7. Fieldwork

Confirming the evidence base for improvement

Each school review has a focus on the instructional core and understanding how the school’s culture reinforces student engagement with learning. This is particularly obvious in the review’s concentration on data and evidence collected through the pre-review self-evaluation (PRSE) and the review’s fieldwork.

Data alone does not diagnose causes or guide strategies for improvement. The Panel brings its contextual knowledge and experience to the data. This assists in fully using and interpreting the data so that it reflects understandings of current practice. The PRSE Report and review fieldwork activities turn the data into insights. Schools can therefore make informed and practical choices about what to do next to accelerate improvement in student outcomes.

The terms of reference (ToR) focus questions are developed on Validation Day by the Panel. The Panel’s intent is that the focus questions will clarify the school’s improvement opportunities. The school review’s fieldwork phase investigates the focus questions through activities determined in the ToR methodology, which is designed with reference to the school’s context. Importantly, fieldwork is flexible as it responds to issues that emerge during the course of the review. An expansive approach to data collection and analysis offers the best opportunities for triangulation.

This enables the Panel to make sound, evidence-based findings. As the number of fieldwork days in a school review will vary, it is critical that fieldwork probes multiple sources of evidence and feedback through a variety of methods to ensure the validity of the evidence on which future improvement strategies will be based.

For example, if the reviewer discusses school leadership practices with teachers, the school leadership team should be invited to comment on the views teachers have expressed.

Ensuring transparency of data collected during fieldwork

Fieldwork days are led by the reviewer, or team of reviewers, as independent members of the School Review Panel. Other members of the Panel will typically only be involved in the fieldwork that happens on the first and last days of the review. Where this fieldwork involves activities seeking and discussing opinions, such as focus groups, the principal or other leaders would generally not be involved.

This avoids any perceptions that their presence may have limited or restrained the full expression of participants’ views. For instance, if the methodology involves a focus group with teachers or school support staff, this would usually be led by the reviewers, or another external Panel member such as a challenge partner.

The reviewer will update other Panel members on their fieldwork findings and, as part of their work to substantiate evidence using multiple sources, will discuss relevant opinions with the principal and other Panel members.

Determining the number of fieldwork days

The school review’s complexity determines the number of fieldwork days:

  • for 2-day reviews, fieldwork includes Validation Day activities and extends into the morning of the school review’s second day, followed by the final school review Panel meeting in the afternoon (outlined in section 7 of these guidelines)
  • for longer reviews, the equivalent of up to 7.5 fieldwork days can precede the final School Review Panel meeting – multiple reviewers would complete these days over a shorter period than 7.5 days.

The involvement of Panel members in fieldwork varies according to the school review’s length:

  • Two-day reviews – core panel members and challenge partners generally attend for fieldwork, and the school improvement team (SIT), students and other community members are all likely to take part in focus groups or other activities.
  • Longer reviews – it is likely that only the reviewers and the senior education improvement leader (SEIL) if available/necessary, attends fieldwork days. Other core panel members reconvene for the final school review panel meeting on the final day. Throughout the fieldwork phase, the reviewer involves panel members, such as members of the SIT, students and school community members, in activities such as group forums and interviews. Reviewers are also likely to broaden the scope of those consulted to involve additional school community members, such as teachers, curriculum leaders, members of the leadership team and parents.

The reviewer may contact the SEIL at the end of each fieldwork day to provide an update on progress.

Scope of fieldwork activities

Fieldwork is tailored to the school’s context and the focus questions that guide the Panel’s inquiry. The Panel determines the methodology and types of activities that constitute the fieldwork component of each school review.

Fieldwork can take many forms. Flexibility in selecting the kinds of fieldwork activities used in each school review enables a panel to respond to both the school’s context and improvement priorities.

However, the purpose of fieldwork is uniform – to identify actionable, achievable and ambitious strategies that accelerate sustained improvement in student outcomes.

Focus question: to what extent is the school meeting the learning needs of its students and what impact is this having on their learning outcomes?

To investigate a focus question like this the reviewer may undertake fieldwork that includes discussions, document examination and focus groups. The inquiry the reviewer makes for this question may be similar to the subsidiary questions posed below.

Principal, leadership team:

  • How does the school develop its curriculum?
  • How has the school’s instructional model been developed and implemented?
  • Who is responsible for developing, documenting and implementing the curriculum?

Classroom observations:

  • Is there evidence of the school’s curriculum and instructional model in classroom practice?
  • Is there consistency between classrooms?
  • What are the levels of differentiation and engagement?

Examination of documentation:

  • What is the documented curriculum?
  • What are its expectations?
  • Is it accessible to teachers?
  • Is appropriate and useful support documentation provided to teachers?

Discussions with students and parents:

  • What are the opportunities for student voice, agency and leadership in their learning?
  • How is goal-setting and feedback used?
  • How engaged are students in their learning?

Discussions with professional learning coordinator, principal, curriculum leader/s, learning specialists and literacy leaders:

  • How is staff capacity building approached?
  • What professional learning is offered and how do teachers access assistance?
  • How are teachers in need of additional support identified?

Discussions with year team groups/implementation teams:

  • How is the curriculum implemented?
  • What are processes for planning, implementation, assessment, data analysis, review and monitoring?

Discussions with teachers:

  • How do you know if the way you’re teaching is working?
  • How do you use data to inform your planning, teaching and assessment practices?
  • What feedback do you receive around your classroom practice?
  • What capacity building opportunities have you been offered?

Discussions with principal and curriculum leaders:

  • What are the processes for assessment and monitoring of school performance?
  • How is data analysis, review and monitoring undertaken?
  • How is feedback from curriculum leaders gathered and utilised?

Roles and responsibilities of Panel members during fieldwork

It's important to note that fieldwork encourages participation from school community members not considered part of the Panel.


  • Assist reviewer/s with logistical arrangements including rooms, catering, participants, and directions to classrooms


  • Plan the form the fieldwork will take, including determining the questions to explore
  • Adjust the fieldwork approach as new information becomes known
  • Triangulate evidence received by collecting data from multiple sources, such as substantiating claims through focus groups, documentation, interviews with leadership teams
  • Provide the SEIL and principal with updates on the fieldwork as required
  • For longer reviews, collate the findings from the fieldwork for presentation to the other core panel members and challenge partners at the school review panel meeting on the final day of the review. For reviews with more than one reviewer, the lead reviewer coordinates the activities of the reviewers


  • Participate in all fieldwork for a 2-day review
  • Participate in fieldwork as required, or as determined in the ToR methodology for reviews conducted over 3 or more days

School council president

  • Participate in fieldwork for 2-day reviews

The school council president will not participate in fieldwork for reviews conducted over 3 or more days. However, the reviewer may wish to interview them or include them in a focus group.

Challenge partners

  • Participate in fieldwork as determined by the methodology for a 2-day review – for instance, they may lead a student focus group
  • Not needed to participate in fieldwork for reviews conducted over 3 or more days

Students, school improvement team and community members

  • Contribute to fieldwork through activities such as discussions, focus groups and interviews
Guidance chapter on school review fieldwork

Reviewed 20 February 2023

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