Teacher professional development begins with initial teacher education and continues until retirement, and it is generally agreed by teachers and other education professionals to be a good investment of education dollars.
Professional development is available to all teachers in NSW.
One of the most cited meta-analyses looking at the effect of professional development on student outcomes calculates an effect size of 0.541. It claims that average students would increase their achievement by 21 percentile points if their teachers participated in quality professional development.
However, a question arises:
In teaching what are the elements of professional development that improve outcomes for students?
This is not to say that professional development programs of a longer duration and professional learning communities do not work to improve student outcomes. However, there is no conclusive evidence to definitively support these elements.
Many studies investigate the impact of professional development on teacher knowledge, teaching practice and teacher satisfaction. Far fewer take the extra step of examining the impact of professional development on student achievement.
There is a clear need for further research that focuses on which elements of professional development have the greatest impact on student learning outcomes.
1Yoon et al 2007, ‘Reviewing the evidence on how teacher professional development affects student achievement’, Issues & Answers Report REL 2007-No. 033: 14.
This paper is an update to our 2014 publication. The 2020 update outlines eight quality teaching practices that are known to support school improvement and enhance the learning outcomes of our students. The themes are not an exhaustive list of effective practices, but are a useful framework for teachers and school leaders to consider when deciding how to tackle student improvement.
The eight themes identified as likely to make the biggest difference to our students are:
Teachers’ beliefs about their students influence how they teach and interact with them. High expectations are linked with higher performance for all students. The reverse can also be true. Students may achieve less than their full potential if expectations of their ability are low.
Explicit teaching practices involve teachers clearly showing students what to do and how to do it, rather than having students discover that information themselves. Students who experience explicit teaching practices make greater learning gains than students who do not experience these practices.
Effective feedback provides students with relevant, explicit, ongoing, constructive and actionable information about their performance against learning outcomes from the syllabus.
Teachers use data to check and understand where their students are in their learning and to plan what to do next. Effective analysis of student data helps teachers identify areas where students’ learning needs may require additional attention and development.
High quality student assessment helps us know that learning is taking place. Assessment is most effective when it is an integral part of teaching and learning programs.
Classroom management is important for creating the conditions for learning. Effective classroom management minimises and addresses all levels of disengagement and disruptive behaviours.
At school, the practices that support student wellbeing involve creating a safe environment; ensuring connectedness; engaging students in their learning; and promoting social and emotional skills.
Professional collaboration allows best practice to be identified and shared across classrooms. Effective collaboration explicitly aims to improve teacher practices and student outcomes.
Our What works best in practice resource provides strategies to support teachers to implement the eight themes in the classroom.
The School Excellence Framework supports school leaders take a planned and whole-school approach to improvement. The eight themes closely align with the School Excellence Framework.
CESE's Sally Egan talks to Secretary, Mark Scott about the updated What works best research.
Access the transcript and other podcasts from this series on the Every Student podcast page.
Research shows that students in rural and remote (non‑metropolitan) areas of NSW tend to underperform on major educational indicators when compared to students in metropolitan locations. To address this disparity, the NSW Minister for Education released Rural and Remote Education: A Blueprint for Action in November 2013. The blueprint committed $80 million over four years to implement a broad set of actions in four focus areas: quality early childhood education, great teachers and school leaders, curriculum access for all, and effective partnerships and connections.
This final evaluation report examines the implementation and impact of actions contained in the blueprint, using available data up to and including 2017. It also examines important education performance indicators to assess any changes in the magnitude of the gaps between rural and remote students and metropolitan students since the launch of the blueprint.
This evaluation has found that:
• Gaps in NAPLAN scores and school attendance between rural and remote students and metropolitan students have not reduced since the introduction of the blueprint. The gaps between remote students and metropolitan students have narrowed on Best Start and retention to Year 12. The gaps between provincial students and metropolitan students have not reduced on these measures.
• The 50% rental subsidy introduced at some fourpoint schools had no meaningful impact on teacher retention.
• Aurora College provides an important opportunity for gifted and talented students. Enrolments have grown and issues related to timetabling are being addressed.
• Education Networks and Networked Specialist Centres (NSCs) have had little impact. At the time of the evaluation, Education Networks had not been used in the more substantial ways originally envisaged, for example to increase community engagement or share budgets. Some NSC facilitators were unsure of their overall effectiveness or were confused about the scope of the role. Since the evaluation, the role of NSCs has been clarified and the department believes they will demonstrate value into the future.
• Enrolments of 4 and 5 year old Aboriginal children in community preschools in rural and remote areas increased by 45% between 2013 and 2017. Enrolments of non-Aboriginal 4 and 5 year old children from low income families increased by 8%.
The interim monitoring and evaluation report was published in 2016.
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The Refugee Student Counselling Support Team (RSCST) is a small Sydney-based team that provides specialised support to NSW public schools that have refugee students enrolled. Its main work areas include:
CESE conducted a process evaluation which involved:
The RSCST has a well-established service model that has been refined over time since its inception in 2016. The team’s reach has been broad and it has carried out an increasing volume of work in each of its core areas.
Capacity building has been the key priority from the outset and occurs through an array of professional learning workshops and via side-by-side work with school counselling staff. An increasing proportion of the team’s time has been spent providing targeted counselling support for refugee students with complex needs. The team also conducts group support work that is highly valued by schools. The team has established a contact number that is manned throughout the week for school enquiries and has developed strong local partnerships with internal and external refugee services.
School staff consistently observed that the team’s work has led to improvements in refugee students’ social and emotional skills, a reduced incidence and intensity of negative behaviours, and an increased readiness to learn. They described improvements to the wellbeing of students’ families, stemming from increased trust and confidence in school staff. Further, many school staff felt more confident and supported to put into practice the skills and strategies learnt from the RSCST’s capacity-building sessions and side-by-side counselling support. RSCST staff are particularly valued for their expertise in trauma-informed practice. The team’s collaboration with other refugee services has improved the set of services available to schools and to refugee students.
Recruitment has been a key challenge, and the team has often operated with less than its full complement of eight staff.
The nature of work requires a combination of specialist skills and personal attributes that are not easily found. The team is also working on increasing schools’ awareness of the team’s responsibilities and range of services, and on managing schools’ expectations of support. An ongoing challenge is deciding how to prioritise the team’s limited time most effectively across the state as demand for its services continues to grow.
This explainer briefly summarises the evidence on trauma-informed practice within an educational context. It is intended as a brief introduction to the topic for teachers, principals and other school staff.
The accompanying discussion guide has been created to support principals, executive, teachers and school staff to unpack and reflect on the explainer, and to explore implications for their schools.
The Workforce profile of the NSW teaching profession 2017 (PDF, 5MB) 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 2017 report builds on the data presented in the following reports:
The literature review defines classroom management and provides a brief overview of classroom management research. It also describes the characteristics of effective classroom management strategies and how schools can best support teachers when implementing them.
Classroom management refers to the strategies teachers use to support and facilitate learning in the classroom. Effective classroom management is important for student achievement because it creates an environment that minimises disruptions, maximises instruction time, and encourages students to engage in learning.
The evidence suggests that classroom management requires both preventative and responsive strategies, with an emphasis on preventative strategies.
Preventative strategies are proactive and encourage students to be on-task, motivated to learn, and prosocial. Effective preventative strategies include:
Responsive strategies include corrective responses to inappropriate behaviours. They support students to re-engage in learning. Effective corrective practices:
The Connected Communities Strategy commenced implementation in schools in 2013. The strategy aims to improve outcomes for students in 15 schools in some of the most complex and vulnerable communities in NSW. The strategy is underpinned by a commitment to ongoing partnership with Aboriginal communities, supporting Aboriginal people to actively influence and fully participate in social, economic and cultural life, consistent with the NSW Government’s plan for Aboriginal affairs, OCHRE (Opportunity, Choice, Healing, Responsibility, Empowerment). Connected Communities is one initiative under OCHRE.
This evaluation assesses the implementation and impact of the strategy, and aims to answer the following questions:
1. How well has the model of the strategy been formed and implemented, and what variation exists across schools?
2. What are the outcomes and impact of the Connected Communities Strategy?
The evaluation of Connected Communities commenced in 2014. The focus of this final evaluation report is on the outcomes and impacts of the strategy.
Overall, Connected Communities is showing promising results. This evaluation has shown that Connected Communities has had a positive impact in schools, particularly in outcomes for students in their early years. Connected Communities represents a sound policy approach that has the potential to provide further positive outcomes for students and communities, given more time.
The strategy appears to be more effective at the primary level than the secondary level. The primary school cohort of students who have been ‘fully exposed’ to Connected Communities for their entire time at school appear to be showing the greatest benefit from the strategy in terms of NAPLAN results, and appear to be more developmentally ready for school than earlier cohorts.
Further time will be required to see if the results in later years improve as this cohort of students continues through its schooling.
Both implementation and outcomes have varied across individual schools. The buy-in of all staff remains key to the successful implementation of Connected Communities, and it is critical that Executive Principals continue to articulate a clear vision of the strategy, ensure staff support, and prioritise high expectations for all students.
The Connected Communities interim evaluation report, published in 2016, primarily addressed the implementation of the strategy.
This page provides a brief overview of findings from the 2018 NSW secondary students’ post-school destinations and expectations survey relating to Vocational Education and Training (VET) participation in school. Access the main 2018 report.
One-in-three respondents answered questions about VET participation – 1,160 Year 12 completers and 1,487 early school leavers.
• 81.9% of Year 12 completers and 75.3% of early school leavers said VET courses were available at school. A higher proportion of Year 12 completers said VET was available at school. Early school leavers are more likely to be unsure if VET was available.
• 34.1% of Year 12 completers and 41.5% of early school leavers started a VET course at school.1 Early leavers are more likely to have started a VET course at school than Year 12 completers.
• 46.3% of Year 12 completers and 48.2% of early school leavers said doing VET at school increased their interest in a career or job in this area.2 There is no difference between the proportion of Year 12 completers and early school leavers.
• 18.1% of Year 12 completers and 45.1% of early school leavers would have been interested in doing a VET course if available.3 Early school leavers would have been more interested in doing VET if available.
Most Year 12 completers who started a VET course finished the course and received a qualification. Early school leavers are more likely to not finish the VET course they start at school.4
Finished course and qualification
Finished course but not qualification
Did not finish
Most common reasons for not completing the VET qualification, despite completing the course, included no longer being interested in a job in the area and not needing the qualification for employment.
• 28.9% - no longer interested in job in area
• 14.7% - didn't need the qualification for employment
• 12.0% - no longer interested after completing school
• 20.5% - didn't need the qualification for employment
• 18.8% - no longer interested in job in area
• 14.6% - no longer interested after completing school5
82.8% of Year 12 completers and 85.4% of early school leavers agreed they benefitted from studying VET at school even though they did not finish the qualification.6
Almost two-thirds (64.0%) of early school leavers who started a VET course did not finish the course at school. Female early school leavers are more likely not to finish the course than male early school leavers (70.1% vs. 61.0%). Students often left school before they could complete the course.
• 42.5% - left school before finishing the course
• 23.4% - no longer fit with plans
• 10.2% - no longer interested in job in area
Among early school leavers who did not finish the course:
• 18% completed a related qualification after school
• 22% were currently studying for a related qualification
70.2% of Year 12 completers and 84.3% of early school leavers agreed they benefitted from studying VET at school even though they did not finish the course.7
1of those where VET was offered at school
2of those who started a VET course at school
3of those where VET was not offered at school or respondent was unsure
4For Year 12 completers, 2.9% of participants indicated that they did not know if they had finished the course or did not answer the question. For early school leavers, 4.3% of participants indicated that they either did not know if they had finished the course, or did not answer the question.
5males (18.8%) more likely to report this reason than females (7.6%)
6of those who finished the course but not the qualification
7of those who did not finish the course
This page provides a brief overview of findings from the early school leaver cohort of the NSW secondary students’ post-school destinations and expectations survey. Access the main 2018 report.
A total of 4,470 students who left school before completing Year 12 in 2017 took part in the survey in 2018.
• Over half (57.1%) of early school leavers are in some form of education or training in 20181.
• One-quarter (24.8%) are employed.
• More than one-in-ten (12.9%) are looking for work.
• One-in-twenty (5.2%) are not in the labour force, education or training (NILFET).
• The most common form of education and training is an apprenticeship, with around a third (32.4%) of early school leavers training at this level; up 6.7 percentage points since 2010.
• Less than 10% of early school leavers are pursuing each other type of education and training.
• Participation in VET Certificate I-III has decreased 10.7 percentage points since 2010.
Up 0.7 percentage points since 2010
Up 1.3 percentage points since 2010
Down 10.7 percentage points since 2010
Up 6.7 percentage points since 2010
Up 3.9 percentage points since 2010
Down 2.5 percentage points since 2010
Down 2.3 percentage points since 2010
Up 1.1 percentage points since 2010
Up 1.7 percentage points since 2010
Academic or behavioural difficulties - 10.8%
External factors or pressures - 10.4%
Other educational opportunities - 6.8%
Bullying - 4.6%
Other reasons - 3.2%
1Main post-school destination variable prioritises education related outcomes over participation in employment. For more information on how main destinations are derived, or for the study background and methodology, read the 2018 technical report.
2Full-time work is 35+ hours per week. Part-time work is less than 35 hours per week.
Since 2010, the NSW secondary students’ post-school destinations survey has been collecting information about students’ main destinations in the year after completing Year 12 or leaving school. The survey seeks to provide critical information on education pathways, attainments and destinations of young people in NSW and inform policy making related to students’ post-school education, training and employment.
In 2018, 3,529 students who finished Year 12 and 4,470 students who left school before completing Year 12 (known as early school leavers) completed the survey. All Aboriginal and Torres Strait students, students who attended schools participating in the Connected Communities program and students who left school before the minimum leaving age were in scope for the survey. A sample of students who completed Year 12 or left school after the minimum leaving age were also in scope.
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.