Teaching and learning and leadership

Publication Date



Achievement gains, Australia, Best practice, Change strategies, Completion rate, Educational leadership, Educational policy, Improvement programs, Incentives, Knowledge, Learning, Outcomes of education, Quality improvement, Rewards, School improvement, School systems, Skills, Standards, Student assessment, Student improvement, Student participation, Teacher effectiveness, Teaching effectiveness, Teaching practice, Teaching profession, Test results


ACER Occasional Essays


A common strategy for promoting improved employee or organisational performance is to place a strong focus on organisational results. The perceived advantage of focusing on results is that it clarifies and concentrates effort on the main game: the key purpose of the organisation's work. It also provides a basis for evaluating employee performance. As part of their drive for improvement, organisations also sometimes attach incentives to results, either in the form of rewards or sanctions. There is growing evidence, however, that focusing on results alone is an ineffective improvement strategy in many contexts and often leads to unintended behaviours. There are obvious lessons in this experience for current efforts to improve educational outcomes. Many education systems are now attempting to drive improved performance by focusing strongly on results such as student test scores, participation levels and school completion rates. But the hard work of school improvement requires more than a focus on results and more than compliance with standards and minimal expectations; it requires deep engagement with the quality of practice. Sustained long- term improvements in educational outcomes depend on studying, understanding, describing and promoting best practice throughout the teaching profession. It extends to the detail of highly effective teachers' pedagogical practices and highly effective leaders' day-to-day leadership work. It involves understanding the expert knowledge and skills that underlie best practice, and it probably involves the eventual development of 'standards of practice': agreed best ways of professionally intervening and agreed best ways of addressing particular kinds of educational problems and challenges. Studies of education systems that have achieved significant gains in student performance over time are providing insights into the nature of system improvement. These studies suggest that education systems become more effective by aligning effort at all.

Place of Publication

Camberwell, Victoria


Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)