The 8 What works best themes below offer helpful ways of thinking about aspects of teaching practice. They are not discrete but overlap and connect with one another in complex ways. Use the guided journey to see what the 8 themes look like in a context with EAL/D learners.

What works best: EAL/D

How do teachers’ expectations of students affect teaching practice?

Theme 1 – High expectations

Teachers’ beliefs about their students influence how they teach and interact with them. High expectations are linked with higher performance for all students. The reverse can also be true. Students may achieve less than their full potential if expectations of their ability are low.

EAL/D learners have the same academic capability as their English speaking peers. Working towards the same syllabus outcomes as other students while offering targeted English language support illustrates high expectations for EAL/D learners.

Teachers can access professional learning on how to support EAL/D learners in their English language learning needs while meeting stage appropriate syllabus outcomes. The Classrooms of possibility (staff only) suite of videos offers illustrations of practice in supporting EAL/D learners, particularly for students with a refugee background.

What learning gains can be made through explicit teaching?

Theme 2 – Explicit teaching

Explicit teaching practices involve teachers clearly showing students what to do and how to do it, rather than having students discover that information themselves. Students who experience explicit teaching practices make greater learning gains than students who do not experience these practices.

EAL/D students require explicit English language instruction as well as multiple opportunities to encounter KLA-specific language. They also need to be explicitly taught types of texts, sentence structure, paragraphing, and grammar and how these elements of literacy are applied in each KLA.

The EAL/D enhanced teaching and learning cycle assists teachers to plan and implement an explicit focus on English language learning.

EAL/D resources (staff only) have been designed to support the learning needs of EAL/D students in working towards the HSC minimum standard.

How does effective feedback support student learning?

Theme 3 – Effective feedback

Effective feedback provides students with relevant, explicit, ongoing, constructive and actionable information about their performance against learning outcomes from the syllabus.

EAL/D learners benefit from effective feedback on their English language learning and their curriculum content learning. Both of these aspects of learning are reported to parents in the bi-annual school reports. EAL/D Elaborations of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers supports teachers to provide effective feedback.

How can teachers use data to understand and monitor student progress?

Theme 4 – Use of data to inform practice

Teachers use data to check and understand where their students are in their learning and to plan what to do next. Effective analysis of student data helps teachers identify areas where students’ learning needs may require additional attention and development.

The EAL/D Learning Progression (PDF 397 KB) supports teachers to determine the current strengths and needs of English language learners. The Using the EAL/D Learning Progression (staff only) professional learning supports teachers in their understanding of this data tool, as does the short video below.

EAL/D learning progression


The EAL/D learning progression describes a progression of English language learning typical of students learning English as an additional language or dialect.

The EAL/D learning progression has been developed primarily for teachers who are not EAL/D specialist teachers, to assist with: firstly, understanding the broad phasing of English language learning that EAL/D students are likely to experience.

Secondly, identifying where their students are on the progression and the nature of their speaking, listening, reading/viewing and writing skills.

And thirdly, monitoring the linguistic progress of their EAL/D learners.

The EAL/D learning progression gives a broad description of learner characteristics for each of the 4 phases of English language learning.

The EAL/D learning progression describes the phases of English language learning for the 3 main stages of schooling: K to year 2, Years 3 to 6, and Years 7 to 10.

It is important to note that EAL/D students may enter NSW public schools at any stage of education, and at any phase on the EAL/D learning progression.

The 4 phases are: Beginning English, Emerging English, Developing English and Consolidating English.

Beginning phase students are unfamiliar with the English language. Some beginning phase students may have familiarity with print in their first language, while other students, a sub-category known as Limited Literacy Background, have limited or no experience of literacy in any language.

Emerging phase students have a growing degree of print literacy and oral language competency in English, and require significant support to access the curriculum and express their understanding.

Developing phase students still require language to be taught explicitly to fully access the curriculum, and have developing degrees of knowledge of print literacy and oral language competency in English.

As the term suggests, Consolidating phase students have a sound knowledge of spoken and written English, including a growing competency with academic English. They will require explicit teaching to develop their understanding of culturally laden topics of study.

EAL/D learners will move through the phases at different rates: some students may move through more than one phase in a school year, while others may take more than one year to move from one phase to another.

EAL/D learners may be at different phases across the language modes of listening, speaking, reading/viewing and writing. A student may be Developing English in reading while still at Emerging English in writing.

EAL/D learners who are not meeting age-related benchmarks when assessed against syllabus outcomes may not necessarily be ‘underperforming’, but rather achieving at levels commensurate with their English language learning phase. The EAL/D learning progression can assist in differentiation and scaffolding.

Transition from one stage of school to another may cause an EAL/D learner to plateau or slip.

The EAL/D learning progression assists us to differentiate our teaching and learning to support our English language learners achieve syllabus outcomes.

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Data drawn from both the EAL/D learning progression and the National literacy learning progression has been analysed to assist EAL/D learners to achieve the HSC minimum standard in this Illustration of practice.

How can assessment be used to know that learning is taking place and inform next steps?

Theme 5 – Assessment

High quality student assessment helps us know that learning is taking place. Assessment is most effective when it is an integral part of teaching and learning programs, and as outlined in the department’s five elements of effective assessment practice.

EAL/D learners’ acquisition of the English language can be assessed using the EAL/D Learning Progression (PDF 397 KB), as described in the EAL/D Learning Progression video. A range of professional learning supports classroom teachers to understand and use the EAL/D learning progression, and to differentiate assessment for EAL/D learners.

How can the right conditions for learning set students up for success?

Theme 6 – Classroom management

Classroom management is important for creating the conditions for learning. Effective classroom management minimises and addresses all levels of disengagement and disruptive behaviours.

Effective classroom management is as applicable to EAL/D learners as to their English-speaking peers. A description of effective classroom management with EAL/D learners is detailed in EAL/D Elaborations of the Australian Professional Standards. Classroom and school environments that are culturally inclusive and recognise the knowledge and culture of students from diverse backgrounds will support engagement and positive behaviour in classes with EAL/D students.

How can we create a safe environment for students?

Theme 7 – Wellbeing

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.

A number of frameworks and documents detail how teachers can promote the wellbeing of their EAL/D learners: EAL/D advice for schools (PDF 5.39 MB), EAL/D School Evaluation Framework (PDF 392 KB), and the EAL/D Elaborations of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.

The Multicultural education website offers advice on the wellbeing needs of students from a refugee background, where teachers can access targeted professional learning and resources to support their refugee students.

Supporting teaching practice through professional collaboration and further learning.

Theme 8 – Collaboration

Professional collaboration allows best practice to be identified and shared across classrooms. Effective collaboration explicitly aims to improve teacher practices and student outcomes.

Effective models of collaborative practices between EAL/D specialist teachers and classroom teachers are detailed in the EAL/D advice for schools (PDF 5.39 MB), while the EAL/D School Evaluation Framework (PDF 392 KB) allows schools to monitor their EAL/D collaborative practice.

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