General capabilities: A perspective from cognitive science uses insights from cognitive science to explore the most effective ways of supporting students to develop key capabilities such as critical and creative thinking.
• This paper contributes to the conversation about how school systems can best support their students to develop the capabilities they will need to thrive in the future.
• The debate to date has been hampered by a lack of clarity about key terms and concepts, and a range of assumptions that are not supported by evidence.
• Cognitive science research shows that developing capabilities such as critical thinking is dependent on having content knowledge.
• As such, general capabilities need to be developed through a deep and rich knowledge of content in each of the curriculum learning areas.
The publication is accompanied by a professional learning protocol to support educators to consider the implications of this research for practice in their schools.
The publication complements the findings from the department's Education for a changing world report: How to teach critical thinking by Professor Daniel T Willingham.
For more information on cognitive science and the insights it offers for education, read CESE's Cognitive load theory resources.
This literature review summarises the gifted education research base. It synthesises the best-quality available research into the learning characteristics of gifted students. It also provides summaries of the research on effective practices in gifted education for schools and teachers.
Gifted students need more challenging learning with greater depth and complexity
Gifted students can have a level of cognitive function typical of students several years older, with high levels of fluid thinking, reasoning and working memory function. Teaching programs, feedback, deliberate practice, and opportunities to access advanced learning are all necessary to help gifted learners achieve at a high level and develop their talent over time.
Gifted students are found in all social groups
Many students from disadvantaged backgrounds underachieve because of fewer opportunities to learn and develop their talent. Gifted students can also have a co-existing disability, which means they require support for their disability as well as talent development to help them reach their educational potential.
Lack of adequate challenge can contribute to social and emotional challenges
Key social and emotional challenges for gifted students include boredom, disengagement, and perfectionist-type behaviours. Challenging school learning experiences, along with positive social relationships and a supportive school environment, can help gifted students thrive.
Gifted students benefit from explicit teaching and well-structured learning
Like all students, gifted learners require scaffolding and structure in learning to help manage the demands of cognitive load. Explicit teaching and guided inquiry are just as necessary for gifted students as for all students. Gifted learners may be able to move through structured and scaffolded activities at a faster pace, and then can benefit from problem solving and applied tasks.
Specific strategies are also needed to help gifted students achieve their best
There is strong research to support teaching practices that help align the challenge, complexity, depth and pace of learning with the learning needs of gifted students. This can done through evidence-based effective strategies such as curriculum acceleration, extension and enrichment learning experiences.
• In 2017,
- over 100,000 children were enrolled in a preschool program before starting school
- more children attended preschool for 15+ hours a week
- preschool enrolments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children increased (by 26.3% since 2016).
- Around half of teachers delivering a preschool program were university trained.
• More early childhood services are meeting or exceeding the National Quality Standard (70% in 2017 compared to 44% in 2015).
• In 2017, the proportion of students achieving in the top two NAPLAN bands in numeracy and reading has increased for all cohorts, compared to 2013/14 baselines.
• High school retention rates are improving for all students, but especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
• In 2017, the average school attendance rate in NSW was 94% for primary students and 91.1% for secondary students. Attendance rates are lower for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and the gap increases in secondary school.
• Students can study VET in school as part of their HSC – in 2017, around 30% of HSC achievers also received a Certificate Level II or above qualification.
• In 2016,
- just over half of Year 12 leavers went onto to study a Bachelor degree
- the main destination for early school leavers was apprenticeships (27.8%)
- male early school leavers were six times more likely to enter an apprenticeship than female early school leavers
- female Year 12 leavers were more likely to enter a Bachelor degree than their male counterparts.
• The proportion of 20-64 year olds with a Certificate III or above has increased.
• The proportion of 25-34 year olds with a Bachelor degree or above has increased.
• The median ATAR of HSC students transitioning to Bachelor degrees was 79.2 in 2015, down from 83.0 in 2008
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and low-SES students remain underrepresented in the higher education sector.
• The number of overseas students enrolling in NSW universities continues to increase.
This technical report outlines the rationale and methods used by CESE's Statistics and Analysis unit to develop a new way of analysing test results, which is based on identifying relative achievement of students when compared to other students who had received the same overall results in a NAPLAN assessment.
The new methodology and the reporting options outlined in the report are aimed to improve the way teachers and schools use the test data, in particular online test results.
The 2017 post-school destinations and expectations annual report (PDF, 3.3MB) presents key findings from the 2017 survey of secondary students' post-school destinations. Over 6,995 young people shared their experiences with the research team. Surveys were completed by early school leavers and Year 12 completers across government and non-government schools. The report also presents the findings from a longitudinal follow-up with 2,704 students who responded to the survey in 2014 and 3,342 students who responded in 2016.
The 2017 post-school destinations technical report (PDF, 3.5MB) outlines the project background and overview, survey methodology, questionnaire design and data processing undertaken by the Social Research Council (SRC) to produce the annual report. It also includes materials used by SRC to undertake the project.
The post-school destinations report provides information about:
• post-school education pathways, attainments and destinations of young people in NSW
• factors that drive engagement, retention, education achievement and pathway choices for young people in NSW
• findings from longitudinal follow-ups with students who responded to surveys in 2014 and 2016, and Year 10 students in 2017.
Over 13,000 early school leavers and Year 12 completers across government and non-government schools completed surveys in 2017.
The NSW Department of Education and NSW Skills Board have collaborated on the annual survey since 2014.
Further education and training was the most common post-school destination
The majority of Year 12 completers (69.9%) and early school leavers (55.4%) were in some form of education and training six months after leaving school. However, the proportion of Year 12 completers entering some form of education and training has continued to decline since peaking in 2015, and the proportion of Year 12 completers and early school leavers entering VET also decreased in 2017.
Post-school destinations differ between Year 12 completers and early school leavers
The main post-school destination among Year 12 completers continued to be a Bachelor degree (50.1%), however Year 12 completers identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander had lower rates of entering a Bachelor degree (23.9%) than other Year 12 completers. The main post-school destination for early school leavers continued to be an apprenticeship (30.0%).
Reasons for leaving school early varied
The most common self-reported reasons for leaving school early continue to relate to wanting to pursue employment and career opportunities, school ‘not being for them’ and not liking school or teachers. Less frequently cited reasons included not coping at school or failing subjects, finding school boring, wanting to study elsewhere, ill-health and being bullied.
Impact of mobile digital devices in schools (PDF, 2MB) - a literature review on the impact of non-educational mobile digital device use on student wellbeing.
The Workforce profile of the NSW teaching profession 2016 (PDF, 6MB) includes data that details teachers' characteristics and experiences from entry into initial teacher education through to exit from the profession. The report provides information on both government and non-government school teachers, early childhood teachers and teachers in training.
The 2016 report builds on the data presented in the Workforce profile of the NSW teaching profession 2015 and the Workforce profile of the NSW teaching profession 2014.
These reports are part of an ongoing evaluation of Great Teaching, Inspired Learning (GTIL). GTIL is the NSW government's plan to improve the quality of teaching in NSW schools. Learn more about GTIL.
CESE evaluated key reforms under GTIL relating to:
• school leadership initiatives
• cadet and internship programs
• professional experience.
School leadership initiatives
CESE evaluated three key reforms under GTIL that aim to support leadership development among existing, new and aspiring leaders. The reforms evaluated were the:
• NSW Public School Leadership and Management Credential (action 15.3)
• Leadership Development Initiative (actions 14.1 and 14.2)
• Principal, School Leadership Initiative (action 15.2).
Cadetship and internship programs
CESE conducted an evaluation of two GTIL actions designed to attract high achieving students into the teaching profession in areas of workforce need. The department introduced the Cadetship and Internship Programs in 2014 to address these actions.
Cadets and interns are employed on a part-time basis during their teacher education studies to provide support to classroom teachers. They are guaranteed a permanent teaching position in a NSW public school upon completion of their studies.
CESE conducted an evaluation of the key GTIL actions designed to improve the quality of professional experience placements for pre-service teachers. The report presents the findings in relation to the implementation and early impacts of:
• Closer matching of supply and demand for graduate teachers through the introduction of Professional Experience Agreements (action 4.2)
• Establishment of specialist professional experience schools (action 4.3)
• Professional learning for professional experience supervisors (action 4.4)
• Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers leading professional experience activities (action 4.5).
A final GTIL evaluation report is due in 2019.
In 2012, the NSW Department of Education launched the Local Schools, Local Decisions (LSLD) education reform. LSLD aims to give NSW government schools more authority to make local decisions about how best to meet the needs of their students. LSLD focuses on five interrelated reform areas: making decisions, managing resources, staffing schools, working locally and reducing red tape. A cornerstone element of LSLD is the introduction of a new needs-based approach to school funding through the Resource Allocation Model (RAM).
CESE is conducting an evaluation of LSLD. The evaluation began in mid-2016 and will conclude in mid-2020. The evaluation includes a process evaluation that investigates the implementation of LSLD, and an outcome evaluation focussing on the impact of the reform on school and student outcomes.
This LSLD interim evaluation report presents interim findings on three key evaluation questions:
1. How have schools spent their RAM equity loadings?
In 2016, schools spent their RAM equity loadings on four main spending categories: employing key staff, enhancing learning support, planning and developing programs, and building staff capacity.
2. What has been the impact of LSLD on school management and local decision-making practices?
In four of the five LSLD reform areas, principals perceive the impact of LSLD to have been positive. In the fifth reform area, reducing red tape, more than two-thirds of principals
said that LSLD has not had a positive impact on simplifying administrative processes.
3. What has been the impact of LSLD and RAM funding on school and student outcomes?
The five student engagement measures included in this report (attendance, suspension, social engagement, institutional engagement and aspirations to complete Year 12) showed only very small to small overall changes over time. In terms of differential change over time, we found no relationship between changes over time in these engagement measures and levels of need, with the notable exception that students in higher-need schools typically showed less positive change over time in levels of social engagement than students in lower-need schools. On these findings alone, there is not yet evidence to support the idea that higher-need schools benefit more from the RAM equity loadings than lower-need schools.
A final evaluation report will be published by CESE in mid-2020. This report will include an analysis of educational outcomes, including in-depth statistical modelling of NAPLAN results from 2012 to 2018, which will help us better understand the longer term effects of the reform.
These case studies describe how these five NSW government schools have created and are sustaining a culture of excellence at their school.
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. The high quality practices common to these five schools include data collection and analysis; ongoing evaluation of teaching practices; peer support and mentoring among staff; interschool collaboration; and educational leadership.
All five schools maintain a culture of building educational aspiration and supporting students’ learning through a partnership between teachers, students and parents. Teachers continually monitor students’ academic progress using formative and summative assessment data (including NAPLAN and HSC data). Students are also encouraged to make personal learning plans and have discussions with teachers about where, and what, improvements are needed in their learning.
• These schools also strategically involve parents in students’ learning to ensure that learning does not stop once students leave the school grounds. By sharing responsibility for students’ learning, the schools create learning environments where students feel motivated to learn and have adequate support to reach their full learning potential.
• The case study schools emphasise staff learning and development and promote a culture of self and/or peer evaluations to improve teaching practice. Each school has professional learning 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.
• To facilitate learning and development, the case study schools often form learning alliances with other schools to promote collaboration, peer learning and mentoring among teachers.
• The principals of these schools are strong educational leaders who model instructional leadership within and beyond their schools. 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.
• 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.
The information on this page is also available as a downloadable one-page summary (PDF, 189kB).
The information on this page is also available as a one-page summary (PDF, 171kB).
This literature review summarises evidence of the relationship between early childhood education and cognitive and noncognitive outcomes for children. It also summarises evidence from a number of international longitudinal studies and randomised control trials. Australian evidence, though limited, has also been summarised.
High quality early childhood education can improve children’s cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes
High-quality early childhood education is robustly associated with positive outcomes at school entry. Children who participate in early childhood education have higher cognitive and noncognitive development than children who do not participate. The benefits of early childhood education are stronger at higher levels of duration (years) and intensity (hours) of attendance. However, most early childhood education interventions yield short-term outcomes, with effects ‘fading out’ between one to three years after the intervention. The Australian evidence base on early childhood education effects is relatively limited. The extent to which early childhood education affects Australian children's development is largely unknown.
Disadvantaged children stand to gain the most from high quality early childhood education
High-quality early childhood education is particularly beneficial for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, as early childhood education provides cognitive and non-cognitive stimulation not available in the home learning environment. Interventions are best provided in the earliest years of life, as these yield higher developmental, social, and economic returns than interventions provided at later stages. Early childhood education interventions help to reduce inequalities in educational outcomes for disadvantaged children at the time of school entry. Small-scale, intensive early childhood education interventions (such as the well-known High/Scope Perry Preschool and Abecedarian programs), that incorporate additional components such as parenting programs and home visits from teachers are found to be most effective. Compared to more universal programs, smaller-scale, intensive interventions produce longer-term outcomes.
The positive effects of early childhood education programs are contingent upon, and proportionate to, their quality
The provision of high-quality early childhood education is beneficial for learning and development. Early childhood education quality typically comprises structural quality (characteristics such as the teacher to child ratio) and process quality (nature of interactions between children; their environment; and teachers and peers). A policy lever that will increase the positive effects of early childhood education participation is an increase in educational quality.
Recent analysis of early childhood education quality in Australia undertaken by Melbourne University’s E4Kids study, shows that there remains substantial room for quality improvement in Australian jurisdictions, including NSW.
This paper reviews school and classroom factors which can increase participation in languages in secondary schools. It is a companion piece to CESE's case studies on language participation in NSW secondary schools.
These case studies highlight the school and classroom-based practices that four individual schools identify as contributing to their success in language participation. They are a companion to the Language participation literature review.
These case studies illustrate how five NSW primary schools have achieved high learning growth for their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. This work supports the 'Closing the Gap' strategy, a Council of Australian Governments commitment.
The Sustaining Success case study (PDF, 800kB) describes how seven schools in the Fairfield Network have sustained and built on their successful educational outcomes by implementing the six effectives practices summarised in the CESE publication Six effective practices in high growth schools. The practices are:
|Systems & processes||Cultures & attitudes||Programs & activities|
|High expectations||High expectations are matched with high support.
Comprehensive student welfare and wellbeing systems.
|Visibly expect success of all students.
Celebrate success and achievement for all students.
|School values are clearly articulated and explicitly taught.
Social skills taught and reinforced regularly.
|Student engagement||Develop a strong understanding of students’ cultures and backgrounds.
Develop connections in the broader community to provide post-school opportunities and pathways for students.
|The key to engagement is a sense of belonging.
Flip disadvantage by focusing on helping others and taking a global perspective.
|Offer a wide range of extracurricular activities and programs to cater to diverse student interests.
School has to have ‘something for everyone’ – academic and/or extra-curricular – to sustain engagement.
Combination of both explicit and integrated approaches to teaching literacy.
|Data-informed programming and planning, strongly led by the school executive.
A belief that all students should be able to access the curriculum and therefore a focus on genuine curriculum differentiation.
Explicit lessons, including learning intentions, goals, feedback, student self-monitoring and explicit pathways to improvement (supports student engagement).
|Systems & processes||Cultures & attitudes||Programs & activities|
Structured systems for implementing school goals: strategy, plan, implement, evaluate, embed.
A culture of evaluative thinking, where program evaluation is a routine part of school life and evidence is regularly collected and reflected upon.
A consistent approach to using data to drive and monitor school goals e.g. SMART, RAP.
Common ‘core’ teaching and learning programs across grades/KLAs, updated regularly as student needs change.
Collaborative cultures develop gradually over time through collegial and supportive relationships.
Use of technology e.g. Google docs, Sentral, shared drives, email.
TPL timetable planned yearly in advance, with flexibility to respond to emerging needs
|Open door culture of sharing resources, asking questions and seeking advice from colleagues.
Staff given some choice in TPL, interest drives engagement.
Balance between whole-school TPL and small-group learning.
The Literacy and Numeracy Action Plan 2012-2016 was developed to address the widespread inequalities in learning outcomes known to exist from the earliest years of schooling in NSW schools serving low socio-economic status communities. This report presents the findings of an evaluation of NSW Literacy and Numeracy Action Plan 2012-2016. It examines the extent to which student literacy and numeracy improved, factors that may have led to any improvement, and the extent to which any improvement achieved was cost-effective.