How high expectations and engagement in primary school drive student learning
This report was originally published 28 November 2019.
How high expectations and engagement in primary school drive student learning explores the role of student engagement and classroom practices for improving student learning. Specifically, it looks at the impact of engagement and effective teaching experienced in Years 5, 6 and 7 on academic performance in Year 7.
- A culture of high expectations is as important for learning in primary school as it is in high school. Year 5 students who report having teachers with high expectations are over 6 months ahead in their learning by Year 7.
- Socioeconomic status has an impact on students’ engagement at school. The proportion of students engaged in primary school is lower for students in the lowest socioeconomic quartile than for more advantaged students across measures of both classroom and social engagement at school.
- Other aspects of effective teaching also matter. When students understand the purpose of what they are learning and teachers deliver clear instruction and relevant content, student achievement improves.
- Having positive peer relationships and classroom behaviour during primary school are also important for learning.
- Students with a positive attitude towards homework during the final year of primary school have better numeracy outcomes in the first year of high school.
The publication is accompanied by professional learning reflection guides for principals and school executive staff to support school leaders in considering the implications of this research for practices in their schools. Two accompanying case studies, from Liverpool West and Warwick Farm public schools, provide additional resources to showcase how schools can effectively promote engagement and ensure high expectations of their students.
The NSW Department of Education Strategic Plan 2018-2022 includes the commitment to ensure that every student is known, valued and cared for in our schools. High expectations reflect an understanding of students’ capacity, ensuring that they feel known at school and are challenged in their learning. Schools can use the department’s Tell Them From Me surveys to capture students’ perceptions of the expectations that they experience. This knowledge can then help build an accurate and timely picture that schools can use for practical improvements.
Purpose of resource
The How high expectations and engagement in primary school drive student learning resource summarises the research on the role of student engagement and classroom practices for improving student learning. Specifically, it looks at the impact of engagement and effective teaching experienced in Years 5, 6 and 7 on academic performance in Year 7.
When and how to use
The resource is a review of research evidence and is accompanied by the How high expectations and engagement in primary school drive student learning: reflection guides and the How high expectations and engagement in primary school drive student learning: case studies. School leaders and teachers can read, reflect on, discuss and implement themes and strategies highlighted in the resource 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 resource, using the accompanying reflection guide and case studies, 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, programs or practices currently in place to promote student engagement and a culture of high expectations in the classroom
- lead discussions with staff about areas to improve across the school – you may wish to refer to the Achieving School Excellence in Wellbeing and Inclusion tool
- access Tell Them From Me data and the Advocacy, Expectations, Belonging: By School over Time Scout report to support improvement strategies and monitor progress
- support staff to find connections between What works best, the School Excellence Framework and the strategies contained in the resource.
- read the resource or summary and reflect on current practice · unpack the resource, using the accompanying reflection guide, in a group setting
- identify strategies and practices in the resource to apply in the classroom to improve student engagement
- reflect on the impact of the applied strategies.
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Alignment to system priorities and/or needs: NSW Department of Education Strategic Plan 2018-2023 – ‘Every student is known, valued and cared for in our schools’
Alignment to School Excellence Framework: Learning domain – learning culture, wellbeing
Alignment with existing frameworks: What works best – high expectations
Reviewed by: Learning and Teaching directorate
Created/last updated: Originally published 28 November 2019
To be reviewed: CESE publications are prepared through a rigorous process. Resources are reviewed periodically as part of an ongoing evaluation plan.