Focusing in on high impact teaching strategies to support literacy learning

Learning specialist Nicole Alonso explores how Drysdale Primary School has been able to apply three HITS to support students' literacy learning outcomes.

The High-Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) are 10 instructional practices that reliably increase student learning wherever they are applied. They emerge from the findings of tens of thousands of studies of what has worked in classrooms across Australia and the world.

Drysdale Primary School Literacy specialist Nicole Alonso explains how her school has been able to effectively use three of these HITS: Setting goals, Explicit Teaching and Feedback in order to effectively support their practice across the school and create consistency in their literacy teaching.

Overcoming common difficulties with literacy

'My current position is as Literacy Learning Specialist, which involves me teaching in a Year 2 classroom four days a week. I then have a learning specialist day, which involves me conducting a coaching process in a collaborative manner with staff. This may look like me going in and observing or modelling best practice or team teaching and planning with staff. I then provide feedback to teachers based around the goals we identify together to ensure best practice is evident in supporting our students to achieve their learning outcomes.'

'Some of the common difficulties we see within literacy faced by teachers is around differentiating our practice to support varying student needs.'

Starting with an effective formative assessment process

'Teachers are developing further their use of formative assessment as an integral part of practice.'

'We utilise effective and accurate summative assessment processes, however the triangulation of formative assessment data throughout a literacy session supports our teachers in their planning processes and embeds formative assessment as an integral part of a continuum of learning.'

Finding the time to step back

'In implementing the coaching model, I endeavour to be as conscious as possible of how little time teachers have and ensure that the goals identified together will not be seen as an 'add on' but as an embedded part of Literacy teaching practice.'

'However, it's important to make sure that we have the momentum rather than pressure to apply ourselves effectively; because we can become caught up in the 'practice of the moment', that we've really got to stand back and identify the best practice we require as a school to build teacher capacity and in turn improve student learning outcomes.'

'In identifying what you want to see in your classrooms, your colleagues and students can further value the whole learning process as a team approach.'

HITS create consistency in your literacy instruction

HITS in action: Setting goals for staff and students

'This year as a whole school goal setting is one of our key focuses alongside the work we're already doing in using the HITS for explicit teaching and feedback.'

'As part of this, a change in the student diary facilitated students in identifying and setting individual goals. A 'Goal Setting' page each term supports students and teachers in using current data to set individual curriculum goals for Literacy, Numeracy and 'Other' areas such as 'Specialist Learning Areas or Inquiry.' Student Voice and ownership over goal setting is supported as children have flexibility and choice related to their interests.'

'This has certainly had an impact on students actually knowing and owning their own data and understanding where they are at in their learning, and what the next step is going to be for them in their learning journey. Our parents and carers are also involved in this process with student goals being sighted and evidence being uploaded into digital portfolios. Our students celebrate their success within their learning teams and families regularly and through our Term 1 and Term 3 Student Led Conferences.'

HITS in action: Using feedback to support explicit teaching

'Using timely, targeted feedback supports teachers in supporting students in knowing how they've been successful in meeting their Learning Intentions and Success Criteria.'

'In eliminating the generic, "good job" feedback and in ensuring all your conversations with students relate to the purpose and direction of the explicit teaching you've just facilitated during a learning session.'

'If students are unable to connect to the current learning and the 'why' then we are not supporting them in seeing 'how' they're going to achieve their goals.'

'Providing students clear, rich targeted feedback from both peers and teachers directly related to the learning intentions and success criteria, supports our students and teachers collaboratively identifying the next steps as learners related to the Victorian Curriculum.'

'Anything we can do as teachers to facilitate student ownership of learning will provide a clear sense of what they are doing and why they are doing it.'

Implementing HITS in your school

'There are ten high-impact teaching strategies and as a team you could quite easily choose 'bits and pieces' to focus on in your schools.'

'In order to identify the appropriate and relevant focus for your school, as a team you are required to hone in on what is identified as a problem of practice, the capacity of your staff and identify what the point of need is for your school related to current data.'

'From there it's really important to focus on applying a few of the strategies really well.'

'If you really narrow and target your efforts for change, that allows your teachers to embed the practice that you want to see consistently, and that best practice then flows through the rest of your school's teaching.'

How these evidence-based approaches can develop your practice

'In developing practice, if you unpack each part of the HITS and see each section in the context of what your school needs as a whole-school or year-level goal you will be honing in directly at the point of need.'

'In terms of creating consistency in something as fundamental as Literacy – these HITS are invaluable as tools for the whole school setting.'

'Supporting our teachers to identify, build their capacity and embed best practice and having students at the forefront of our work – this is where we're going to see the most impact. This will be evident through student growth and the achievement of learning outcomes.'

Resources for teachers

Made available to school in 2017, the High Impact Teaching Strategies showcase approaches and interventions that teachers may be familiar with or may not have seen before, but that all have a strong evidence-base and represent best practice in teaching.

We have developed professional practice notes and teacher tip resources to draw on the best available evidence from international research, leading experts and case studies from high-performing schools to best implement the high-impact teaching strategies in a literacy context.

To take advantage of these strategies for your school, refer to Teacher tip – Using high impact teaching strategies to support literacy learning.

Supporting FISO Priorities: Excellence in teaching and learning

Effective teaching is the single biggest determinant of student improvement in the school. At the core of this Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO) priority is the culture of collaboration and collective responsibility spoken about by Nicole, which develops effective and consistent teaching practices and improves student achievement.