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Visible Learning

8th February 2016

Visible Learning

John Hattie is one of my heroes! Not quite as famous as Luke Skywalker maybe, but in the field of educational research, no one has done more to help me understand what works when trying to help children learn.

John Hattie took over 800 pieces of meta-research into educational initiatives and graded them according to the size of the effect that they had on students’ learning. Using some clever maths, he gave each initiative a score, and the larger the number the better and more effective the strategy – go to: www.visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/ to see a graphic of Hattie’s research (0.4 is considered a ‘medium’ effect; anything over 0.6 has a ‘large’ impact; anything less than 0.2 has a ‘small’ effect).

So far, so WOW! But as always the detail is important too, for example ‘homework’ only has an effect size of 0.29 in the research, but when that is broken down by ages the effect on younger and primary children is significantly less (0.15), whereas the effect on secondary school students is 0.64 – so, no getting out of homework then, sorry! There are some useful analyses of Hattie’s findings on the internet, try:

Hattie concluded that students need to have a clear sense of what they are learning (Hattie calls it ‘Visible Learning’). They also need to be motivated into a ‘growth mindset’ that says that they have the courage & determination to address weaknesses. The teacher makes it clear they are not interested in judging how good the work is, but that they are interested in the quality of a student’s learning. We will look more at the ‘growth mindset’ and Carol S Dweck’s work in a future blog .

Why is this important? Because the single greatest effect in the study is when a student predicts his or her own achievement! Vitally it is students themselves, based on their own previous achievement, that are likely to best predict their own future attainment accurately. Hattie says that, in order to move on, a student needs to be supported to see that they can achieve more, and to have the steps to that achievement clearly set out. Each lesson should have a clear learning focus so that the student is aware if they have learnt it by the end or not. They should receive feedback that makes it clear what they have done well and what they can do next in order to improve. We will look more at how to give great feedback in a later blog.

In the meantime, for more information see Hattie’s website (www.visible-learning.org/) and reflect on those effects that teachers have control over, and how we can make them work for us and our students!


[1] Dweck, Carol S, 2012, Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential, London: Robinson