Ken Rowe, ACER

Publication Date



Background paper to keynote address presented at the NSW DET Office of Schools Portfolio Forum, Wilkins Gallery, Sydney, 14 July, 2006.


Much of what is commonly claimed as ‘effective teaching practice’ and implemented during the early and middle years of schooling in Australian schools, for either mainstream students or for those experiencing learning difficulties, is not grounded in findings from evidencebased research. Of particular concern is that despite a lack of supporting evidence for its utility, the prevailing educational philosophy of constructivism (a theory of self-directed learning rather than a theory of teaching) continues to have marked influences on shaping teachers’ interpretations of how they should teach – aided and abetted by the content emphasis given during pre-service teacher education, as well as in-service teacher professional development programs. However, in contrast to teacher-directed methods of teaching there is strong evidence that exclusive emphasis on constructivist approaches to teaching are neither initially nor subsequently in the best interests of any group of students, and especially those experiencing learning difficulties. Following a brief outline of controversies surrounding ‘effective teaching practice’, this paper focuses on teaching strategies that are demonstrably effective in maximising the achievement progress of students during the early and middle years of schooling. Further, key findings are presented from a recent national project designed to identify effective teaching practices for Year 4-6 students with learning difficulties in Reading and Numeracy, drawn from government, Catholic and independent schools. These findings indicate that since teachers are the most valuable resource available to schools, an investment in teacher professionalism is vital by ensuring that they are equipped with an evidence-based repertoire of pedagogical skills that are effective in meeting the developmental and learning needs of ALL students.