Five Things I’ve Learned from John Hattie about Student Achievement

One of our beloved researchers in education is John Hattie, the mastermind behind the visible learning movement (to me it really feels like a movement). Hattie’s research is the culmination of over 800 meta-analyses relating to student achievement. This means his research is about most of the other research out there. Here are five things I’ve learned from his books:

1) Students need to be confident and accurate when estimating their learning.

Hattie calls this “self-report grades” and it is the number one thing to impact student achievement. Teachers need to provide students with tools to measure their progress, outlining clearly what they are learning (the goal) and how they will know they are successful (the success criteria).

Hattie: “Educating students to have high, challenging, appropriate expectations is among the most powerful influence in enhancing student achievement.”

INSIGHT: It’s not just about reflection for reflection’s sake. It’s about accurate, purposeful reflection.

QUESTION: How can educators measure how accurately students are estimating their learning and predicting their success?

2) How students learn is as important as what students learn.

Students may think differently than teachers because the mind of a child is developmentally different than the mind of an adult. Lessons should challenge student thinking, encourage dialogue and collaboration, and give teachers time to listen.

Hattie: “The message is that we must know what students already know, know how they think, and then aim to then progress all students towards the success criteria of the lesson.”

INSIGHT: When I was a teacher I often planned my lessons based on my understanding and how my mind organizes information. I needed to spend more time learning how my students think.

QUESTION: How can high school teachers shift from seeing themselves as content experts to instructional experts?

3) Technology can increase learning but it’s not guaranteed.

Good teaching is good teaching with or without technology. For example, iPads in the classroom are not effective by their presence alone. The “how” students learn is determined by the teacher’s strategies, the quality of peer learning, the helpfulness of the feedback, or the opportunities for students to practice.

Hattie: “It is critical to realize that the computer is not ‘the teacher.'”

INSIGHT: I need to better understand technology as a tool for learning, synthesizing my understanding of teaching strategies and lesson design with the opportunities in technology devices and apps.

QUESTION: How can I collaborate with other educators in learning more about how to use technology effectively as a tool for teaching?

4) A learning leader can make an impact.

School leaders are reinventing their roles to align with research. From the leader who motivates and inspires change to the leader who attends to the quality of student learning, principals are now responsible for much more than the daily operations of the school. While the teachers examine what they teach and how they teach it, school leaders need to ask what is the evidence of student learning and how can it be used to improve instruction?

Hattie: “What is needed is more space for teachers to interpret the evidence about their effect on each student.”

INSIGHT: I need a solid understanding of what “evidence of student” learning looks like and a process for tracking it efficiently and effectively in my school.

QUESTION: How can I measure my impact as a leader on student achievement?

5) Students want to know how to improve their work to be able to do better next time.

Teachers say that they give lots of feedback. Students say they don’t receive enough. There is a gap. Negative feedback can cause problems, misunderstandings, and apathy. Teachers need to balance negative and positive feedback, match feedback to knowledge level, providing assurance when students are on track. Focus on how the feedback is received.

Hattie: “As a professional, it is critical to know thy impact. It may seem ironic but the more teachers seek feedback about their own impact, the more the benefits accrue to their students.”

INSIGHT: When I first started teaching high school English it didn’t occur to me to ask students if the feedback I was giving them on their essays was effective. I learned that giving useful feedback is hard work, but important work.

QUESTION: How can I inspire staff to reflect on what feedback they give and to measure its impact on student learning?

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