Improving high school engagement, classroom practices and achievement

This report was originally published 17 August 2017.

Image: Improving high school engagement, classroom practices and achievement

Summary

Based on the modelling work in this publication, the following summarises the strategies that the research evidence identifies as most effective for improving engagement and achievement in Years 7-9. You can also download these strategies as a PDF.

Strategies to encourage positive behavior

  • Create a positive learning environment with well managed classrooms.
  • Adopt teaching strategies that incorporate positive discipline techniques to enable students to develop their own strategies for self-discipline.
  • Actively engage students and promote positive behaviour rather than focussing only on reactive discipline strategies such as punishment.
  • Develop structure and routines for the classroom and explicitly teach these through discussion and practice.
  • Foster positive relationships between teachers and students and among peers.
  • Establish and maintain clear expectations and rules for student behaviour in the classroom and at school.
  • Reinforce appropriate behaviour and respond consistently to misbehaviour.
  • Adopt school-wide positive behaviour support programs that communicate and teach rules (and reward students for following them).
  • Encourage social and emotional learning that promotes self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.
  • Use these strategies in conjunction with policies that recognise the need to manage inappropriate student behaviour when it impacts significantly on learning.

Strategies to improve attendance

  • Set expectations for attendance and establish improvement goals.
  • Analyse attendance rates to monitor trends and patterns in the data.
  • Listen to students’ perspectives: students’ views on their reasons for non-attendance may give insight into ways to improve school attendance.
  • Promote social and emotional engagement, ensuring students feel connected to school and have a positive sense of belonging and connection with others.
  • Promote positive relationships with teachers with a well-structured learning environment: students should believe that their teachers care about them and will have high, clear and fair expectations of them.
  • Increase collaboration with families, for instance, through involving parents in school decision-making; increasing parental participation in classroom
  • activities; and establishing a contact person at school for family members to communicate and work with.

Strategies to increase interest and motivation

  • Give students feedback on their work and their level of effort, and help them develop their own strategies for learning.
  • Encourage students to believe they can perform a task; this will increase their levels of effort and persistence.
  • Provide students with opportunities to set goals for performance improvements that are achievable and worthwhile
  • Adopt approaches that build students’ sense of autonomy, for example, listening to students; asking questions and responding to questions; acknowledging students’ perspectives; and giving them opportunities to work though problems on their own, when they have a sufficient knowledge base.

Strategies to promote high expectations

  • Be clear about what is expected of students and follow-up on expectations.
  • Make it clear to all students that they must work hard to succeed.
  • Encourage students to do better, for instance, through personal best goal setting (that is, a student’s attempt to improve on or match his/her previous best standard of performance).
  • Provide feedback that explicitly identifies the next learning steps and the skills necessary to improve.
  • Expect homework to be done on time.

Effective teaching practices

  • Organise lessons well.
  • Tell students what they will be learning and be clear about the purpose of tasks.
  • Pay particular attention to how important ideas are taught and help students understand their significance.
  • Require students to demonstrate mastery, especially of difficult ideas.
  • Allow students to ask questions, ensuring responses are clear and have been understood.
  • Ensure students are given time to engage with the learning process and receive clear and timely feedback.
  • Encourage positive relationships between teachers and students for engagement and learning, with a balance between academic and social engagement.

Purpose of resource

The ‘Improving high school engagement, classroom practices and achievement’ resource summarises strategies that the research evidence identifies as most effective for improving engagement and achievement in Years 7 to 9. It uses data from NSW Tell Them From Me student surveys in 2013 and 2015 to look at how students’ engagement, performance and experience of classroom practices in Year 7 affect their engagement and performance in Year 9. 

When and how to use

The resource is a review of research evidence. School leaders and teachers can read, reflect on, discuss and implement themes and strategies highlighted in the practical guide 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 paper 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 improve student engagement and achievement
  • facilitate discussions with staff about areas to improve across the school
  • access Tell Them From Me data 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 paper.

Teachers can:

  • read the paper and reflect on current practice
  • identify strategies and practices in the paper to implement in the classroom to improve student engagement and achievement
  • reflect on the impact of implementation.

Contact

Email feedback about this resource to info@cese.nsw.gov.au using subject line ‘Re: Improving high school engagement, classroom practices and achievement’. You can also subscribe to the CESE newsletter and connect with us on Yammer.

 

Alignment to system priorities and/or needs: School Excellence Policy.

Alignment to School Excellence Framework: Learning domain – learning culture

Teaching domain – effective classroom practice.

Alignment with other existing frameworks: Australian Professional Standards for Teachers – Standards 3.1, 3.3, 3.5, 3.7, 4.1, 4.3, 5.2.

NSW Wellbeing Framework for Schools – Succeed: ‘Our students will be respected, valued, encouraged, supported and empowered to achieve’; Connect: ‘Our students will be actively connected to their learning, have positive and respectful relationships and experience a sense of belonging to their school and community.’

Reviewed by: Learning and Engagement, Learning and Teaching.

Created/last updated: Originally published 17 August 2017.

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

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