By Christine Miles, NJEA Staff
Of the myriad actions you take in your school to help your students reach high levels of academic achievement, have you ever wondered what has the biggest impact? As a new trend in classroom practice takes hold in your district, do you hope it will improve teaching and learning or fear that it is yet another swing in the pendulum?
John Hattie, an education researcher based in Australia, had the same questions. He wanted to know not only what works in education, but what works best. Knowing that hundreds of meta-analyses (the examination of data from multiple independent studies) had already been conducted on education practices, he went a step further. Hattie and his team examined over 800 meta-analyses, encompassing 52,637 studies that looked at 146,142 “effect sizes” of some program, policy or innovation on academic achievement in school.
In 2009, he first published his findings. He offered a “barometer of influence” to describe the range of effects various student, home, school, teacher, and curricula-driven aspects have upon student achievement. These effects range from “reverse”—having negative impact upon students—to the “zone of desired effects”—where the “influences have the greatest impact on student achievement outcomes. With a scale ranging from a floor of -0.2 and to a ceiling of 1.2, the “zone of desired effects” begins at 0.4.
In his 2012 publication, Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning, Hattie identified 0.4 as the hinge point, “the ‘average’ point…an achievable, ‘real-world’ hinge-point, not an idealistic or aspirational target…it is close to the average effect that we can expect from a year’s schooling.”
In other words, Hattie revealed the impact that your best work has upon student achievement and not simply the “flavor of the week” so often seen in districts throughout the country. If we have significant evidence pointing toward what works best, schools and educators must place a significant emphasis on uncovering and increasing the impact of that work on student achievement.
If we have significant evidence pointing toward what works best, schools and educators must place a significant emphasis on uncovering and increasing the impact of that work on student achievement.
Hattie’s work highlights 252 influences and effect sizes. The table on this page identifies top 10 most positive effects and the bottom 10 most negative effects related to student achievement. This list provides a combination of contributions from the student, from the teacher and from teaching approaches. Hattie’s effects also fall under contributions from the home, from the school and from curricula. In an era where many decisions and constraints are forced upon teachers and are beyond our control, it is comforting to note that much of what is included within the top 10 is within our control as educators.
While Hattie’s most recent iteration of his research presents a rank-order list of effects, he argues that there is “no fixed recipe for ensuring that teaching has the maximum possible effect on student learning.” Instead of merely following the highest-ranking effects, Hattie suggests that the most critical element of his work is the cultivation and development of 10 mind frames within teachers.
It is these 10 “mind frames for visible learning,” as Hattie calls them, that set the stage for educators to utilize their skills, understanding and expertise to approach and optimally address any challenge presented to them. They are:
1. I am an evaluator of my impact on student learning.
2. I see assessment as informing my impact and next steps.
3. I collaborate with my peers and my students about my conceptions of progress and my impact.
4. I am a change agent and believe all students can improve.
5. I strive for challenge and not merely “doing your best.”
6. I give and help students understand feedback and I interpret and act on feedback given to me.
7. I engage as much in dialogue as monologue.
8. I explicitly inform students what successful impact looks like from the outset.
9. I build relationships and trust so that learning can occur in a place where it is safe to make mistakes and learn from others.
10. I focus on learning and the language of learning.
Hattie and his team examined over 800 meta-analyses, encompassing 52,637 studies that looked at 146,142 “effect sizes” of some program, policy or innovation on academic achievement in school.
At foundational, individual and collective levels, Hattie’s work can affect professional practice. Educators adopting and embodying Hattie’s mind frames, those more intentionally integrating high-impact practices, and those committing to truly study and know their impact can increase their influence on student achievement. Collectively, teams of educators who commit to working collaboratively to better understand their work and how their professional steps impact students position themselves to harness the power of their collective understanding and expertise.
Read: Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement (2009) by John Hattie. New York: Routledge.
Read: Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact On Learning (2012). Oxon: Routledge.
Read: 10 Mindframes for Visible Learning—Teaching for Success (2018) by John Hattie and Klaus Zierer. Oxon: Routledge.
Watch: “Cognition Education Keynote—Collaborative Impact” featuring John Hattie, March 25, 2017.
Christine Miles is an associate director in the NJEA Professional Development and Instructional Issues Division. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.