John Hattie – Visible Learning

Here are my raw and at times possibly inaccurate notes from this morning's presentation by Professor John Hattie. His meta-analysis of educational research in his book "Visible Learning" has provoked a lot of interest and some indignation from the education community. I will say that he is a very engaging speaker able to show off his findings while weaving a narrative and context for his audience to come to terms with his findings. He spoke for about two hours today - we were lucky enough to have six of our staff attend - and my attention waned a bit at times so the notes are patchy. I'll post some reflection at a later date.

Tried hard to make the data tell a story, condensed thousands of studies into a continuum of “Influences on Achievement?” Curriculum is important but it is not what makes the difference for learning in the classroom. Reducing class size has a positive effect of 0.20 which equates to advancing achievement of 9 months – reminded any reporters in the room that he was not saying that it was not worth reducing class sizes. All you need to enhance achievement is to “have a pulse.” We should be looking for the 0.40 improvement factor. Australia has a pretty good education system. We talk about the people who hardly exist – the bad teachers. We need to be concerned with the OK teachers who should be doing a better job.  We should know what effect we are having on our students.

The 0.40 is the average of what happens now. We should not allow autonomy in our teaching profession – “some teachers are making the difference.”  Kids without schooling achieve progress of 0.15 anyway (Liberia, Guatemala etc) through street smarts etc.

Retention is one of the most negative things that can happen to a student’s learning, was an expert witness in a trial for NAACP showing that retention with US education is aimed predominantly at African-American or Hispanic students.

Teacher subject matter knowledge does not have a positive effect.  [Spirited discussion within the audience at this point.]  Would matter if we had deep learning rather than surface content learning and effective assessments, more time spent listening than talking.

Hattie’s data is not about What Could but What Has Happened. Class reduction makes a difference only if there is a change in teaching practice. Too many parents judge the school by the amount of homework – recommends no more than 5 minutes, make sure it’s something that the kids already know (deliberative practice) and make sure that it is assessed. A better option would be for parents to engage with their kids to talk about their learning.

Used abseiling as a example of learning that is at the 0.50 level – Outdoor/Adventure Programs at 0.52. The important ingredient is challenge – keeping all students to be challenged or they will challenge you!  Show what success looks like – as examples, the steps to success. If a seven year old is struggling with mathematics, give them the answer so that they can work on the process. Direct instruction is powerful because it gets teachers talking to other teachers about teaching. How do you create dialogues around teaching? We need to be able to change our teaching on the fly to suit the different ways that students will learn.

Labelling kids – one of the most damaging things the education system does is use labels to define what students should only be capable of.

The No 1 is self reported grades – exceed expectations, more powerful – setting a safe target is not enough. Streaming is a way of telling kids “Know your place.” Students find it easier to set performance based targets – faster, neater etc. When kids set targets, they invariably reach them. We need to share targets with the kids – the most important thing for home is to have high expectations for their kids.

What the student brings to the classroom is pretty powerful – 50%.  Largest variant we have control over is teachers – the differences between schools is less 8% variance in Australia and NZ, students have similar opportunity for achievement regardless of schools.

His mantra:

When teachers SEE learning through the eyes of the student
when students SEE themselves as their own teachers

We can’t change the kids in front of us – but it’s the teacher mindframe that makes the difference.

Transparency with Learning Intentions and Success Criteria is very important. Create a dialogue within your school on a common conception of progression. 80% of feedback kids get is from other kids and 80% of that is wrong. A lot of general feedback is given in the class but less than 3 seconds of that is received by the individual. Feedback about the task is infinitely more valuable than feedback about self [Well done, good girl] etc.

Assessment should be totally used for feedback in the classroom and the student, not foremost for the teacher.

Classrooms that welcome error are the best places for our students. Relationships in the classroom are important to foster so that students feel comfortable to make mistakes and learn from them.

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14 thoughts on “John Hattie – Visible Learning

  1. Warick

    Thanks for the detailed overview Graham; we’ve been pushing the Hattie agenda pretty hard so far this year, so I’m interested in how you saw the message being presented.

  2. MS

    This explains the research collected over a 15 year period by Professor John Hattie and supports the suggested best practices:
    -Deeper learning and effective assessment
    -more listening
    -quality feedback
    -parental involvement in conversations with their children about their learning
    -don’t focus on “labeling”
    -sharing target-setting with students so that they are active stakeholders in their success
    -teachers should see learning through the eyes of students and students should see themselves as their own teachers
    -assessment should be for the students first
    -mistakes in the learning process should be welcomed in our classrooms and we should all create nurturing environments in which our students feel secure enough to take risks in their learning
    I agree with the suggested practices and the rationale provided.

  3. Greg Yates

    This is fascinating as what Hattie is saying, as validated by a remarkably large body of actual research, is so remarkably like common sense. Voltaire noted that common sense just was not that common. I feel we have that situation here: John Hattie has aggregated so much research telling us that our students learn well when they receive two commodities, firstly strong clear instruction, but secondly, feedback that respects them as developing people (rather than objects to reward or congratulate, or otherwise condescendingly say ‘good’). Its in understanding the feedback process that Hattie ought to be taken especially seriously. Most of us get this wrong, but do not know it. We think direct instruction does the job, but its only half the issue…seriously.

  4. andy mellor

    Interesting stuff.
    In Englad we are looking more and more closely at self dircted learning which ties into Hattie’s ideas of the kids bringing stuff to the table which we can explore. It also ties into Lane Clarke’s idea of a hook to grab the kids’ attention. This starts in Foundation Stage for us and we are trying to build this in across the school and move away from direct instructional teaching.
    I’ve attached a link to one of our local Heads’ blog which we tend to chip into. Feel free to join the debate.

  5. Sally

    I’m a bit confused about some of the things I’ve read about Visible Learning. How can “self-report grades’ influence student achievement? Or is it merely a predictor of achievement not the cause of it? What does self-report grades really mean?

    Can you please point me to anywhere on-line where Hattie’s influences are defined? Ta!

  6. Graham Wegner

    I did a search to try and track down what was meant by “self-report grades”. The Google preview of his book only turned up the phrase in his lists but this article has this explanatory paragraph:

    Hattie identified some of the influences that the child brings into a school (through the effects of their achievements, their personality dispositions, and their preschool experiences). Students’ ‘self-report grades’ had the highest influence with an effect size of 1.44. This is typically formed from past experiences in learning and students have a reasonably accurate understanding of their levels of achievement and chances of success.

    Another NZ article has the following explanation:

    Self-report grades

    Hattie concludes that students have a “reasonably accurate understanding” of their achievement and that this is based on their experiences except for minority students who were a little less realistic in self reported grades. Do teachers, I wonder, inflate their assessment of minority students? But the message is clear, expectations are important so make sure they are right! Students need to know where they are, where they are headed and what they must do to get there.

    Hope that is useful in defining the term and helps you to understand why Hattie rates it so highly. His meta-analysis took in the results of 209 studies for that particular item. Probably a good read of the book would prove enlightening as the Google preview is limited.

  7. Elizabeth Eeles

    The work of John Hattie is extremely relevant to professional conversations. Teachers can make a difference if they become more aware of their own perceptions of their teaching practices and their educational pedaogogy.
    If we could change one thing, that would be to sincerely believe that all children can succeed and work with that in mind. Get rid of the labels placed on students and encoruage them to have a positive belief in their own capacity. You can succeed if it matters enough to you. Setting personal goals, commitment to improvement and reflection. The classroom needs a team mentality so that everyone (students and teachers) care about the learning of each other.

    I agree that students need to be able to recognise what they know and where they need to go next.

    I interested to read that when Hattie was describing the top 32 effect sizes that reading had an incredibly high impact across all areas. Together with my colleagues we have been working on “vocabulary” as that is right up there with making a difference.

    The self-report grades needs further discussion as to how to ensure that that is effective. Does Hattie suggest that this will entail a teacher conference with the student or not? What was his intention?

    1. Graham Wegner

      Elizabeth, I can’t be totally sure of Hattie’s intention in regards to self-report grades. Maybe the book would be more enlightening – I’ve always interpreted it to be part of student self assessment that is jointly negotiated between the students and the teacher. Rubrics, learning intentions and assessments that spell out what the criteria for success are possible incarnations of this, I think.

  8. Mitz Shah

    I have just come back from a Visible Learning and Formative Assessment Conference in London.

    The most effective factor in outstanding learning is for pupils/students to be able to assess themselves. They basically need to know their own strengths and weaknesses. They need to be able to articulate their own levels of understanding and feed this back to their teacher and peers.

    If the work is challenging, they will need to identify key concepts to enable them to feed back, clearly and precisely, their level of understanding to the teacher or class.

    This is really powerful stuff but requires a change in culture and attitude in a school from a fixed to a growth mindset. Intelligence, gifts and talents can all be cultivated over time through developing the right scholarly habits or habits of the mind.

    Thank you to John Hattie, Deb Masters James Nottingham, Barry Hymer, Shirley Clarke for their fantastic work in this field.

  9. Chris Welch

    Self report grades I understand as student self assessment. We use this extensively. For students to self assess though they need a differentiated, clear statement of criteria. That’s the hard part. So we have lines of criteria for various elements of application and participation from Unsatisfactory, Inconsistent, Substantial, Commendable and Outstanding. We have report criteria for each subject from Y7 to Y11. We have been building this for the last 5 years. There’s also criteria for study skills. Students musty be able to assess where they are on a line of criteria and be able to see clearly what they need to to get to the next level. Feedback from the teacher of course. Hattie has done a huge service to education.

  10. Kimberly Greenlee

    We are learning in our school district about the 11 High Influences. Can you please define those 11 influences? Our teachers have different opinions of what each word means. Thank you.

    1. Graham Wegner

      I think it would be presumptuous of me to be definitive about any of the influences – I do have the book but have yet to read past the intro. I would suggest that you look to get a copy of the book for your school for a clearer perspective. I would also consider buying his newer book “Visible Teaching” as it is more aimed at the classroom practitioner.

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