Understanding research based knowledge

School leaders should work to deepen the knowledge of literacy and numeracy focused curriculum and pedagogy.

Schools with a coherent literacy and numeracy culture are characterised by teachers who seek to:

  • Expand their knowledge about literacy and numeracy
  • Adjust how they teach in response to new knowledge
  • Understand the fundamental role that literacy and numeracy play in providing a foundation for improved student outcomes in all learning areas

A review of practice across the school

The FISO improvement cycle begins with Evaluate and Diagnose. Principals and school leaders need to review what is currently happening with literacy and/or numeracy instruction in the school with a focus on what is being done well, and what needs improvement.

The analysis of multiple sources of data will provide a picture of the strengths and areas for improvement. One method may be through a school evaluation of literacy or numeracy.

Role of principals and school leaders

While principals and school leaders cannot have a deep knowledge of all disciplines, they play an important role in leading professional learning that guides teachers to be more aware of the language, literacy and numeracy processes in their disciplines.

They also need to support teacher leaders to facilitate opportunities for professional learning with their teams, and to share effective practice. 

By supporting a focus on disciplinary literacy, principals and school leaders demonstrate how they value each of the learning areas. They draw on the expertise of their teachers and tap into what teachers care about most, the success of students in their discipline area.

Prioritising and focusing the work

In response to the review, school leaders drive the realisation of the school's literacy or numeracy vision through the creation of a whole-school strategy including:

  • Establishing a principal-led leadership team to develop the plan, guide implementation, and continuously communicate and monitor the work on an ongoing basis
  • Agreeing on priority literacy or numeracy focuses
  • Implementing instructional approaches that are applicable across disciplines and those that are discipline-specific
  • Developing a professional learning plan that does not attempt to do too much at once

"When leaders narrow their focus to one or two powerful initiatives, they can get amazing results – and love their jobs" (Schmoker, 2019).

The School Leader's Guide to Improving Literacy and Numeracy Outcomes provides practical advice for school leaders to support the implementation of the following key actions:

  1. Embed the FISO Essential Elements into school culture and practice
  2. Identify Literacy and Numeracy Leaders to work as part of the School Improvement Team
  3. Annual Planning, drawing on a range of data and evidence to identify key priorities
  4. Drive school and system improvement through collaborative networks in Communities of Practice
  5. Work through Professional Learning Communities to improve student learning and teacher capability
  6. Support parents and carers to engage with their children's literacy and numeracy

Image: The FISO Improvement Model. For more information see Dimension: building leadership teams

Image: The FISO Improvement Model



Schmoker, M. (2019). Embracing the power of less. Educational Leadership Vol 76 No 6.

Schmoker, M. (2016). Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning Alexandria, Va. ASCD