St Thomas Aquinas Primary school have evolved their teaching instruction, resulting in positive changes in student learning and overall behaviour. Teachers at St Thomas Aquinas have been using Explicit Instruction (EI) in their classrooms since mid-2020, starting with the implementation of InitiaLit in Kindergarten classes and then Years 1 and 2 at the beginning of 2021. InitiaLit uses systematic and direct practices to teach reading.

Principal Leah Taylor and her teaching team, whilst initially apprehensive of this approach, have now seen the impact that this method of teaching can have on student achievement, behaviour and engagement.

“We have completely changed the way we teach at St Thomas Aquinas, essentially moving from an inquiry-based approach to predominantly Explicit Instruction,” said Mrs Taylor.

This year, St Thomas Aquinas have turned their attention to introducing elements of EI into the way they teach Mathematics. Selected Kindergarten, Year 3 and Year 5 teachers are currently working through the High Impact Teaching Practice program. A key practice that they have learnt and begun implementing is a Daily Review in the Mathematics block.

“All staff members that have used the Daily Review, have noticed changes in student performance, particularly knowledge retention, student behaviour and student’s attitudes to learning,” said Mrs Taylor.

Mrs Taylor also expressed that several teachers had received positive feedback from their students, who favoured the new approach.

Jessica Betterton teaching her Year 2 students

As part of the new methodology, teachers from St Thomas Aquinas have been using whiteboards in the classroom instead of just workbooks and worksheets, which has been positive. However, this change is not without its challenges, by predominantly using whiteboards the ability to capture evidence of student learning needed to be rethought.

“To solve this concern, we came together and looked for other ways we could check for understanding, provide feedback and collect evidence and data, for our own school and to also ensure we complied with the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD).”

Through the HITP program, teachers are supported by an educational instructor who provides learning opportunities, resources and coaching. Teachers at St Thomas Aquinas have found the provided resources very helpful in assisting them to transfer what they have learnt during the program into the classroom.

The new teaching methodology has gained momentum at St Thomas Aquinas, with a high level of enthusiasm from participating teachers and an eagerness to complete the training by those not yet trained.

“We are starting to notice a change in the way our Classroom Support Assistants (CSA) operate too. I have seen some very high-quality EI teaching from our CSAs when implementing our intervention programs,” Mrs Taylor said.

When asked why she believes this program is truly making an impact at her school, Mrs Taylor said – “Everyone across the school is developing a deeper understanding of how students learn and how we can best support them.”

To learn more about the success of the students at St Thomas Aquinas, contact Principal,

Find out more about K-12 Literacy and High Impact Teaching Practice.

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