What works best 2020 update

This publication was originally published 24 April 2020.

Image: What works best 2020 update


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:

1. High expectations

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.

2. Explicit teaching

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.

3. Effective feedback

Effective feedback provides students with relevant, explicit, ongoing, constructive and actionable information about their performance against learning outcomes from the syllabus.

4. Use of data to inform practice

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.

5. Assessment

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.

6. Classroom management

Classroom management is important for creating the conditions for learning. Effective classroom management minimises and addresses all levels of disengagement and disruptive behaviours.

7. Wellbeing

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.

8. Collaboration

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

Purpose of resource

The What works best: 2020 update resource outlines 8 quality teaching practices that are known to support school improvement and enhance student learning outcomes.

When and how to use

The resource provides an overview of the evidence base for 8 high quality teaching practices, and is accompanied by the What works best in practice guide and a suite of What works best resources. School leaders and teachers can read, reflect on, discuss and implement themes and strategies highlighted in the paper as part of school-developed High Impact Professional Learning (HIPL).

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

School leaders can:

  • unpack the report as part of whole-school professional development and/or stage or grade team meetings
  • encourage teachers to share key findings during professional development
  • reflect on strategies, policies or practices currently in place to support school improvement and lift student learning outcomes
  • access their school’s What works best Scout report to facilitate discussions with staff about areas for improvement at a classroom and whole-school level
  • support staff to find connections between What works best and the School Excellence Framework
  • display the What works best: 2020 update poster and What works best shareable summary tiles

Teachers can:


Email feedback about this resource to info@cese.nsw.gov.au using subject line ‘Re: What works best: 2020 update’. 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 engaged and challenged to continue to learn, and every student, every teacher, every leader and every school improves every year.’

Alignment to School Excellence Framework: Learning domain – learning culture, wellbeing, assessment, reporting, student performance measures.

Teaching domain – effective classroom practice, data skills and use, professional standards, learning and development.

Leading domain – educational leadership; school planning, implementation and reporting.

Alignment with other existing frameworks: What works best; Australian Professional Standards for Teachers – Standards 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ,6 ,7.

Reviewed by: School Services; Leadership and High Performance; Teaching and Learning; directors, educational leadership (under the 2020 departmental structure).

Created/last updated: Originally published 24 April 2020.

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

Related resources


  • Research report
  • Teaching and learning practices
  • What works best

Business Unit:

  • Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
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