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Tania Schmidt

Tania Schmidt

Harristown State School, QLD

What middle leaders do: Steering a successful school improvement project in writing

Research indicates that professional learning communities (PLCs) that work collaboratively on data inquiry cycles lift student achievement. This session describes the approach of a large urban school, Rangeville State School, which, through data inquiry, implemented a school improvement project in writing across 2015 and 2016 which yielded significantly improved student outcomes, including:

  • 26% increase of students achieving in the upper two bands in National Assessment Program –Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN), with 51% of the total cohort in the upper two bands for writing in 2016
  • a 30 point improvement in MSS for Year 3 students
  • 89% of students achieving a C or above in English.

This project was Rangeville’s response to a gradual decline over five years in Year 3 and Year 5 NAPLAN writing data. Additionally, teachers had reported increasing student disengagement and other stakeholders noted an inconsistent whole-school approach to the planning and explicit teaching of writing.     

Through a partnership with a regional curriculum support officer, the Master Teacher and Head of Curriculum were able to:

  • develop a whole-school English program aligned to the Australian Curriculum that highlighted writing while maintaining a strong focus on reading
  • select specific targeted areas in the teaching of writing, for which they developed clear and consistent whole-school practices to implement while also resourcing and supporting the teaching of writing
  • facilitate cultural change by gradually supporting teachers to work as professional learning communities, authentically collaborating to improve student learning outcomes.
  • simultaneously continue to improve NAPLAN reading data.

This session will show how a ‘faces on the data’ approach can support teachers or PLCs to:

  • build trust and normalise discussions about student writing so that teachers share ownership and responsibility of the teaching and learning of writing
  • set writing goals and provide constructive feedback to students
  • strengthen teachers’ accountable talk about teaching and learning
  • analyse formative, summative and NAPLAN writing data to identify and calibrate specific problems, in particular text structure, audience and sentence structure
  • actively seek solutions to address problems of practice and student learning gaps
  • develop a consistent whole-school approach to the explicit teaching of writing that engages and supports students to become successful writers.

The presenters will also describe the results of these actions, including specific improvement in learning outcomes, pedagogical practice and attitudinal and cultural shifts.



Tania Schmidt is the Head of Curriculum at Harristown State School in the Darling Downs South West Region in Southern Queensland. In her previous role as Master Teacher at Rangeville State School, her action research report was accepted for publication in the Queensland Department of Eduction and Training Evidence Hub. Tania is a primary school teacher who has worked for Queensland state government schools for the past 17 years in a number of roles including teacher, literacy support teacher and pedagogy coach. Tania’s passion for working with educators to design and deliver quality teaching and learning experiences based on data is a key focus of her work. She recently worked closely with DET Regional Project Officer Wendy Luscombe and Rangeville State School Head of Curriculum Jan Burton to develop and implement a whole-school approach to writing.

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