Australian Professional Standards for Teachers Terminology explained

(Last Updated On: September 15, 2023)

The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers are complex. There are seven standards that cover everything that a teacher needs to do.

There are a lot of terminologies associated with the standards. Understanding these terms and what they mean is the first step to understanding the APST themselves.


There are three domains in the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. They are the broadest categories for splitting up the APST. 

The three domains are:

Each of these domains describes what teachers do every day, but they aren’t very specific. They describe teaching in broad terms and may be useful to explain what teaching is like to non-teachers, but they are less useful for teachers themselves. 

What teachers do use them for is organising the seven standards of the APST.


There are seven standards in the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. These unpack each of the three domains to explain what teachers need to be able to do. 

The seven standards are:

  1. Know students and how they learn.
  2. Know the content and how to teach it.
  3. Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning.
  4. Create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments.
  5. Assess, provide feedback and report on student learning.
  6. Engage in professional learning.
  7. Engage professionally with colleagues, parents/carers and the community.

These standards describe what teachers do, but they don’t really explain how. They are very useful for teachers who want to quickly review their practice and reflect on what they are currently doing, but they have limited use if you’re looking for guidance in improving your practice.

Focus area

The focus areas sit under each of the seven standards and describe what teachers need to actually do. They are the first level of the APST that gives an idea of what teaching practice looks like and all of the different things that teachers need to consider. 

The 37 different focus areas are useful as a checklist for teachers. If you go through each of the focus areas, you can check if you’re doing everything that is expected of teachers.

Career stage

Each of the focus areas is split again into different career stages. While the focus areas describe what teachers do, the career stages describe how well teachers should do it. Because of this, the career stages are a great way for you to assess where you are with your practice.

There are four career stages in the APST:

If you are looking to see if you meet the requirements to be a Proficient teacher, you will need to look at all the focus areas at the Proficient career stage. If you’re looking at continuing to improve your practice, you might want to look at the Highly Accomplished or Lead Teacher career stages. 


The descriptors are the most specific element of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. They will tell you exactly what teachers need to do to meet every single focus area of every standard at every career stage. 

Want to know what Highly Accomplished teaching looks like? The descriptors will tell you. If you’re building your portfolio to move from Graduate to Proficient, you’ll need to check that you’re doing exactly what’s in each descriptor for each focus area. 

There are 148 different descriptors, which can be difficult to wrap your head around. The descriptors are the real meat of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, and the other levels are used to organise them.

Elise is an enthusiastic and passionate Australian teacher who is on a mission to inspire and support fellow educators. With over a decade of experience in the classroom, Elise leverages her expertise and creativity to provide valuable insights and resources through her blog. Whether you're looking for innovative lesson ideas, effective teaching strategies, or just a dose of inspiration, Elise has got you covered.

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