Publications filter

LowSES Strategies improving learning

Authors: Shuyan Huo, Stephen Lamb

Evaluator company/business: Centre for International Research in Education Systems (CIRES)

URL or PDF: Download the report on Effective strategies for improving student learning: results from the low SES NP evaluation (PDF, 1.41MB)
Summary: This report was prepared by CIRES at Victoria University and is part of the evaluation of the National Partnership reform initiatives in low socioeconomic status (SES) school communities. The report focuses on student performance in the low SES schools in NSW that participated in the National Partnership agreements, and the extent to which changes in student performance are related to National Partnership initiatives or other factors; and the initiatives that may be identified as making the strongest contributions to changes in student outcomes.

Published in Evaluation repository

Cooks Hill Big Picture Ed Philosophy and Design

Authors: Ann Daly, Meg Dione-Rodgers, Robyn Leggatt, Brendt Evenden
Evaluator company/business: School Policy and Information Management Unit, NSW Department of Education
Year: 2016
URL or PDF: Download the Report on Cooks Hill Campus - Implementation of big picture education philosophy and design (PDF, 1.06MB)
Summary: The Big Picture Education Australia (BPEA) philosophy and design was implemented in the Cooks Hill Campus of Newcastle High School in 2014. In 2015, the department commenced an evaluation of the initiative's key features: personalised learning; learning through leadership; and authentic assessment. The evaluation adopted a mixed methods approach, including observations, surveys, and analysis of school administrative and achievement data. It found that the school community was very supportive of the initiative, and that it had a positive impact on teacher practices and student attitudes, behaviour and performance.

Published in Evaluation repository

Six Effective Practices in High Growth Schools (PDF, 1.5MB)

Six effective practices in high growth schools (PDF, 1.5MB) 

Six effective practices myPL course



This publication explores the effective practices common to high growth schools

Drivers of school improvement are often complex and context specific. This publication describes the effective practices common to NSW government schools that achieved high growth in NAPLAN over a sustained period. These schools are defined as ‘High Value-Add’ (HVA) schools.

The six effective practices in high growth schools are:

1. Effective collaboration

Effective collaboration is considered vital to driving whole-school improvement. It includes teachers sharing work samples to ensure consistency in teacher judgement, developing easily accessible platforms to share teaching resources and using peer coaching and support programs to promote and develop effective teaching practice.

2. Engaging and sharing in professional learning

Professional learning needs to support strategic school goals and be shared among staff so that learning is embedded across the school. It includes using staff meetings as a platform to share learning and internal expertise, having peer supports to ensure that professional learning is applied and obtaining tangible skills and materials for the classroom.

3. Setting whole-school goals and strategies for change

Educators need to work together and set shared goals for effective change to occur. This includes having whole-school planning days and regular staff meetings to discuss, support and evaluate progress towards achieving goals.

4. Using explicit and effective teaching strategies

Showing students what success looks like and breaking down the steps required to achieve success is an important teaching strategy in high growth schools. Other strategies include using student data to identify students’ learning needs, developing learning targets and monitoring progress and developing accessible teaching resources that include templates for how to differentiate lessons and assessments.

5. Creating an environment that promotes learning and high levels of student engagement

Promoting a positive learning culture where students are engaged in school and value their outcomes is key to improving school performance. This includes using innovative teaching techniques, teaching students about literacy and numeracy through real-world examples such as transport, and organising trips to local universities for students and parents to help raise expectations about future study.

6. Setting high expectations for achievement

Creating high expectations for students, both academically and behaviourally, is essential to improving student performance. This could include displaying learning progressions in classrooms to show students what performance benchmarks are and having a common set of guidelines across a school that rewards positive behaviour.

For more information on how we selected HVA schools for this study, read High value-add schools: Key drivers of school improvement.

Published in Learning Curve

High value-add schools: Key drivers of school improvement (PDF, 750kB)

High value-add schools: Key drivers of school improvement (PDF, 750kB)

Related: Six effective practices in high growth schools

All educators strive to lift the achievement of their students. Educational researchers aim to assist in this effort by identifying the initiatives that are most likely to yield sustainable improvements in student performance.

This study aims to examine the key drivers of improvement in NSW government schools that have shown high growth in student outcomes over time. High growth schools were identified using a robust value-added methodology that isolates the contribution that a school makes to growth in student achievement while controlling for important contextual factors that may influence student performance.

Published in Research report

Our What works best report has had an update for 2020. For the latest report, go to What works best: 2020 update.

What works best (PDF, 2MB)

Go to the reflection guide page

What works best (PDF, 2MB)

What works best reflection guide

What works best myPL course


This paper brings together seven themes from the growing bank of evidence we have for what works best to improve student educational outcomes. This is not an exhaustive list of effective practices, but it is a useful framework for teachers and school leaders to consider when deciding how to challenge the status quo and tackle student improvement. 

The seven themes identified as likely to make the biggest difference to our students are:

1. High expectations

Teachers can set high expectations in a number of ways, such as encouraging students to work hard, challenging them to do their best work, and to do their homework on time. 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.

2. Explicit teaching 

Explicit teaching practices involve teachers clearly showing students what to do and how to do it, rather than having students discover or form information themselves. Students who experience explicit teaching practices make greater learning gains than students who do not experience these practices.

3. Effective feedback

Feedback is when teachers give information to students about aspects of their performance or understanding. Effective feedback is one of the most powerful influences on student achievement, and it is most effective when it focuses on improving tasks, processes, student self-regulation and effort.

4. Use of data to inform practice

The best education systems in the world use effective assessment data to drive improvement. Effective analysis of student data helps teachers identify areas where students’ learning needs may require additional attention and development; and understand which students have responded positively to the teaching approaches in their classroom.

5. Classroom management

Classroom management is an umbrella term that encompasses a broad range of strategies, approaches and actions taken by teachers to encourage a safe, positive and stimulating learning environment for their students. Effective classroom management is important for creating conditions that are conducive for learning.

6. Wellbeing

Creating a safe environment; ensuring connectedness; engaging students in learning; promoting social and emotional learning; and a whole-school approach have been identified as elements that affect student wellbeing. Higher levels of wellbeing are linked to better academic achievement; better mental health; and a more pro-social and responsible lifestyle. 

7. Collaboration 

Professional collaboration allows best practice to be identified and shared across classrooms. Effective collaboration explicitly aims to improve teacher practices and student outcomes. 

Published in Research report


Identifying high performing schools is an important step in developing the evidence base about “what works” to
improve educational outcomes for students.

Download the technical paper (PDF, 2.3MB)


Published in Research report

Publications advanced search

Accessible documents

If you find a CESE publication is not accessible, please contact us