Science of Learning Conference

Annie Fogarty was a member of a panel discussion at the recent Science of Learning (SOL) Leadership Accelerator in Melbourne. The SOL Accelerator was organised by Knowledge Society and hosted by the Crowther Centre, Brighton Grammar School.  

One hundred and thirty educators from around Australia attended to discuss and accelerate evidence-based change in effective teaching practice, and how the Science of Learning can be scaled in Australia from niche to mainstream.  

The Science of Learning is the cognitive-science on how students learn and connects learning to practical implications for teaching. It includes how students: 

All educators should be able to connect these principles to their classroom practise. Speakers at the conference included Dr Jenny Donovan CEO of the Australian Education Research Organisation, Pamela Snow Professor of Cognitive Psychology, Ollie Lovell author of Cognitive Load Theory in Action and Tools for Teachers, and Ross Fox Director of Catholic Education (Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn) who is working to ensure their whole system is based on the Science of Learning.  

With Australian students’ academic performance declining and 28% of our Year 7 students not functionally literate enough to be able to access further learning, we need to teach reading with evidence-based practises. This will ensure that at least 95% of our students can read effectively, not just 60 to 70%.  For this to happen, universities will need to base their Initial Teacher Education courses on evidence-based practises and professional learning for teachers will need to focus on developing this mindset and toolkit for present teachers.  

The Fogarty Foundation support the Science of Learning through the Fogarty EDvance School Improvement Program and our Teaching Intensives. Learn about The Science of Learning here.

Grattan Institute is an independent think tank. To better understand how teachers manage curriculum planning, they are running a survey on high quality curriculum resources and teachers’ workloads. They are particularly interested in teachers’ use of instructional materials.

By participating in the survey, teachers can use their voice to inform the Institute’s recommendations to government on education policy.  No individual or school will be identified in reporting the results.

The survey is anonymous and will take around 10 minutes.

If you’re a teacher or school leader, we invite you to take part in our survey here.

If you’re not a teacher or school leader but know any, please forward this link on to them!

A core component of the Fogarty EDvance School Improvement Program is the concept that a school’s culture (or organisational health) drives the performance of student outcomes. Schools need a healthy culture to have long term, sustained improvements in student learning. When school leaders have a baseline measure of their school culture and know how to focus on building their organisational health, they can take steps to positively impact student performance over time.  

Since 2016, Fogarty EDvance has partnered with McKinsey & Company to measure and improve the organisational health of each school in the program. Schools use the Organisational Health Index (OHI) to measure how their schools’ health is tracking and identify areas for improvements. 

The OHI survey, which is conducted each year in the program, provides schools with a picture of their organisational health at a practice, outcome, and overall level. Schools will either commence with a higher overall OHI and aim to maintain this over the course of the program and beyond, or they start with a lower overall OHI, and aim to improve their health over the course of the program and maintain this beyond. 

To understand how schools either maintained top decile health or built their health to reach top decile, the Fogarty EDvance team ran OHI focus groups in November 2020, with Cohort 3, 4 and 5 schools, that either sustained or substantially improved their organisational health throughout their Fogarty EDvance journey and beyond.

The aim of the focus groups was to:

The focus groups identified common themes amongst schools that either maintained top decile health or built their health to top decile. These included role-modelling by leaders, ongoing and active communication and investing in professional development and coaching of staff.

In conjunction with McKinsey these themes will continue to be explored and integrated into the wider Fogarty EDvance School Improvement Program.

Students from Thornlie Senior High School, Southern River College, Cannington Community and Lynwood Senior High School recently had the opportunity to observe and interact with the dynamic research scientists at The Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.

Sponsored by the Fogarty Foundation and selected for their keen interest in Science, the Year 10 and 11 students were invited to take part in the BioDiscovery Centre’s Perkins Profs Program. They were guided by leading medical research scientists through the lab techniques and knowledge used to understand medical research. Lab sessions included staining cancer cells, amplifying genes, an introduction to bioinformatics, viral outbreak, protein identification and the use of nanoparticles for drug delivery.

The Harry Perkins Institute is a world leading medical research hub, conducting innovative research that translates into lasting health benefits. A key focus of the Institute is to engage community and school groups into the world of medical research, through the Lotterywest BioDiscovery Centre.

Since 2018, the Fogarty Foundation has been sponsoring the Perkins Profs program for students from EDvance schools, with the aim of inspiring students to work towards a successful STEM career. In total, the Foundation has supported more than 120 students to take part in the Perkins Profs program.

Successful conversations and organisational health were the topics of conversation at Cohort 7s School Improvement Program workshop this week.

In order to improve educational outcomes at schools, particularly over a sustained period time, it is important that the school has a healthy culture. Organisations need a healthy culture in order to have long term, sustained improvements. When school leaders know how to focus on their organisational health, they can positively impact student performance.   With a solid understanding of their school culture they can address issues and continue to improve areas of strength. At times, this includes having constructive conversations with staff, which is why these topics are important elements of the EDvance program.

Dr Renu Burr, Director at Burr Consulting and UWA Lecturer, facilitated a very informative workshop about the role of successful conversations to lead effective teams and organisations. School leaders were encouraged to reflect upon the power of well-formed conversations to create a high performance-high engagement culture in their schools while implementing change.  They then used a practise framework to conduct learning conversations that set high expectations, built trust and influenced others.

Rachel Howard, Chief of Staff at the Minderoo Group and engaged by McKinsey & Company, encouraged participants to develop a deeper understanding of how organisational health can drive better performance outcomes. Rachel worked with the school leaders as they examined Frame 2 (Assessing underlying mindsets) and 3 (Architect responses to improve Organisational Health) of the McKinsey Organisational Health Framework.  By implementing actions from the Influence model leaders can get staff actions aligned in the direction of the overall strategic plan.  They also began drafting a ‘Change Story’ for effectively communicating their school’s change agenda.

The Fogarty EDvance School Improvement Program focuses on building the capacity of school leadership teams to make informed evidence-based decisions, strategically plan and ultimately, improve student outcomes.

To find out more, visit the Fogarty EDvance website or contact the team at or +61 8 6316 1600.

Many EDvance primary schools are already utilising evidence-based approaches in their strategic plans to improve the literacy outcomes for their students. These approaches are also advocated for in the Primary Reading Pledge – schools may wish to review the proposed plan as part of the Pledge, as there is certainly a clear alignment.

In 2020, approximately 50,000 students around Australia began high school with insufficient literacy skills. This cohort had similar numbers of students demonstrating low literacy in NAPLAN in Years 3 and 5, indicating that for most of these children, difficulties with reading had been identified at two key stages in their primary schooling but had not been remediated. 

Research indicates that these students are half as likely to complete school as their peers and have serious life-long educational and social disadvantages. All school systems and sectors, authorities, and leaders are therefore being implored to take the necessary steps to implement the Primary Reading Pledge  and have all students reading by the end of primary school. 

Five from FiveAUSPELD and Learning Difficulties Australia have corroborated to develop the Primary Reading Pledge; an evidence-based and realistic plan for schools to dramatically reduce the number of children who finish primary school unable to read proficiently. This will be achieved by providing primary schools with the resources and training to provide effective assessment and intervention.

The Primary Reading Pledge:

“To reduce to near zero the number of children who finish primary school unable to read by providing primary schools with the resources and training to provide effective assessment and intervention.”

We encourage Fogarty EDvance schools to look at the primary reading pledge and see how this maps to the work outlined in their strategic plans.

The Fogarty EDvance mentors are regularly described as the ‘gold’ in the Fogarty EDvance School Improvement Program.  

Su Wilson has been an integral part of the mentor team for six years, working with nine schools since 2013.   We spoke with Su about becoming a Fogarty EDvance mentor and the benefits for schools who are part of the program.

How did you become involved with the Fogarty EDvance program?
To lead a school takes commitment and passion, which makes it difficult to simply walk away. When I retired late in 2013, I was fortunate to join Pauline Coghlan and Peter Holcz in designing and delivering a program to train school leaders on school improvement. Through this role and the role of an Independent Public School (IPS) Reviewer, I learned about the work of the team at Fogarty EDvance, so was delighted when I was invited to join an extremely capable and experienced group of mentors. 

Tell us about the schools you have worked with.
I have had the pleasure of mentoring leadership teams from Balga and Roseworth Primary Schools in Cohort 3; and Koorana and Orelia Primary Schools in Cohort 4. I currently work with leaders at Tom Price and North Tom Price Primary Schools in Cohort 6; and Lakelands Primary School and Endeavour Schools, encompassing Endeavour PS and Endeavour Ed Support Centre, in Cohort 7.

All schools have focussed, hard-working leadership teams who have shown total commitment to whole-school implementation of the Fogarty EDvance program in striving for improvements in practice.

Upon entering the program, each school analysed data, and  accessed program tools to gather information about their school . This meant that their planning for improvement related specifically to their own needs, with initiatives and strategies for intervention driven by evidence and current research.

High performing schools worldwide recognise that improving the effectiveness of teaching will lift student outcomes and school performance. Each school with which I have worked has focussed on ensuring there is consistent, high quality teaching in every classroom. 

The varying experience of teachers in their respective schools and the degree to which they are willing to change their teaching practice, also has implications for planning for improvement. While having low SES may impact on learning, behaviour and attendance, regional schools also have the added complexity of transient staff.

The team at Fogarty EDvance recognises that the ‘one size fits all’ approach does not work. What does work is exposing school leaders to research, tools for gathering evidence, guidance in developing a three-year plan for improvement and support in leading changes in teaching practice. 

Can you describe a highlight of your experiences with the Fogarty EDvance team.
Highlights are many, but nothing can compete with the moment when school leaders and their staff see the positive outcomes of changes implemented, particularly when they showcase improvements in student performance.

For myself, I love witnessing changes in the practice of teachers, particularly those who may have previously been adverse to changing long standing behaviours.

What do you think are the 3 most valuable things schools gain from being part of the FED program?
I’m really not sure about narrowing the list to three but if I must:

1. Exposure to high quality research, professional development and evidence-based planning using a template with proven success.

2. Access to tools to measure organisational health, gather feedback from stakeholders, intensify the impact of decision-making and foster teamwork and collaboration.

3. Ongoing support from a mentor who is committed to providing guidance and support.

Is there something you know now that you wish you had known when you were working as a school leader?
As a mentor I consciously seek out current research on school leadership and school improvement, with particular emphasis on developing a culture of collaborative practice and professional growth. 

As a school leader I worked with staff to plan for improvement and allocated my budget to resource our plan with a primary focus on the professional growth of my staff.

In retrospect, I now believe in the need to allocate funding (and time) to support my own professional growth and that of other leaders within my school.

Programs like Fogarty EDvance have a single focus, that of supporting school leaders to design and implement a whole school improvement strategy to increase their school’s overall effectiveness.

I now know that working with a team of people, whose focus is on supporting schools on their journey of improvement, would help focus resourcing decisions and ensure staff received targeted professional development and support to effect change.

What would you say to school leaders considering joining the Fogarty EDvance School Improvement Program?
The core business of every school is to provide the best possible learning opportunities for their students, therefore every school has the potential to improve. 

I believe school leaders who are hesitant about joining the program shouldn’t be weighing up their potential to lead the improvement they are seeking without support, but acknowledge their involvement with Fogarty EDvance as an opportunity to have an even greater impact, not only until the end of the three-year program, but beyond.

The changing landscape presented by Covid-19 is a challenge unlike anything school leaders have seen before. Whilst schools were presented with a similar set of challenges, each school context is different. How schools navigated the challenges presented by Covid-19 was of particular interest to us. As such, we spoke to the leadership teams at three high-performing, low SES, Western Australian primary schools, about how they adapted and dealt with the challenges presented during this period.

Two of the schools are part of the Fogarty EDvance program, with organisational health results in the top decile. In terms of student results, all three schools consistently perform above ‘like schools’ on NAPLAN metrics.

There were some consistent themes across all three schools:

  1. Communication was key – as much information and as often as possible to staff and the school community.
  2. Distributed leadership models were in place at all of the schools – this assisted with the staff communication process, through channels that were already in place.
  3. Teachers and the leadership team were accessible to students and parents.  At all three schools, a contact program was in place where teachers contacted and spoke to students at least once a week.
  4. Opportunity for other staff to show leadership – teachers that were more comfortable delivering PD on teaching in an online environment shared this knowledge with colleagues and in some cases, ran PD for their colleagues.
  5. Community support – all schools mentioned that the level of community support had been higher than predicted, and are keen to continue to build on this.
  6. Community focus – has been vital to maintain and further develop sense of community – e.g. Principal’s Reading Challenge, staff videos for students, a daily video of a staff member reading a story, online Easter Hat parade.
  7. Increased awareness of the value of face-to face teaching to the student learning experience – not only in the community, but the great job that has been reinforced to teachers as well.

Schools that were part of the EDvance program have been able to use some of the learnings from the Fogarty EDvance program to assist in their approach to Covid-19, including:

  1. Importance of an evidence base to present information about Covid-19 – communication was evidence based rather than just opinion based.
  2. A distributed leadership model and communication chain was already established within the school – meant it was easier to get a message out to all staff – in a way they were used to receiving it.
  3. Understanding mindsets – there were different reactions from different staff – understanding the mindset and subsequent actions behind these reactions.
  4. Role clarity was very clear – staff, and parents knew who to contact when needed, and what everyone’s role was in managing this change
  5. Using aspects of the Strategic Directions Document to map out a plan for dealing with Covid-19.

The EDvance Teaching Intensives focus on high-impact instructional strategies for teaching literacy and numeracy in the early years and middle primary.

There is evidence to support the successful application of explicit and direct instruction, particularly for students from disadvantaged communities. Many practitioners are keen to develop skills in this area as part of the ‘toolkit’ for successful teaching.

In 2020, two EDvance Teaching Intensives were hosted concurrently at Balga Primary School (a FED Alumni School). 65 teachers and pre-service teachers participated, including teachers from Fogarty EDvance schools. The Intensives were led by Dr Lorraine Hammond and Brooke Wardana, with support from Balga Primary School staff.

Since 2018, the Fogarty Foundation and Fogarty EDvance have supported 140 teachers to learn and trial high-impact and explicit instruction. Components of the Intensives include:

The program was very highly rated by all respondents

How would you rate the professional learning model of the EDvance Teaching Intensive, compared to other professional learning?

Overall, how would you rate your satisfaction with the EDvance Teaching Intensive?

Overall, how would you rate your satisfaction with the EDvance Teaching Intensive?

5/5 average rating

9.6/10 average rating

9.9/10 average rating

Feedback from attendees

“I was very impressed with the structure of the course. I believe that this course leads to real improvements in content delivery.”

“Loved the fact that the PD was so hands-on. The coaching and feedback was invaluable”

“I honestly could not fault it. It went way beyond my expectation in so many ways”

“I went back and told my Principal and other staff that it was one of the best PL’s that I have ever been on and have highly recommended it to others.”

“Most valuable professional learning I have attended, I am excited to implement EI in my classroom.”

“A fabulous opportunity that I am extremely grateful to have been a part of. This has transformed my practice forever.”

From left to right: Professor Stephen Winn, Head of Education, Edith Cowan University, Mike Wills, acting Principal, Balga Primary School, Anika Blackmore, substantive Principal, Balga Primary School, Lisa Rodgers, Director-General, Department of Education, Caitlyn Fogarty, Executive Officer, Fogarty Foundation, Hon Sue Ellery MLC and Dr Lorraine Hammond AM, Associate Professor, Edith Cowan University

At Fogarty EDvance and especially during this time, we are constantly looking out for useful resources and online learning opportunities that may assist to support EDvance schools and our broader FED Network. We’ve summarised a few of the resources below that have landed in our inbox that might be helpful for schools in the near future.


Pivot allows teachers and school leaders to develop professionally through carefully designed, confidential, evidence-based surveys, services and reports. Through the EDvance program, Pivot has allowed EDvance schools a free trial to use the Pivot student survey.

Pivot wanted to let you know that they are ready to listen and can support schools to navigate the important task of collective and collating feedback from your school communities in preparation of a shift to distance learning. Ways that Pivot can help include:

Pivot are also providing free, limited access to our COVID-19 Pulse Check surveys – available to any school until 1 May. Personalised support and hands-on implementation will be made available to your network in order to assist them during this unprecedented era in education.

For more information about Pivot, visit their website here.

DataWORKS Educational Research

DataWORKS Educational Research was founded in 1997 with the single purpose of improving student learning. By observing and teaching in more than 25,000 classrooms, co-founders Dr Silvia Ybarra and John Hollingsworth developed the research-based Explicit Direct Instruction (EDI) approach to teaching. Since then, DataWORKS has steadily expanded, working with over 750 schools and districts, in 25 states, and in 10 countries. Since 2014, the company has been actively involved in training and developing curriculum for Australian teachers and schools.

DataWORKS is offering schools a free webinar to discuss using Educeri and Zoom/Hangouts and how to navigate teaching remotely. We know many of our EDvance schools have worked with Joe Ybarra and DataWORKS, so we wanted to be sure you received this offer.

For more information, visit their website here.

Evidence for learning

Home-supported learning during COVID-19: The Evidence for Learning team have created a dedicated area on their website, to assist educators as they prepare for, and deliver home-supported learning. It contains pages, regularly updated with:

  1. Clear and actionable guidance on home supported learning, based on relevant evidence from our Guidance Reports and the Toolkits.
  2. A new global evidence review and Australian-focused guidance on distance and online learning (developed in collaboration with led by our partners at the UK’s Education Endowment Foundation).
  3. directory of Australian education department and agency links, and recommended resources for educators that align with our best evidence.
  4. Key learning concepts for parents to be effective partners in home supported learning.

Necessarily, these pages are limited to begin with. The team will aim to add new knowledge and insights as quickly as they can. For further information and to access the above resources, please click here.