The What Works materials and programs were developed from a set of Strategic Results Projects (SRPs) conducted throughout Australia in the late 1990s. There were two types of projects funded by the Commonwealth Government: capital projects, to upgrade the educational infrastructure of non-government providers; and ‘non-capital’ projects. The What Works project was about non-capital projects. The SRPs were about many things but, significantly, they were about ordinary people working together to achieve something new and exciting. The question that was asked initially and one that people submitting needed to address was:
What changes to education and student support delivery practices will result in improved Indigenous learning
outcomes within a relatively short period of time?
The projects ranged in scale from small single-site operations to large systemic initiatives. Thirty-one projects operated at various sites and these sites ranged from inner urban areas of capital cities to remote outback
areas. Basically, the SRPs were a series of experiments. The work was not conducted in exceptional circumstances; it was carried out in ordinary preschools, schools and training institutions, under conventional conditions. The process of discovery within the SRPs was not innovative; not different; not radical. The reason the SRPs worked was because people were choosing to make them do so, and these were mainly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members, and teachers in schools, all of whom held a firm
belief in the prospect of success and had the will to make it occur. They were effective school–community partnerships.
It is almost certain that, sometime in their teaching careers, Australian teachers will have one or more
Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander students in their classes.
The full report of these projects could be read as a lengthy description of cases of good teaching practice; not especially exceptional, but applied with commitment and a determination to achieve success for all involved. Good relationships, trust, flexibility, individual concern, problem-solving, perseverance, thoughtful observation and careful investigation of good teaching strategies and possibilities, and knowledge of students’ backgrounds: that is what good teaching is. This is what teachers can do.
The Report of the SRPs What Works: Improving outcomes for Indigenous students led to an Australian Government Program that has operated as training and development for schools for the past eight years, a program hosted by National Curriculum Services (NCS) and the Australian Curriculum Studies Association(ACSA).
The project has produced the following publications:
• What Works. The Work Program: Improving outcomes for Indigenous students. The Guidebook
• What Works. The Work Program: Improving outcomes for Indigenous students. The Workbook
• What Works. The Work Program: Improving outcomes for Indigenous students. CD-ROM
• What Works. The Work Program: Improving outcomes for Indigenous students. Successful practice
• What Works. The Work Program: Improving outcomes for Indigenous students. Website:
• Core Issue 1 – Setting up for success
• Core Issue 2 – Reducing suspensions
• Core Issue 3 – [English] Literacy for succeeding at school
• Core Issue 4 – Numeracy
• Core Issue 5 – Engagement
• Core Issue 6 – Boarding
• Core Issue 7 – International issues
Between 2005 and October 2008 the program has conducted 950 professional learning activities involving 26,130 participants. There has also been 102 presentations delivered to 7,620 pre-service teachers in tertiary
institutions. The project also recognised that this program and its attendant materials should be of interest to those
engaged in pre-service university teacher education studies.
To advance this over the past four years, three workshops of mostly Schools of Education staff have been held to introduce them to the program. These were facilitated by ACSA together with NCS. At these early meetings several possible semester courses were presented by Professor Paul Hughes of The University of South Australia, Senior Lecturer Simone Ilulka Tur of Flinders University, and Dr Kaye Price from the University of Canberra, based upon their experiences. At the last of these meetings other lecturers presented a number of extra ideas that related to possible course structures.
This What Works tertiary publication is the outcome.