canowindra High School, Birrong Girls High School and Sir Joseph Banks High School, strong teacher-student relationships are the key to establishing high academic expectations. Setting high expectations for all students fosters high aspirations and encourages students to work towards those aspirations. Strong teacher-student relationships are particularly important in the years prior to students finishing high school as they lay the foundations for successful post‑school transitions.

Using data to inform practice

Evaluating learning helps to ensure that teachers are aware of where their students are currently and where they need to go next. Feedback from students, parents and teachers also helps schools to refine and adjust initiatives to support student engagement. Liverpool West Public School6 uses data to identify the strengths and challenges in each classroom, allowing teachers to identify when students require further support to achieve their best and ensure that every student is progressing. School leaders are able to identify issues that are common across the school and develop strategies to address them.
The principal at Blue Haven Primary School believes that using data is essential to effectively differentiate instruction and meet the needs of all students:

'We’ve got to continue to adapt, because our kids are getting better by the minute…We’ve got kids who are a long way behind where they need to be, but we’ve also got some kids who are a long way ahead. So we need to continue to adapt our expectations of what our kids can do and design our lessons…to make sure that we’re catering for those kids.'
Paul McDermott, Principal, Blue Haven Primary School

Partnering with the community to convey expectations for success

Engaging students in learning opportunities beyond the classroom helps to demonstrate the school's commitment to students’ success and the expectation that all students are able to achieve in a range of domains and pursuits. Warwick Farm Public School7 provides a range of academic and non-academic opportunities to their students, including programs focussed on success in the arts and sport, built on an understanding that different students will be successful at different things. This program has helped to build a culture of high expectations for all students.
Sir Joseph Banks High School8 works hard to instil students with confidence in their own ability and potential so that they understand that no aspiration is beyond their reach, as long as they are willing to work towards realising it. The school achieves this objective by taking students on excursions to post-school destinations and inviting role models to mentor their students.

Fostering school pride to build a culture which values education

Building a culture of high expectations often starts at the school gate. When the school and classroom environment are appealing and well-maintained, expectations for student behaviour are clear and learning time is valued and prioritised, students value their school, are engaged in learning and are determined to achieve their best. For Penrith Valley School9, high expectations are central to the school’s culture and are reflected across the school in everything from uniform to punctuality, food etiquette and effort levels. The school’s rules reflect these expectations and teach students to be responsible for their own actions.
A culture of learning is a priority at Trangie Central School10. A whole-school approach involving students, parents and the broader community has contributed to improvements in student behaviour, happiness levels and academic results. It has also ensured a shared school vision and consistent messages of high expectations. The deputy principal at Trangie believes that because of this...

'[…o]ur students are happy and they want to be at school. They love school, and this reflects in their academic results.'
Dimiti Trudgett, Deputy Principal, Trangie Central School

Find out more

For more information on what you can do to support high academic expectations, refer to the following CESE publications.

Case studies

These case studies describe strategies used in NSW public schools to ensure that their students are known, valued and cared for:

Every student is known, valued and cared for in our schools – an environmental scan

This publication outlines the framework for the department's strategic goal and provide data to describe how NSW public schools are currently performing against wellbeing indicators.

How high expectations and engagement in primary school drive student learning

An outline of the research demonstrating the impact of high expectations on academic achievement.

Improving high school engagement, classroom practices and achievement

This publication shows the impact of high expectations on student engagement, motivation and behaviour in high school. 

Revising gifted education

A literature review which summarises the gifted education research base. It provides summaries of the research on effective practices in gifted education for schools and teachers.

Supporting school completion: The importance of engagement and effective teaching

Research showing the importance of positive teacher-student relationships in promoting school completion, with accompanying resources and strategies for schools.

Supporting student engagement and effective classroom practices in primary school

Case studies on how Liverpool West and Warwick Farm primary schools use high expectations to support their students.

Trauma-informed practice in schools: An explainer

Briefly summarises the evidence on trauma-informed practice within an educational context, and outlines the importance of high expectations as a component of building resilience.

What works best: Evidence-based practices to help improve NSW student performance

This publication brings together seven themes, including high academic expectations, for what works to improve student educational outcomes.

Additional resource

Personalised Learning and Support Signposting Tool

This resource provides information on how to support high expectations for students with learning needs.

 


 

1How high expectations and engagement in primary school drive student learning

2Improving high school engagement, classroom practice and achievement

3Supporting school completion

4Findings are drawn from summaries of the literature in publications highlighted in the ‘Find out more’ section.

5Supporting school completion: Resources

6How high expectations and engagement in primary school drive student learning.

7How high expectations and engagement in primary school drive student learning.

8Supporting school completion: Resources

9Case studies: Penrith Valley School

10Case studies: Trangie Central School

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Classroom management infographic

Classroom-management-infographic

Classroom management infographic (PDF, 73kB)

This infographic is part of a collection of resources about classroom management. 

 

What does the infographic say?

Classroom management is a broad term that encompasses the preventative and responsive strategies teachers use to support and facilitate learning in the classroom.

Classroom management is vital for engaging students in academic and social and emotional learning. In NSW, students who report more effectively managed classrooms are more likely to report having a positive sense of belonging. However, many teachers do not feel confdent in their classroom management abilities.

• Less than half of Australian teachers felt well prepared to implement classroom management strategies after completing preservice teacher training.1

• Only 4 in 5 Australian teachers feel able to control disruptive behaviours in the classroom1

Effective classroom management requires both preventative strategies and responsive strategies

Preventative strategies

Preventative strategies are proactive and encourage students to be on-task, motivated to learn and prosocial. Effective preventative strategies include:

• positive classroom climates

• structured instruction to engage students

• effective rules and routines

• pre-corrections to remind students of expectations

• active supervision.

Responsive strategies

Responsive strategies are reactive and provide corrective responses to inappropriate behaviours. They support students to re-engage in learning. Effective corrective responses:

• identify why the student is disengaged or being disruptive

• are understood by the student

• are consistent and expected

• are given calmly

• are proportionate to the level of behaviour displayed.

For classroom management strategies to be most effective, there needs to be:

• commitment from individual teachers

• a consistent school-wide approach

• access to professional learning

• proactive wellbeing support for teachers.

 


1Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 2019, TALIS 2018 results (volume 1): Teachers and school leader as lifelong learners, OECD publishing, Paris

Classroom-management-PL-discussion-guide

Classroom management professional learning discussion guide (PDF, 160kB)

This guide is part of a collection of resources about classroom management.

Introduction

This professional learning discussion guide is designed to help teachers and school leaders engage with CESE’s literature review ‘Classroom management: Creating and maintaining positive learning environments’. It will help participants consider the implications of the review’s findings for their school and teaching contexts. A range of discussion questions and activities are provided. Facilitators are encouraged to select questions that best suit the needs of their participants, school context and available time. The session can finish with coaching-style questions that encourage participants to plan their next steps to put this PL into action.

Roles

• Facilitator/timekeeper – leads discussion, participates, and keeps the process moving.

• Participants – work individually or in small groups to consider the questions, share their thoughts, and participate in activities.

Resources

1. Copies of the CESE Classroom management literature review.

2. Copies of this Professional learning discussion guide.

3. Additional stationery if desired – for example, whiteboard markers, post-it notes, butcher’s paper.

Process

Before you start

• Share the document with participants in advance. Ask that they read the literature review ahead of the session.

• Select questions and activities from the list on the following pages. Consider how you will run each selected question or activity with your group. You could use a mix of:

º whole group discussion

º individual reflection then sharing

º small group discussions

º post-it notes or whiteboard markers to write up ideas and responses.

During the session

• Introduce the session to participants, including the purpose of the session and how it connects to your school and teaching context.

• Lead participants through the professional learning activities and discussions.

• Complete the session with the ‘Next Steps’ activities.

After the session

• Follow-up with participants on their next steps – how did they progress implementing their next steps?

Questions and activities

These questions are designed to facilitate discussion of CESE’s Classroom management literature review. Your facilitator will lead you through some of these questions and activities.
1. What are your initial thoughts and response to the literature review?
2. What are the ‘main takeaways’ for your own teaching practice?
3. Which main points are most relevant to our school context?
4. If we were to ask a focus group of the following people to describe typical classroom management practices in our teaching context, what do you think each group would say? For example, what do you think they would say that we are already doing well, and what would they say could improve?
• Students
• Parents and families
• Teachers
5. Think of a teacher you have worked with who is a highly effective practitioner for classroom management. What characteristics or practices makes this teacher a strong example of an effective classroom manager? How do they relate to the findings of this literature review?
6. The literature review draws a distinction between classroom management and behaviour management. What are the differences between classroom management and behaviour management?
7. The literature review identifies key classroom management strategies from research. Re-read the section(s) allocated to you by the facilitator. For each strategy:

a. Identify the key points from research for this strategy.
b. Describe how this strategy could look in practice in your teaching context.

8. Positive reinforcement is often cited as a solution for classroom management, but the literature review notes that the research on positive reinforcement is mixed.

a. What do some proponents of positive reinforcement cite as reasons that support its use as a key feature of classroom management strategies?
b. What do some critics say are the limitations of positive reinforcement in practice?

9. Effective classroom management is strongly associated with improved learning and wellbeing outcomes, such as student achievement, engagement and positive behaviour.

a. If our school was to improve our classroom management practices, what else might change as a result?
b. What data sources could we use to understand the impact of our changes? Consider different measures such as student achievement, or surveys such as Tell Them From Me or our school’s own survey and feedback processes.

10. Classroom management is identified in CESE’s What works best publication as one of the most important classroom practices that can improve student achievement.

a. Refer to the What works best publication – what does the research say about the connection between classroom management and student achievement?
b. How does classroom management affect things like time on task or orderly lessons? How do these connect to student outcomes?

11. Classroom management and related factors are identified in the School Excellence Framework.

a. Review the School Excellence Framework. Which specific factors relate to effective classroom management, either directly or indirectly?
b. Where would you place our school on the framework against the descriptors? What evidence would you use to support your self-assessment?

12. What implications does this literature review have for our whole-school wellbeing and classroom management strategies and processes?

Next steps

13. Based on today’s professional learning discussion, how could you use these research findings to modify your classroom management practices? What changes could be made in the next week?

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Classroom management poster

Classroom-management-poster

Classroom management poster (PDF, 5.4MB)

This poster is part of a collection of resources about classroom management. 

 

What does the poster say?

About classroom management

Classroom management is a broad term that encompasses the preventative and responsive strategies teachers use to support and facilitate learning in the classroom.

Many teachers find low-level but persistent disengaged and disruptive student behaviour a daily challenge in the classroom.

Classroom management is vital for creating an environment that minimises disruptions, maximises instruction time, and encourages students to engage in learning.

For classroom management strategies to be most effective, there needs to be:

• commitment from individual teachers

• a consistent school-wide approach

• access to professional learning

• proactive wellbeing support for teachers.

Preventative strategies are proactive and encourage students to be on-task, motivated to learn, and prosocial.

Effective preventative strategies include:

• positive classroom climates, with high quality student-teacher relationships and explicit teaching of social and emotional skills

• structured instruction to engage students in learning

• providing and explicitly teaching rules and routines

• offering pre-corrections to remind students of expectations

• using active supervision to help students stay on task.

Responsive strategies provide corrective responses to inappropriate behaviours and support students to re-engage in learning.

Effective corrective responses:

• identify why the student is disengaged or being disruptive

• ensure the student understands the corrective response

• are consistent and expected

• are given calmly

• are proportionate to the level of behaviour displayed.

This overview is also available as a downloadable PDF (260kB)

School Excellence Framework themes

The School Excellence Framework (SEF) describes 14 elements of high quality practice which underpin school excellence in the three domains of learning, teaching and leading. In 2016 five schools (Lansvale Public School, Rooty Hill High School, Sefton High School, Taree West Public School and Woonona High School) were identified as excelling in most of these elements. The practices of these schools are described in case studies of how individual schools create and maintain a culture of excellence. This summary gives an overview of the high quality practices common to these five schools, including:

  • data collection and analysis
  • ongoing evaluation of teaching practices
  • peer support and mentoring among staff
  • inter-school collaboration
  • educational leadership.

 

Learning

All five schools maintain a culture of building educational aspiration and supporting students’ learning with the aid of a three way partnership between teachers, students and parents. Teachers continually monitor students’ academic progress using formative and summative assessment data (including NAPLAN and HSC data). Some schools like Lansvale Public School hold somewhat formalised ‘data meetings’ where staff discuss student performance data to aid better targeted curriculum planning. Other schools like Taree West Public School disseminate student performance data to relevant staff at five- or ten-week intervals so that the data can inform teachers’ practice.

At these schools that excel, students are also encouraged to make personal learning plans and have discussions with teachers about where and what improvements are needed in their learning. For instance, Rooty Hill High School has created Junior and Senior Learning Centres specifically to provide an avenue through which students can access extra support and advice from teachers. To the same end, Taree West Public School has taken some of its teachers off class to provide students with additional learning support.

Schools that excel also strategically involve parents in students’ learning to ensure that learning does not stop once students leave the school grounds. The Parents as teachers and classroom helpers (PaTCH) program at Lansvale Public School is an example of one school’s effort to partner with parents in enhancing students’ learning. The program sees parents act as teachers’ classroom helpers. Woonona High School similarly devised the ‘HSC Strategy’ to make it easier for parents to be involved in their children’s learning. Through this strategy, the school informs parents about the HSC and how to communicate with their children using ‘HSC language’. By sharing the responsibility for students’ learning, the case study schools create learning environments where students feel motivated to learn and have adequate support to reach their full learning potential.

 

Teaching

The case study schools place a strong emphasis on staff learning and development, and promote a culture of self- and/or peer evaluations to improve teaching practice. Within each of these schools, there are professional learning (PL) systems in place that enable teachers to learn from and with each other about a range of teaching-related topics. Although schools may differ in their approach to professional learning, the goal remains the same across schools – to sustain quality teaching practice. The PL system at Taree West Public School, for instance, sees various teaching stages take their Relief from Face-to-Face (RFF) time together so that they can engage in professional learning as a stage group. Woonona High School uses a cross-faculty professional learning format to foster and strengthen interfaculty collaboration and support. For Sefton High School, improving teachers’ professional skills is explicitly stated as one of the school’s strategic directions and the principal strongly promotes professional learning for staff, even running some workshops herself.

Further facilitating learning and development, the case study schools often form learning alliances with other schools to promote collaboration, peer learning and mentoring among teachers. For example, Rooty Hill High School belongs to a Learning Neighborhood of four schools that promotes continuity of learning from Kindergarten to Year 12. In this instance, primary school students are invited to visit and experience high school at least once a year. Teachers collaborate with other teachers within these learning alliances to exchange ideas about curriculum delivery, effective classroom practice and/or trialling of new teaching methods. Collaborations sometimes also extend to universities, as in the case of the University of Wollongong ‘Hub Program’ to which Woonona High School belongs. As part of the Hub Program, Woonona High School develops models of best practice for the training of pre-service teachers.

 

Leading

The principals at all of the case study schools are strong educational leaders who model instructional leadership both within and beyond their schools. For example, the principal of Lansvale Public School served five schools in an instructional leadership role from 2012-2015. Woonona High School’s principal received the 2017 Commonwealth Bank Teaching Award for her educational leadership. The principal of Rooty Hill High School co-authored a book on school leadership and was instrumental in the school being named one of the 40 most innovative schools in Australia in 2016 and 2017. These principals all share a common desire to build leadership capacity among their staff and often allow staff to play key roles in the making and/or enactment of school decisions. This looks different at different schools, however Sefton High School has an explicit process of delegation from principal to head teachers to the rest of the staff. The principal makes most of the decisions then hands over the responsibility for enacting those decisions to the head teachers who, in turn, assign tasks to the rest of the staff.

At Rooty Hill High School, every teacher is expected to take on a leadership role from their second year at the school, and every faculty has a professional practice mentor, typically a new scheme teacher, who leads the teacher accreditation process. Lansvale Public School builds leadership capacity by encouraging its teachers to join and learn from leadership networks outside the school.

 

Conclusion

This summary and the associated case studies highlight schools that were identified as excelling across SEF elements in 2016. It is clear that not all schools that excel do so by focusing on exactly the same things nor do they all demonstrate the same quality practices in the same way. Hence, there are many similarities between these case studies but also some differences. Before considering or adopting any of the practices discussed in these case studies, schools must first understand how contextual factors (such as ICSEA value or location) might affect outcomes. The School Excellence Framework continues to provide a reliable point of reference for schools to assess their practices each year. Though the Framework has been updated from version 1 to version 2, the domains and most of the elements remain consistent.

Assessing Literacy and Numeracy (ALAN) is a suite of applications developed as part of the NSW Literacy and Numeracy Strategy 2017-2020.

The ALAN portal directs staff to online tools including PLAN2, Best Start Kindergarten Assessment (BSKA) and Best Start Year 7.

For more information on how to use ALAN applications, visit the ALAN helpdesk site.

ALAN Homepage Feb2019

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