Reflecting on Visible Learning

I had the opportunity today to hear directly from the Visible Learning group, notably Shaun Hawthorne, about how to best interpret and use the data presented in Hattie’s book.

It is probably no secret to most educators these days what the areas with the biggest “effect size” are.  Its always good to have a refresher.  The strategies with the greatest impact in descending order are,

Student Expectations or Self-reported Grades 1.44
This probably requires the greatest shift in mindset for educators. The next time you give a test ask the kids how they are going to perform. They will probably be able to tell you to a fairly high degree of accuracy.  So then, why do we test them?  The main reason for a test is for the teacher to find out how well they managed the learning in the classroom.  Instead of this approach,  schools that have tried the student expectations model essentially let kids do much of the assessment themselves.  They end up setting goals and expectations that are higher than the teacher’s and are more likely to meet them.

Formative Evaluation or Assessment .90
Most of us know this is huge, but many of us think this is still #1 or that it is mostly for the student.  This is feedback from students and even colleagues about what is understood, what is working best as a teacher, and and what could be done better.

Classroom Discussion .82
The type of classroom discussion that works  best is collaborative, meaning that students are creating, building, and expanding knowledge together.  Where the teacher fits in is important, for if the students feel that what really matters is what the teacher wants from the discussion, then the impact is not as great.

Feedback .75
Effective feedback can almost double the speed of learning.   But its not simply the presence of feedback alone,  but the quality of the feedback that counts. Watch a great coach,  what type of feedback are they giving their start athletes?  They aren’t publicly embarrassing them.

Teacher-Student Relationships .72
This is not about being buddy-buddy with students, but about creating teaching and learning relationships where there is a culture in the classroom where its OK to make mistakes,  where its OK to fail, where the teacher cares about their learning and there is a great deal of trust.  My guess is that you must have this in place to do any of the other things in this list effectively. These other items then create a positive feedback loop into this.

Metacognitive Strategies .69
Thinking about thinking.  How often do we really allow students to do this.  We are too busy moving on to the next topic.  What I am doing right now in the blog is thinking about what I have learned and how to extend it.  There are many easy ways to do this but you must carve out the time.

What struck me most about the research is how old most of it is,  which challenges us to think differently about how we use this data.  Just because the data is old and focuses mainly on student test scores, does not mean that it is less important, however, we must look for new inputs that consider things other than academic achievement.  Shawn clearly indicates this at the beginning that Hattie’s biggest detractors are those looking for more guidance around soft skills and 21st century skills.



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