Professional learning is driven by identified student needs

Professional learning is designed to meet student needs, identified through analysis of current system, school and classroom data about growth and performance.

Key points

  • Teachers are informed by student-level data as they think critically about their own professional learning needs.

  • Improving outcomes for every learner is the primary purpose of teacher professional learning.

  • High impact professional learning deepens the practice of teachers and strengthens their capacity to effectively identify and address their students’ learning needs.

HIPL element 1: Professional learning is driven by identified student needs

HIPL element 1: Professional learning is driven by identified student needs 

Teachers want to see all of their students enjoy success. In HIPL-enabled schools, teachers place the learning needs of their students at the heart of their own professional learning needs, by using a range of evidence sources to understand where their students are in their learning, and reflect on their own capability. This diagnostic approach enables teachers to make informed decisions about their own learning so that they can best meet the needs of the students in front of them. ​

School leaders use a range of evidence sources to identify school-level trends in student learning patterns. They make collaborative, whole-school decisions about professional learning as part of the strategic improvement planning process. This ensures a clear vision and alignment of relevant, evidence-based professional learning which contributes to teacher Performance and Development Plans.​

​The department uses system-level data to develop and continually improve evidence-informed professional learning that meets school needs and which is available to all staff.​

The progress and achievement of every student in every classroom is enhanced because our teachers know, and they are better equipped to meet, their students’ individual learning and wellbeing needs.

Why it matters

Highly effective teachers place the learning needs of their students at the heart of their own professional learning choices to ensure they build the capability, knowledge and skills required within their school context.

At a school and classroom level, cohort and individual student learning data, informed by evidence-based practices and school priorities, helps identify the professional learning requirements of staff.

Professional learning should build a teacher's capability to individualise teaching, based on evidence of students' learning and their own learning needs, to ensure maximum impact. Teachers who continue to monitor student growth and achievement continually refine and refocus their professional learning.

Student learning needs may include content knowledge, skills, and attributes they need to excel in the classroom and the social, wellbeing and psychological safety they need to thrive.

‘We talk about the data and work it out together…we work together to look at our own weaknesses and where we can improve our practice to support the learning.’ High School Teacher, South Sydney
'Our professional learning is about the student, driven by needs in the classroom.' Primary School Teacher, Western Sydney

Key practices

  • Place student learning needs at the heart of your professional learning.
  • Use your understanding of your students' learning needs to inform your own learning and adapt and improve your teaching practice.
  • Use ongoing, individual student-level data to understand how well your students are progressing.

School leaders:
  • Review classroom-based student evidence of progress with teachers.
  • Work with teachers to explore relevant and evidence-based best practice in teaching.
  • Use a range of evidence sources to identify school-level trends in student learning patterns when planning for school-wide professional learning.
  • Access, design and deliver professional learning for teachers based on identified student needs and teacher learning needs.

Illustrations of practice

These examples are drawn from NSW public schools and illustrate effective practice in High Impact Professional Learning.

At Hanwood Public School, a review of professional learning practice showed how teachers and leaders strive to connect professional learning directly to identified student needs. For example, school leadership teams collectively reviewed student work samples, analysed external data and teacher feedback, and identified a school-wide knowledge gap in students’ literacy capability.

The school leadership team developed an action plan to build teacher knowledge of evidence-based literacy strategies to increase student learning outcomes in writing. Teachers began to target specific areas within their teaching of literacy that required a stronger focus. The school planned tailored professional learning for teachers by engaging a literacy expert.

Through a sustained and focused application of metacognitive strategies over a period of three years, there was a measured improvement in student progress, as evidenced in improved student data.

“As a school we had inconsistency in our writing. We began to focus on the gaps in our knowledge as educators, to better support the needs of our students.” – Teachers

A review of professional learning at Homebush West Public School showed how teachers analyse classroom data as evidence of the learning progress of their students and use this to plan their own development and research. They use a variety of data including formative assessments, classroom observations and work samples and work together in teams to develop a common language of their students’ current progress and what the students need to learn next.

Stage and school leadership teams use a range of data to better understand their students’ progress and achievement, including formative assessment and work samples, classroom observations, literacy progressions and NAPLAN data, EALD progressions, and student report outcomes. Teachers then work together in teams to analyse strengths and needs analysis by Stage. This data - primarily observations, work samples, student feedback and formative assessment - is what guides teachers to make informed decisions about the most relevant professional learning they should undertake, and what they will need to measure to evaluate the impact of their own learning on student progress and achievement.

 Further reading

  • Read the research on teacher professional learning: Student Needs.

  • Learn more about Turning data into evidence from the Department’s Evaluation Resource Hub. 

  • The Teacher effectiveness and professional learning section on the School Excellence in Action website provides more information about using student-level data in the school planning process. 

  • Consider sources of evidence to identify where your students are now, using the School Excellence Framework evidence guide. 

  • Access advice for Teachers to support professional learning planning in a HIPL environment as part of the PDP process.


  • Teaching and learning

Business Unit:

  • Teaching, Learning and Student Wellbeing
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