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