looking again at John Hattie:
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Making learning Visible (John Hattie)
A link For more undated thinking about Hattie
It seems hard to avoid the brief press releases of Auckland University Professor John Hattie's research in our newspapers. It is a shame that the papers haven't done more in depth research of their own into Hattie's findings.
Most teachers by now will know the main findings of Hattie's research from his previous papers and creative teachers will be reassured that his research backs up intuitive ideas gained from their experience. For such teachers Hattie's findings will be obvious and common sense; unfortunately common sense is not so common! A quick glance through Hattie's book provides definitive evidence of what works and what doesn't.
What doesn't 'work' includes class sizes,homework and school type and he doesn't even mention our current governments misguided focus on national testing.
I have my doubts about the importance of school type but as he states in his book ' this is not a book about what cannot be influenced in schools.... critical dimensions about class, poverty... are not included.. not because they are unimportant, indeed they may be more important than many of the influences discussed in this book. It is just that I have not included these topics in my orbit'.
He also says that his book is not about qualitative studies. It only includes studies that were based on statistics. Thankfully his finding give support to the intuitive ideas gained by creative teachers through their lived experience. Hattie does say his message is a positive one for teachers and that 'many teachers already think in the way the book argues'.
Although I appreciate his exclusion of the socio -economic dimensions the effect of the environment students students come from has to faced up to. If not faced up to it places a impossible responsibility on schools and teachers in such areas.
Hattie's research also includes little criticism of the archaic industrial aged structures of secondary schools which work against many of the relationship issues he found to be most important. Although this is understandable, in light of Hattie's study, it is a also a shame - a bit like patching up a sinking ship. In previous paper he has written that his research would assist 'restoring faith in the public school system'. Elsewhere he mentions that effective practices are more often to be seen in primary schools. If out of date school structures are not faced up his effective teaching findings could well be simply cosmetic - getting better at a bad job. And, indeed, Hattie's development of better testing in literacy and numeracy has had the effect of schools focusing on literacy and numeracy and diverting valuable teachers energy away from other equally important areas. Such thoughts would seem to place Hattie as an educational conservative unlike future orientated thinkers such as Guy Claxton, David Perkins, Howard Gardner, Robert Fried and Elliott Eisner etc, and creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson.
To his credit he quotes that, for all the reforms, in many respects some aspects of education are 'hardly different than 200 years ago' and that his 'meta analysis' of research provides the potential to make real changes as its conclusions are 'beyond reasonable doubt'.
The big challenge of Hattie's findings, if implemented, would mean 'a change in the conception of being a teacher...it necessitates a different way of interacting and respecting students'. This brings us back to the writings of Guy Claxton and our current curriculum's emphasis on 'key competences'.
Hattie's meta analysis ( a synthesis of 50000 previous studies) found that overwhelmingly student teacher interaction came out on top.
Hattie's book is about the power of directed teaching, focusing on 'what happens next' through feedback and monitoring. This is an approach that also informs the teacher about the success or failure of their teaching; making learning for both teacher and student 'visible'.
Number one is teaching where the students know exactly how well they're doing and can articulate this, and what they need to know, to their teacher. Hattie says that teachers should ask themselves, "how many of the kids in your classroom are prepare to say, in front of class, 'we need help', we don't know what's going on', or ' what have you learned?" This sort of trust, he says, is rare.
The most effective strategy of all is giving regular feedback and fostering an atmosphere of trust - these are qualities within the reach of every teacher to improve on.
I have to agree with the head of the secondary teachers union who has said , in response to Hattie's finding that, 'it is not rocket science' but I disagree that it it would be common practice in our stressed secondary schools. Hattie, in his book, commends the work of University of Waikato's Russell Bishop study of the experiences of Maori students which asks for a considerable change of approach in teacher student relationships. It is however not 'rocket science' for those creative teachers, past and present, found in our primary schools.
I liked Hattie's reference to philosopher Carl Popper's 'three worlds' ( a favourite of the late National Art Adviser Gordon Tovey, mentor to creative teachers in the 50 and 60s). The first world of surface knowledge, the second of thinking skills ( 'key competencies'), and the third creating deep concepts about what is worth learning. Tovey called the 'third world' the creative products resulting from learning. It places 'key competencies' in perspective for me.
Hattie writes that the major source of student variance lies within 'the person who gently closes the door of the classroom door and performs the teaching act'. His research focuses on the difference between the 'expert' or 'excellent' teachers and the 'accomplished' or simply 'experienced'. I would prefer the use of the phase 'creative' rather than 'expert' because it is the 'artistry' of such teachers that make all the difference. Identifying and sharing such teachers quality teaching attributes is the focus of Hattie's research. 'While teachers', he says, 'have the power - few do damage, some maintain a status quo in growth of students achievement,and many are excellent'.We need to identify, esteem, and grow those who have powerful influences on student learning.'
Papers are available on the Internet which outline all Hattie's ealier findings but the top teaching influences are : feedback, instructional quality, direct instruction, remediation feedback, class environment and challenge of goals.
'Expert' (or 'creative') teachers, Hattie found, had real respect for their learners as people with ideas of their own. They are passionate about teaching and learning, able to present challenging learning tasks ensuring 'deep learning' ( able to be transferred) and show more emotionality about successes and failures in their work. They are able to make lessons their own, invite students to 'engage', integrating and combining new learning with students prior knowledge. Their expertise ('artistry') allows them to 'read' their classrooms and to be more responsive to learners.
Such creative teachers,Hattie writes, are very context bound and find it hard to think out of the specifics of their classroom. They are extremely flexible and opportunistic, improvising to take advantage of contingencies and new information as it arises. They are 'greater seekers and user of feedback'. Interestingly research indicated that such teachers did not have written lesson plans but all could easily describe mental plans for their lessons. They were able to work intuitively and focus their energy on the creative act. Creative teachers indeed!
Interestingly it was pedagogical knowledge ( 'the art of teaching') rather than content knowledge that distinguished the 'expert' teachers.
The three things that separated 'expert' from 'experienced' teachers were: the degree of challenge presented, depth of student processing of knowledge and representation of what was worth finding out about, and ongoing monitoring and feedback.
Five areas covered in Hattie's latest book are;
Students to develop: a 'positive learning disposition' and to be 'open' to new learning. They need to develop 'engagement' with learning goals so as to become 'turned on' so as to gain worthwhile learning. Claxton's 'learnacy' or the NZ Curriculum's 'key competencies'.
Homes to be helped develop 'positive parental expectations and aspirations' as 'positive parent alignment' with school is vital.
Schools to provide a positive , optimistic, invitational, trusting and safe learning climate. One that welcomes student errors and develops positive peer influences; that gives both teachers and learner's respect as learners.
Teachers who are seen by their students as quality teachers. Who provide clarity of expectations and a belief that all can learn. Teachers who are 'open' to new ideas, who develop positive learning climate, and who value the importance of student effort to improve.
A curriculum that is explicit to learners and that provides challenging in depth experiences.
Hattie's work probably deserves greater consideration than I have given it as it is important. If teachers are to make the difference Hattie believes is possible then we need more than 'press releases'.
Hattie's on going research has identified teacher effectiveness ( or creativity) 'beyond doubt' and faces up to the fact that not all teachers are equal.
If the ideas Hattie has identified are known by all teachers then all our students could do far better than is currently expected.
Applying such ideas is preferable to wasting teacher time and energy on the failed concept national testing.