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Updated TTFM measure: Explicit Teaching Practices and Feedback (formerly Rigour)


How is it defined?

The TTFM measure of ‘Rigour’ has been updated and renamed 'Explicit Teaching Practices' (teachers’ use of explicit teaching strategies and the frequency with which they use them). In 2018, CESE worked with The Learning Bar to update the previous Rigour measure to streamline the number of questions and better reflect the research literature on effective teaching.

Explicit teaching practices, including the effective use of feedback, are key elements of effective teaching. Such practices ensure that students have a clear understanding of why they are learning something, how it connects to what they already know, what is expected of them, and how to do it (explicit teaching). They also ensure that students are given opportunities to ask questions and get clear feedback about their performance against learning outcomes (effective feedback).

Explicit teaching is an important teaching process, which involves a series of steps whereby the teacher:

  • decides the learning intentions and success criteria;
  • makes the intentions and criteria transparent to students;
  • evaluates if they understand what they have been told by checking for understanding; and
  • retells students what they have been told by tying it all together with closure (Hattie, 2009; CESE, 2014).

When explicit teaching is accompanied by effective feedback, students and teachers gather practicable, valid and reliable information and evidence about where students are in their learning and what they can do to improve. 

The Tell Them From Me framework is based on the drivers of student outcomes and includes: quality instruction, school context, classroom context and family context. Quality instruction refers to teachers’ use of classroom time and classroom instruction, and includes measures of:

  • explicit teaching practices and feedback (formerly ‘Rigour’)
  • effective learning time
  • relevance

The updated Explicit Teaching Practices measure, while conceptually similar to the previous Rigour measure, has been refined to contain items that present a spread of effective practices applicable to all learners (novice and expert alike) across all key learning areas. Specifically, it asks students about their experiences with specific explicit teaching strategies, opportunities they have to provide and receive feedback, and how often these occur in the classroom.

It should be noted that the strategies outlined below do not constitute a complete list of explicit teaching practices or potentially other high yield practices, but are some of the things that teachers and schools can focus on to improve student outcomes.

Teachers should:

  • set clear goals
  • tell students what is expected of them
  • ask students to explain their thinking
  • check students’ understanding
  • give students a chance to ask questions
  • provide feedback.


Why is it important?

Students who experience explicit teaching practices, accompanied by effective feedback, make greater learning gains than students who do not experience these practices, and the evidence for this is long standing (Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark,2006; Rosenshine, 2012).

  • Using the data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the OECD found that greater exposure to explicit teaching practices is positively associated with academic performance in almost all countries, even after accounting for student socio-demographic characteristics and school characteristics (Mostafa, 2018).
  • Cognitive load theory provides theoretical and empirical support for explicit models of instruction. The research demonstrates that for novice learners, explicit instruction, incorporating direct guidance accompanied by practice and feedback, is more effective than partial guidance (CESE, 2017).
  • Analysis of NSW data shows a strong correlation between the new Explicit Teaching Practices measure and learning outcomes as measured through NAPLAN scores.


How do we measure it?

In Tell Them From Me, in both the primary and secondary school questionnaires, students respond to questions about their experience with explicit teaching practices. In the secondary survey students are asked to respond in relation to their English, Maths or Science classes (with the aim of getting students to focus on specific lessons). Unlike the previous measure of Rigour, where students responded only to Likert questions (i.e. how much they agree or disagree with a particular statement), the majority of new items measure the frequency of explicit teaching strategies, that is, how often students recall teachers using specific strategies in the classroom. The scores are scaled on a 10-point scale and the results are reported as the ‘average score for explicit teaching practices and feedback’.



 Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) (2017). Cognitive load theory: Research that teachers really need to understand, prepared by NSW Department of Education.

Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) (2014). What works best: Evidence-based practices to help improve NSW student performance, prepared by NSW Department of Education.

Hattie, J., (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement, New York: Routledge.

Kirschner, P., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. (2006). Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 75-86.

Mostafa, T. (2018). How do science teachers teach science – and does it matter?, PISA in Focus, No. 90, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Rosenshine, B.  (2012, Spring). Principals of instruction, research-based strategies that all teachers should know.  American Educator, 36(1). Retrieved from