Evidence shows that quality teaching is the most important in-school factor affecting student outcomes. And strong student outcomes mean that Australia’s young people are leaving high school with an array of options in employment, further education, and training.

To support teachers to enhance their practice and produce better outcomes for all students, the University of Newcastle’s Teachers and Teaching Research Centre developed the ground-breaking Quality Teaching Rounds (QTR) approach to professional development.

QTR brings teachers together to learn from each other, working through a process of observation, analysis, and discussion of teaching.

An initial randomised control trial involving 25 NSW schools in 2014-15 demonstrated the positive impact of QTR on teaching quality and teacher morale. Based on the early success of QTR, in 2018 PRF invested $17 million over five years – in partnership with the NSW Department of Education and University of Newcastle - to support the scaling of QTR, to undertake a rigorous program of evaluation of the impact of QTR on student outcomes, and to help the team develop a financially sustainable model for program delivery.

“While we understood the program improved teacher outcomes,” says John Bush, PRF’s Head of School Age Learning, “we did not yet have a clear picture of the impact on students.”

Three new randomised controlled trials showed promising impact on student outcomes. Primary students in NSW and QLD showed an extra two or three months of progress in maths and reading, compared to students whose teachers hadn’t participated in QTR.

Despite disruptions from ongoing school lockdowns due to COVID-19, since 2019 QTR has been delivered in 1,300 schools, to 4,500 teachers, and to the benefit of 800,000 students.

Greg, a primary school teacher and QTR participant, says he noticed a significant improvement in classroom engagement and comprehension.

“There was a significant improvement because I was teaching a bit differently. [The students] were taking in the work and they were much, much more driven.”

Laureate Professor Jenny Gore, Director of the University of Newcastle’s Teachers and Teaching Research Centre, says the partnership with PRF has demonstrated that building capacity for quality teaching is key to delivering better educational outcomes.

“Quality Teaching Rounds has delivered unparalleled positive effects for teachers and students and shown clear potential for making a difference for those in disadvantaged schools and communities.”

Earlier this year, PRF provided the University with an additional $4.28 million to support the implementation of QTR in a whole-of school approach, focused on schools that serve communities with high rates of disadvantage.

“The new grant continues our partnership with the NSW Government and the University,” says John, “and is aligned to our belief that quality teaching can improve student achievement and help ensure that all children finish school ready to thrive in life.”

This story was originally published in our 2023 Annual Review.