Dimension: building practice excellence

This dimension is part of the Excellence in Teaching and Learning priority and is identified as​ a high-impact Improvement Initiative.


  • Effective schools are learning communities.
  • At the core is a culture of collaboration and collective responsibility to develop effective and consistent teaching practices and to improve student achievement.
  • Research highlights that the quality of teaching is a key determinant of variation in student achievement.
  • Engaging teachers in contemporary high quality professional learning is the most successful way to improve teacher effectiveness.
  • Effective professional learning is collaborative, inquiry focused, embedded in teaching practice and aligned with priority areas for school improvement and teachers' individual learning needs.
  • Student outcomes data is used to evaluate the impact of professional learning on teaching practice and student achievement.
  • Effective schools use Communities of Practice to build capability beyond the individual school and to provide professional challenge to reflect on and extend current practice.

Essential elements

A number of elements are essential to enable effective work within the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes. Eight Essential Elements form the foundation upon which improvement is built. The Essential Elements for Building practice excellence are:

Essential element 2: School-based professional learning program developed and implemented that supports the school's identified improvement strategies.

Essential element 7: Data collection, analysis and evaluation of student learning growth over time.

Essential element 8: Explicit use of evidence-based school improvement strategies and teacher professional practice activities.

The Essential Elements are evident at the Evolving stage of each Continuum (below) and are further articulated in the Embedding and Excelling stages in some dimensions.


The Continuum for Building practice excellence describes a range of proficiency levels (Emerging, Evolving, Embedding and Excelling) that assists principals and teachers to identify areas of practice that require attention in order to deliver improved student outcomes.

Component: Professional learning is focused on student outcomes


Teachers are aware of the FISO priorities and initiatives. They are beginning to explore what the initiatives might mean for their professional practice. Professional learning activities are usually based on teacher choice and interest, focusing on individual teacher needs rather than identified school goals and priorities.


The school has clear goals and targets that support agreed FISO priorities. The school develops professional learning aligned with their FISO improvement strategies. Teachers have a shared focus for improvement in student outcomes.


The school’s professional learning has well-articulated purposes that are focused on student outcomes, derived from the analysis of student data.

Teachers’ individual plans have strong line of sight to the school’s goals and targets. Teachers make links between students’ progress data and their own professional learning needs.


A whole-school professional learning plan supports the school’s identified improvement strategies. It is developed, implemented, monitored and evaluated in light of student achievement data.

Component: Professional learning is collaborative, involving reflection and feedback


Teachers work together in stages of learning and learning area groups to plan and review teaching and learning programs. The school encourages teachers to seek support from experienced colleagues. Teachers occasionally give and receive feedback with a focus on improving practice. The school encourages teachers to seek support from experienced colleagues. Teachers occasionally give and receive feedback with a focus on improving practice.


Professional learning teams are formalised and teachers work collaboratively to review and develop their practice. Teams monitor the impact of teaching strategies on student learning and adapt teaching to advance student progress. Teachers provide, seek out and receive feedback from peers and school leaders to improve teaching practice.


The school has explicit systems for collaboration, classroom observation, the modelling of effective practice and feedback. Teaching teams regularly observe and provide feedback on teaching, with support and input from leaders and input from students. Structured mentoring and coaching programs are established.


The school has established teaching teams dedicated to challenging and improving each other’s practice. Student feedback is routinely sought and informs school improvement. The school’s Professional Learning Plan is developmentally-focused, and designed to enable both individual and collective responsibility and accountability. The plan supports collaborative professional learning to build collective responsibility for improved student outcomes.

Component: Professional learning is informed by the collection, analysis and evaluation of student data


Teachers access professional learning to build their skills in the analysis, interpretation and use of student performance data to improve classroom teaching practice.


Teachers work in teams, across year levels and learning areas, to implement documented and agreed approaches to data collection, analysis and evaluation.


Teachers routinely use student learning data to diagnose their own development priorities. They review actual changes in practice following formal professional learning programs, document the impact of new approaches and plan further improvements.


Continuous improvement in teaching practice is sustained by systematically collecting, analysing and evaluating teaching practices and student achievement data. The school and its community incorporates evaluative practices and continuous improvement into its improvement cycle.

Component: Professional learning is evidence-based and modelled on recognised best practice


Teachers use assessment data and other evidence to evaluate student progress and identify gaps in student learning. Teachers share experiences about teaching practices and occasionally reference data.


Teachers demonstrate understanding of the link between their practice and student learning. They use student achievement data to identify their professional learning needs aligned with FISO priorities. The school periodically reviews the effectiveness of teaching and learning programs and uses this information to plan appropriate individual and whole-school professional learning.


Teachers routinely use evidence of student learning progress to diagnose their own development priorities. Individually and collectively, they engage in a cycle of inquiry to evaluate the effectiveness of their current teaching practices. The school routinely reviews its impact on students’ progress and development, and incorporates findings into whole-school professional learning and school improvement plans. Exploring models of best practice from local and international contexts informs the school’s professional learning.


The school routinely integrates student learning data with teacher professional development and strategic planning. The school uses its data to align teachers’ individual learning needs with school priorities, goals for student learning and Annual Implementation Plans (AIP). The school trials and evaluates professional learning practices from international and local contexts which are known to have an impact.

Component: Professional learning is ongoing, supported and fully integrated into the culture of the school


A school-based professional learning program is documented and implemented. The school supports teachers to develop evaluative and assessment skills, and provides opportunities for teachers to practise these capabilities.


The school fosters a culture that values and supports ongoing professional learning to evaluate and improve teaching practice. Teachers are collectively responsible for improving instructional practices to achieve progress in learning for all students and reduce variations in learning outcomes between classes.


The school systematically builds teaching capabilities with sufficient time and incentives for continued enhancement of teacher expertise. School leaders facilitate opportunities for staff to learn from each other and model continuous learning in their own practice.


The school fosters an environment that values collaboration, trust, risk-taking, experimentation, collaborative inquiry and self-assessment. The school embeds a continuous focus on teaching and learning in its culture. School leaders support and provide ongoing opportunities for all staff to progressively reach higher levels of performance.

Printable resource

Continuum as an A3 print out (pdf - 228.79kb)

Case studies

To see examples of how schools in Victoria are implementing the FISO dimension: Building practice excellence see: Building practice excellence case studies.

Evidence base

To view the Evidence Base for the FISO dimension: Building practice excellence see: Evidence- Building practice excellence (docx - 643.97kb)


Why should my school consider this improvement initiative?

Effective teaching is the single biggest determinant of student improvement in the school. Teachers not only have a direct impact on student achievement but also student engagement and motivation for learning. What teachers do in the classroom and how they interact with students is vital.

Excellence in teaching and learning means teachers are prepared with strong knowledge in their content area(s) and have the skills to utilise high-impact pedagogical strategies to improve student learning. Teachers' own learning journeys are never complete and they actively seek opportunities for feedback and collaboration with others in an effort to improve student outcomes.

How will my school know if we should focus on this improvement initiative?

Consider the following:

  • To what extent do teaching teams and collaborative groups regularly interact to address common issues regarding student learning (curriculum, assessment and instruction)?
  • To what extent do teaching teams build common formative assessment?
  • To what extent do teachers have opportunities to observe and discuss effective teaching?
  • What is the agreed approach and understanding on how to respond when a student does not master an essential learning concept?
  • How embedded and explicit are the school's systems for collaboration, classroom observation, the modelling of effective practice and feedback?
  • How effectively does the school connect to and harness expertise in other schools for professional learning?
What could my school focus on?
  • Building consistency and quality of teaching practice across the school to lower instances of in-school variation in student performance.
  • Organising and resourcing for staff to collaborate with and receive feedback from others in order to progress their practice.
  • Conceptualising professional learning as something that happens in a teacher's daily work, and not just outside of class time, resulting in a work-embedded culture of professional learning and collaboration.
  • Professional learning activities based around how they improve student learning, with effectiveness measured through the impact on student outcomes over time.
Where to next?

If you choose to focus on this Improvement Initiative, the strategies and actions below may assist you to develop actions that your school implements:

  • Work in teams to agree on the consistent adoption of instructional models and assessment by:
    • establishing teams across year levels and learning areas to develop comprehensive whole-school teaching and learning programs based on the Victorian Curriculum
    • documenting the teaching practices and techniques to be adopted school-wide
    • aligning teaching programs so that each year, students can build on the skills and knowledge they have learnt in previous years.
  • Strengthen data literacy, including data collection and analysis techniques and the use of data for goal setting by:
    • undertaking an audit of the data literacy skills of staff members to identify areas where professional learning can facilitate strengthened data literacy capacity in the school
    • planning and undertaking whole-school professional learning to address identified areas for strengthening data literacy, while building the capacity of individual teachers requiring further support
    • reviewing individual learning plans to explore how assessment data can more effectively inform goal-setting and monitoring of student learning progress.
  • Master the use of evidence-based learning improvement strategies by:
    • implementing processes for supporting teachers to incrementally expand their mastery of high-impact feedback techniques
    • exploring opportunities through networks for staff to observe the implementation of effective learning improvement strategies in other school settings
    • allocating time for each member of the teaching staff to review the evidence base of effective improvement strategies and reflect on how they could change their own practice to better meet the learning needs of their students
    • providing opportunities for staff to discuss specific interventions and their implementation, grounded in the context of the school's student cohort and its goals and targets for improvement.
  • Plan lessons together in teams that span multiple year levels and learning areas to support targeted teaching and curriculum integration by:
    • allocating time on a regular basis for teachers from different year levels and learning areas to meet and plan lessons together
    • observe one another's practice to provide (and act on) feedback relative to evidence-based teaching models by:
    • supporting teachers to undertake classroom observation and provide critical feedback to each other to inform improvements in teacher practice in line with agreed teaching approaches.
  • Develop expertise across different feedback modes between colleagues, students and parents/carers, including direct verbal feedback, written feedback, peer feedback, whole-class, small group and/or individual student conferencing by:
    • redesigning assessment tasks to better track student progression against both the expected levels and individual target levels in the Victorian Curriculum, VCE, VET or VCAL
    • setting and communicating clear targets and expectations to students
    • monitoring and reporting on student performance.
  • Share examples of the most effective teaching across teams (and, wherever possible, across schools) by: 
    • supporting teachers to collaborate, model and share effective practices, including across other schools in their network
    • providing regular feedback and appraisal processes to ensure all teachers are actively evaluating their practice
    • using performance and development approaches to ensure all teachers are supported towards achieving high quality teaching practices
    • demonstrating instructional leadership, promoting and modelling effective evidence-based practice
    •  providing mentoring and coaching support to staff.

More information

For more information, see Excellence in Teaching and Learning priority.