Explicit teaching practices and feedback

Explicit teaching practices and feedback is a research-based measure from the Tell Them From Me surveys. It is a source of evidence linked to What works best and the School Excellence Framework.

What is it?

Explicit teaching practices, including the effective use of feedback, are key elements of effective teaching. Such practices ensure that students have a clear understanding of why they are learning something, how it connects to what they already know, what is expected of them, and how to do it (explicit teaching). They also ensure that students are given opportunities to ask questions and get clear feedback about their performance against learning outcomes (effective feedback).

Explicit teaching is an important teaching process, which involves a series of steps whereby the teacher:

  • decides the learning intentions and success criteria
  • makes the intentions and criteria transparent to students
  • evaluates if they understand what they have been told by checking for understanding
  • retells students what they have been told by tying it all together with closure.
The Tell Them From Me surveys ask students about their experiences with explicit teaching practices and how frequently they encounter these practices in the classroom. The results are reported as the average of students' scores. In secondary schools, students are asked only about subjects they are currently enrolled in from among English, Maths and Science. The results are reported as the average score for explicit teaching practices and feedback.

Why is it important?

Students who experience explicit teaching practices, accompanied by effective feedback, make greater learning gains than students who do not experience these practices, and the evidence for this is long standing. Cognitive load theory provides theoretical and empirical support for explicit models of instruction. The research demonstrates that for novice learners, explicit instruction, incorporating direct guidance accompanied by practice and feedback, is more effective than partial guidance.

School improvement links

School Excellence Framework element What works best theme
Effective classroom practice Explicit teaching

Evidence base

Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) (2017). Cognitive load theory: Research that teachers really need to understand. Prepared by NSW Department of Education.

Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) (2014). What works best: Evidence-based practices to help improve NSW student performance. Prepared by NSW Department of Education.

Hattie, J., (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York: Routledge.

Kirschner, P., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. (2006). Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 75-86.

Mostafa, T. (2018). How do science teachers teach science – and does it matter? PISA in Focus, No. 90. Paris: OECD Publishing.

Rosenshine, B. (2012, Spring). Principals of instruction, research-based strategies that all teachers should know. American Educator, 36(1).

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Image: This explainer had been produced in collaboration with The Learning Bar

Explainers of the Tell Them From Me measures have been produced in collaboration with The Learning Bar. The Tell Them From Me measures are provided by, and remain the intellectual property of, The Learning Bar. The explainers can also be found online within the Tell Them From Me portal. Tell Them From Me and TTFM are trademarks of The Learning Bar.

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