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.


Clearly defined professional learning processes and practices are key drivers of continuous school improvement. These serve to strengthen the link between professional learning, improved classroom practices and enhanced student learning. Achieving excellence relies on professional collaboration that uses data systematically to inform practice. This assumes high levels of trust among   colleagues, building understanding and use of evidence-based practices and adapting teaching practices accordingly.

Achieving high standards of practice relies on quality professional learning initiated, encouraged and resourced by the leadership team, and sustained by PLCs/PLTs. This requires forms of support which help all teachers to continuously build their expertise and efficacy, with feedback from colleagues and students on their practice.

Improvement measures

Results from the School Staff Survey, available in Panorama, can be used to measure progress, and as success indicators. The three areas of progress measured are:

  • mindsets (openness to change) – the 'collective efficacy', 'collective responsibility' and 'interest in improving practice' factors
  • knowledge (building pedagogical and content knowledge) – the 'use pedagogical model' and 'understand curriculum' factors, as well as all factors from the Professional Learning module
  • behaviours (how staff are adapting practice) – 'seek feedback to improve practice', 'teacher collaboration' and 'discuss problems of practice' factors.

The School Staff Survey 'collective efficacy' factor is used in calculating a school's performance group using the Differentiated School Performance Method (DSPM).

Growth in NAPLAN data (Top 2 Bands, Benchmark Growth) and trends in VCE scores can be used as long-term measures of school improvement efforts. In the short term, formative assessment and teacher judgement can be used to identify the learning level of each student based on evidence of what the students knows and can do, and to understand what each student is ready to learn next.

Supporting resources

The VTLM Pedagogical Model and Practice Principles


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 improving teaching effectiveness


Teachers engage in professional learning based on their personal needs rather than the school’s (or their teaching team’s) learning goals and priorities. Teachers share their expertise when requested by their colleagues. Teachers operate and reflect on their practice independently.


All teachers adopt the VTLM or their school’s pedagogical model to improve teaching practice, clarify lesson goals and build student engagement, effort and understanding. Teachers work together in stages of learning and learning area groups to plan and review teaching and learning programs. Teachers work individually and collaboratively, through PLCs/PLTs and key learning areas, to become skilled in using high-impact teaching practices. Teachers have allocated time to reflect individually and collaboratively upon their practice, draw on current research and use an inquiry improvement cycle.


Leaders encourage PLCs/PLTs to share their professional learning goals, targets and timelines, thereby opening opportunities for collaborating with teachers who share similar professional learning goals. PLCs/PLTs report on how they are progressing towards meeting their professional learning goals, targets and timelines. Teachers demonstrate the ways in which they are incorporating new high-impact teaching strategies into the classroom practices that underpin the VTLM or the school’s pedagogical model. Leaders ensure PDP processes build in professional learning goals which are practicable and may be used by teachers as evidence of their practice. PLCs/PLTs across the school observe agreed norms and protocols.


Leaders and teachers have a consistent understanding about what constitutes effective teaching, and effectively use high-impact teaching strategies in response to students’ learning needs. Leaders and PLCs/ PLTs regularly monitor the extent to which the VTLM or the school’s pedagogical model and the high-impact teaching strategies are being effectively used to improve student learning. Leaders and PLCs/PLTs document the school’s high-impact teaching strategies so that over time they will become a strong feature of the school’s culture. Leaders promote and encourage staff participation in networks and Communities of Practice (CoPs) to share practice and learn from other schools.

Component: Professional learning is collaborative, involving reflection and feedback


Leaders encourage teachers to seek expert practitioner advice and support from experienced colleagues. Teachers work in isolation and define their practice individually. Teachers occasionally give and receive peer feedback with a focus on improving practice.


Leaders formalise arrangements for PLCs/PLTs and teachers to collaborate with peers to share and reflect on practice. Teachers challenge and support each other to improve practice through peer observation and provide regular feedback on teaching practice. Teachers work together in stages of learning and learning area groups to plan and review teaching and learning programs. Teachers, individually and through PLCs/PLTs, refine the application and monitor the implementation of teaching strategies that are included in their list of goals and targets.


Leaders establish processes and protocols for enabling regular classroom observations and providing feedback. Leaders establish opportunities for teachers to participate in structured mentoring and coaching programs. PLCs/PLTs work together to analyse student work samples and student feedback. Teachers make time to observe each other’s practice, discuss feedback and identify future development priorities to refine practice and share expertise.


Leaders establish sustainable routines and systems for collaboration, classroom observation, the modelling of effective practice and feedback embedded within PLCs/PLTs and across the school. Teachers challenge and improve each other’s practice. Teachers provide scaffolding and feedback that support students to assess their work and solve their own problems. Teachers use real-time data to inform their personal and/ or PLC/PLT decisions with respect to future professional learning priorities. Leaders create student-led spaces for discussions between students and teachers on how professional learning can meet student learning needs.

Component: Professional learning is evidence-based


Leaders identify resources on evidence-based teaching practice and recommend strategies for focus for learning area teams, PLCs/ PLTs and school-wide adoption. Teachers share experiences about teaching practices and occasionally reference data.


Leaders facilitate periodic reviews of teaching, using this information for individual, teaching team and/or whole school professional learning. Leaders establish a professional ‘library’, building upon the VTLM key resources that offer teachers descriptions and demonstrations of evidence-based practice. PLC/PLT leaders participate in professional learning to strengthen their leadership capabilities. Teachers use the VTLM resources to broaden their knowledge of evidence-based practice to lift excellence in teaching and learning. Teachers identify and target areas for professional learning, informed by student achievement data and professional development goals.


Leaders review strategies which have an impact on students’ progress and development, incorporating findings into whole-school professional learning and school improvement planning. Teachers draw on the VTLM and current research to trial examples of best practice in local and international contexts, using an inquiry improvement cycle. PLC/PLT leaders draw on teachers’ professional knowledge, the VTLM and local and international resources, in helping staff adopt high-impact teaching strategies in their classrooms.


Leaders and teachers identify and list highly effective teaching strategies and expect that, over time, all teachers will incorporate these strategies into their pedagogic repertoire. Leaders and teachers evaluate how effectively the school’s teaching strategies have been implemented, and identify ways that practice may be further improved. Students give teachers feedback on the effectiveness of teaching and learning strategies; teachers adapt their pedagogy accordingly. Leaders use cyclical processes to analyse a range of student data to strategically plan teachers’ individual and collective professional learning.

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 excellence in teaching and learning priority area see: Evidence - Excellence in teaching and learning evidence base


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.