What works best
Quality teaching practices that support improved literacy and numeracy outcomes.
The department’s What works best publication offers eight themes for evidence-based practice that improves student educational outcomes: High expectations, Explicit teaching, Effective feedback, Use of data to inform practice, Assessment, Classroom management, Wellbeing and Collaboration.
These themes offer helpful ways of thinking about aspects of teaching practice, but they are not discrete. They overlap and connect with one another in complex ways. While they offer sound strategies for individual teachers to consider as part of their repertoires, evidence suggests that their effectiveness is stronger when they are implemented as whole-school approaches.
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.
Assessment. 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.
Wellbeing. 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, Collaboration. 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.
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What works best: Reading K–6
The What works best: Reading K–6 resource shows how literacy and numeracy professional learning, assessments and classroom resources aligns with the themes of What works best with a particular focus on improving student reading outcomes in primary school.
What works best: Reading 7–12
The What works best: Reading 7–12 resource shows how literacy and numeracy professional learning, assessments and classroom resources aligns with the themes of What works best with a particular focus on improving student reading outcomes in secondary school.
What works best: HSC minimum standard
The What works best: HSC minimum standard resource shows how literacy and numeracy professional learning, assessments and classroom resources align with the themes of What works best with a particular focus on the HSC minimum standard.
What works best: EAL/D
The What works best: EAL/D resource shows how literacy and numeracy professional learning, assessments and classroom resources align with the themes of What works best with a particular focus on the learning needs of English as an additional language/dialect (EAL/D) students.