I am concerned that the fame of John Hattie’s work on ‘Effect size’ and the launch of the ‘Evidence for Learning’ website may lull some school leaders into a false sense of security as they endeavor to improve learning outcomes in their school. As much as I’d love it to be true, improving learning outcomes is not as easy as paint by numbers or selecting your dinner from a takeaway menu.
Hattie researched the factors that affect student achievement. He uses effect sizes to show the relative impact of each factor. Hattie’s original ranking of 138 aspects as published in Visible Learning is often referred to.
An effect size of 0.4 is regarded as average or typical. School leaders therefore look for effect sizes greater than 0.4 with the aim of maximising the impact. Some aspects such as self-report grades can not be utilised by the teacher to improve student learning. The top 5 innovations that teachers can implement or have impact area as follows.
You can explore Hattie’s revised, updated and extended list of 195 effect sizes HERE.
I would love achieving quality learning outcomes to be simple. Follow an identified formula for success and you will achieve improved outcomes. Increase one aspect and the results will be better. More of this, less of that…sounds like perfecting the recipe for a signature dish.
In a similar approach the Learning Impact Fund have collated an interesting and simple means of representing the likely impact and cost of 34 education approaches. VIEW HERE
The website is promoting the use of evidence to make informed decisions in undertaking initiatives to improve student learning outcomes. The 34 approaches are presented with a graphical representation of the average cost, reliability of the evidence and the likely impact (in months) of the approach.
I love the simplicity and the emphasis on choosing evidence-based strategies for school improvement. It is vital that school leaders consider the potential benefit and base their decisions on evidence and getting a return on the money invested.
It may even be tempting to ‘cherry pick’ the approaches that are likely to give the ‘most bang for the buck’. If for example, I was desperate to turn around my school’s results quickly, I might be tempted to implement the following six approaches as they appear to have the most impact.
Feedback + 8 months
Meta-cognition and self-regulation + 8 months
Collaborative learning + 5 months
Early years intervention + 5 months
Peer tutoring + 5 months and
Reading comprehension + 5 months
Wow, through implementing these six approaches I could achieve the cumulative total of an ADDITIONAL 36 months of learning, in just one year!
There is even better news…of the six strategies only Early Years Intervention is expensive $$$$$. The other five approaches are only $. If money was tight I could ‘drop’ Early Years Intervention and I’d still gain an additional 31 months of learning in one year!
However, teaching and learning are incredibly complex. There are a multitude of factors that impact on learning effectiveness. It is too simplistic to isolate just ONE factor and measure cause and effect. It is dangerous to undertake initiatives on a superficial level. The website provides further information and encourages a deeper dive to better understand how the approach has impact and the research evidence behind the indicators. It is essential that school leaders are VERY selective and carefully plan any strategy to bring about real, sustainable improvements in student learning.
I love the title of Marzano’s book, “The Art and Science of Teaching”. It encapsulates the complexity of learning. I believe teaching is a science and therefore can be researched and supported by evidence but it is also an art, requiring judgement, feeling and intuition.
Each of the approaches advocated by John Hattie in Visible Learning and the Learning Impact Fund through their evidence based indicators can be effectively implemented or poorly implemented. Feedback for example is often highlighted as a key factor with a high effect size in Hattie terminology. However, the quality of the feedback can vary WIDELY from one classroom to another. Simply saying we are focusing on ‘feedback’ will not have a predictable impact on student learning. The impact will be dependent on the quality of the feedback. Leadership and quality control are still paramount.