Supporting high academic expectations

This publication was originally published 29 June 2020.

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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.

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.
  • High 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.

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.

Purpose of resource

The 'Supporting high academic expectations' resource explains why high academic expectations are important and provides practical suggestions for schools to support their students. It is part of a series that summarises the research on student wellbeing and engagement.

When and how to use

This resource is a synthesis of research. School leaders and teachers can read, reflect on, discuss and implement principles highlighted in the paper as part of school-developed High Impact Professional Learning (HIPL).

The appropriate time to use the resource may differ for each school, leader and teacher.

School leaders can:

  • unpack the paper, using the accompanying reflection guide, as part of whole-school professional development and/or stage or grade team meetings
  • encourage teachers to share key findings and reflect on classroom implementation during professional development
  • reflect on how teachers currently support high academic expectations in daily practice
  • access the What works best Scout report and Advocacy, Expectations, Belonging: By School over Time Scout report to facilitate discussions with staff about areas to improve across the school
  • support staff to find connections between What works best (high expectations) and the School Excellence Framework.

Teachers can:

  • read the synthesis paper and reflect on current practice using the accompanying reflection guide
  • identify practices in the paper that can improve high academic expectations in the classroom
  • reflect on the impact of implementation
  • refer to additional CESE publications listed in the paper to further expand understanding of how to support high academic expectations.


Email feedback about this resource to using the subject line ‘Re: Supporting high academic expectations’. You can also subscribe to the CESE newsletter and connect with us on Yammer.

Alignment to system priorities and/or needs: NSW Department of Education Strategic Plan 2018-2022 – ‘Every student is known, valued and cared for’.

Alignment to School Excellence Framework: Learning domain – wellbeing.

Alignment with other existing frameworks: What works best - high expectations; Australian Professional Standards for Teachers – Standard 3.1.

Reviewed by: Learning and Wellbeing.

Created/last updated: Originally published 29 June 2020.

To be reviewed: CESE publications are prepared through a rigorous process. Resources are reviewed periodically as part of an ongoing evaluation plan.


  • Research report
  • Student engagement and wellbeing
  • Tell Them From Me

Business Unit:

  • Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
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