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Visible Learning For Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning by John Hattie Kirsten Gerhardt Touro University 7/19/13

ABSTRACT John Hattie’s Visible Learning For Teachers is based on a meta-analysis of over 800 studies on student learning. It was written for any teacher or administrator who wants to answer the question of how to improve student achievement. The book includes step-by-step guidance for implementing the teaching strategies in the classroom and school and focuses on both teacher and student activities that lead to improved achievement. Hattie highlights the most effective strategies and focuses on what makes student learning visible to teachers and on teachers knowing and understanding their own potential impact on student learning. “The fundamental thesis of this book is that there is a ‘practice’ of teaching. The word practice, and not science, is deliberately chosen because there is no fixed recipe for ensuring that teaching has the maximum possible effect on student learning, and no set of principles that apply to all learning for all students” (p. 5).

Hattie begins by stating that almost any intervention can have an impact on student learning. The average effect size for these interventions is 0.40, based on the research. Hattie describes this number as the ‘hinge point’ for identifying what is effective. Interventions and strategies that we choose to use in our classrooms should have at the very minimum, a 0.40 effect size. Potentially, we would choose the strategies with a marked increase over this average. Hattie states that visible learning requires a teacher who can evaluate and activate, as well as use a range of teaching strategies to build knowledge and understanding. He stresses the importance of challenge and feedback. Students need the right amount of challenge to push themselves in their thinking and learning, and teachers need to monitor individual student understandings and give specific feedback that allows students to progress to the next level of their learning. Hattie goes on to state, “Visible teaching and learning occurs when learning is the

explicit and transparent goal, when it is appropriately challenging, and when the teacher and the student both (in their various ways) seek to ascertain whether and to what degree the challenging goal is attained“ (p. 17-18). Passion is a key word used to describe successful teachers in this book. Teachers who are passionate and inspired have high expectations of students and their learning, they are fair and committed to improvement, both personally and with in their students, and they are constant evaluators of the teaching and learning process. Teachers who are learners themselves and who are always looking to improve, can be very motivating to students. They know that what they do makes a difference. Knowing your students’ levels of learning is very important. There should be a major focus on levels of student performance, both prior knowledge of the students, and as learning outcomes at the end of the lesson or unit. This should be done in grade level teams. Teachers should be working together to plan and organize lessons, analyze data and plan learning the activities. According to Hattie, most of the time should be spent here, accessing student’s prior knowledge and setting clear learning outcomes and expectations. Most often, teachers simply open up their teaching manual and move to the next lesson in the curriculum guide. Hattie suggests that teachers need to know what students already know, know about their dispositions and self-efficacy, know how they think, and then make adjustments to our teaching accordingly so that ALL student can be moving in a forward direction in their learning. Cooperatively analyzing date, setting goals, choosing instructional strategies and monitoring the impact on students will result in higher gains for

student learning. This can only be done if you have highly effective PLC’s. When teachers work together with a focused effort, they get to know their students, share their ideas, and can be more effective than working in isolation. After setting up a classroom environment that is respectful and full of trust, teachers should deliver lessons that have a flow that is comfortable for students and includes engagement opportunities, appropriate amounts of student vs. teacher talk, (more student talk than teacher talk), cooperative team work, challenging expectations, include multiple instructional strategies, and lots of practice! Malcolm Gladwell is quoted in the book as saying that it typically takes 10,000 plus hours of practice to lead to expertise. With our current pacing calendars, students will ever be allowed to become experts! But, with increased focus on the learning outcomes and individual progress of students, we will be moving in the right direction! One way to enhance this outcome is with effective and timely feedback. Students need to how they are doing so that they are better able to monitor and regulate their next steps in meeting the learning goals. Through this feedback loop, students will then be able to know how they are doing in relation to the goals that have been set, and they can make changes, participate in more practice, or come up with a new plan for learning. So far, most of the focus has been on the role of the teacher. Students also play a big role in the level of achievement. Teachers need to help students to become selfregulated, motivated, and reflective learners. Teachers can do this by providing learning strategies that encourage student thinking, monitoring of their own

learning, setting their own goals, and correcting errors. Students move from the novice phase to the proficient phase when they can do this on their own. When students are in the proficient phase, they are setting goals and self-reflecting on the progress towards their goals. They are then able to focus on adapting accordingly. This self-regulation is a major goal of education.

Too often districts and school look to find a better program, or hire experts to come and reform their school when they have the one resource they need already at hand; the teacher! Shifting to a new math or language arts program will not have a positive effect until the learning becomes visible, and both teachers and students are working toward the same goal, student learning! “….the greatest effects on student learning occur when teachers become learners of their own teaching and when students become their own teachers……(self-monitoring, self regulatory, selfassessment, self-teaching.” (p.18). Teachers need to shift in their thinking to consider themselves evaluators of their own effects on student learning. What teachers do and say and how they say it, and the caring and responsive environment that they create can dramatically improve learning for all students. The focus needs to move away from the teacher teaching and be placed on the student learning. When the whole school is working together under the same mind frame that achievement is changeable and that the role of the teacher and school is to use their knowledge of student learning to meet the needs of ALL students, then it’s not about changing programs, it is all about changing thinking.


While reading this book, I was able to reflect on my own practice in many areas. One big area was feedback. The importance of timely and specific feedback was not a focus for me when I began to teach. During one of my first teaching years, I took my student writing samples home to grade and write specific comments for improvement or next steps. When I was finished, I put them into the student writing files. Sometimes my students did not see the feedback on their papers for weeks! I was expecting them to improve, but the feedback was not very timely! No wonder I did not see the progress I thought I would. In addition, the adult learners at my site are resistant to feedback. If I can get teachers to honestly reflect on their practice and value feedback, then we will begin to make good strides in the right direction. When reading about the importance of background knowledge, I, again, remembered my first teaching years. We had a very scripted curriculum and I would just pick up the teaching manuals and begin to teach, not knowing what my students already knew about the subject! There were many students who already knew what I was about to teach, and many students who were not ready for what I was about to teach. There was very little, if any at all, time spent on accessing prior knowledge! I was not spending time trying to learn about my students or their learning needs. I was focused on teaching the content and keeping up with the pacing calendar.

As I gained more experience through my years of teaching, my practice improved and I became a better teacher. It did take years, though. My goals, after reading this book, are to make sure that all teachers at my site know about the important elements of good teaching so that they are able to provide more powerful learning experiences for their students. Reference Hattie, John. (2012) Visible Learning For Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. New York: Routledge.