At our last staff meeting we were looking at some of John Hattie’s work from Visible Learning. Of course some of the rankings surprised us–how could it be that class size isn’t that big a deal? Or technology? I have been doing some further reflection to try and capture why his meta-analysis might be important for us as teachers. It is not that programs or ideas we do are not good for kids—he shows that almost everything works to some degree. What is interesting is when you start to look at those things that have the greatest effect and compare them to those that have a lesser effect. It would make sense that we would concentrate our efforts on the factors with the greatest effect size. Here are my thoughts, in a somewhat random order as it is the end of an extra-long weekend…
- Creating a challenging and trusting environment matters. Students do best when they know what the expectations are and when those expectations are high. And this makes sense. We all thrive when we are doing something challenging that we believe we can be successful at.
- Relationships matter. This makes sense, too. We are going to do our best in environments where we feel a sense of connectedness. When you can build a sense of community and team in your classroom you create an energy for learning.
- Knowing what and why you are doing something is important. Then getting feedback on it as you go increases learning and makes you want to learn more. This works for students and teachers.
- When students have a good sense that they have learned something that matters. We want kids to get it, and know they have got it. That makes for confident learners. We want to be teachers who get it, and know we’ve got it. It makes for confident teachers.
- Knowledgeable teachers provide opportunities for students to summarize, question, clarify and synthesize their learning in reciprocal ways—not all lecture and not all student discovery. Planned and purposeful mastery of the material. And when kids are struggling, teachers can pinpoint the problems immediately, and remediate that problem.
But these high yield strategies are hard. None of them are just about opening the textbook or the binder of worksheets. All of them are about teachers who intentionally determine the learning environment of the classroom. All of them are about teachers who truly believe that the actions they take impact the learning …and when they don’t see learning happening the way they want it to, they try something new. After all, they know that no one will die.