About 'What works best'

The 'What works best' report, produced by our Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE), builds on the evidence base of the original 2014 report. It outlines eight themes of effective teaching practices for the classroom that, when used together, enhance student outcomes and drive school improvement.

An introduction to 'What works best'.

To support continuous improvement in NSW schools the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, or CESE, has updated its most popular research report, ‘What works best’.

The 2020 update is accompanied by a suite of resources including a practical guide and a reflection toolkit that provide teachers with strategies, case studies and reflection questions.

These resources bring together the latest education research and data identifying eight themes that support school improvement and enhance the learning outcomes of students.

These themes overlap and connect with each other, and the best outcomes will be seen when they are used together in schools.

In NSW, there’s also a strong alignment between the What Works Best themes and the School Excellence Framework.

The eight themes are:

High expectations:

Knowing your students well and valuing them as learners can boost students’ confidence and motivation, and in turn have a positive impact on their learning and achievement. High expectations matter at all stages of education for every student.

Explicit teaching:

Clearly explaining to students why they are learning something, how it connects to what they already know, what they are expected to do, how to do it and what it looks like when they have succeeded can help students effectively take in, retain and use knowledge.

Effective feedback:

Providing students with ongoing constructive and actionable information about their performance supports students to move forward with their learning. Effective feedback encourages students to reflect on their work more deeply and empowers them to identify gaps and consider how they can keep improving.

Use of data to inform practice:

Using quantitative and qualitative data helps teachers to check and understand where students are in their learning and plan what to do next. It allows teachers to identify how best to adjust their teaching practices to drive improvement for all students.


Using a range of assessment approaches allows teachers to evaluate and measure the learning progress or educational needs of students. It is only through well-designed assessment that teachers can know if learning is taking place.

Classroom management:

Building quality relationships with every student, addressing disengagement and disruptions, providing structure, clear expectations and opportunities for student participation all promote a safe, positive and stimulating learning environment and maximise effective learning time.


Student wellbeing matters for student learning. Student wellbeing results from many interconnected elements of home and school life. 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.

And finally,


Effective teacher collaboration can be one of the most powerful influences on student achievement. When teachers work together towards a common goal, share evidence-informed practices, create opportunities for effective peer observation and solve problems together, it can improve teacher quality and support every student in their education.

To learn more:

Enrol in a ‘What works best’ online professional learning course.

Watch and listen to the special ‘What works best’ video and podcast series.

Or engage with a wide range of resources to support schools in implementing evidence-based approaches to teaching literacy and numeracy on the department’s website.

To help teachers, principals and school communities connect with the research and develop a shared understanding, resources on these pages unpack the eight 'What works best' themes.

The department is committed to ensuring that every student, every teacher, every leader and every school is improving every year. The 'What works best' resources provide advice and examples from the evidence to support this continuous improvement journey.

Further resources


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

Business Unit:

  • Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
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