This month’s BOMish (Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning by John Hattie) was another book used in one of my graduate courses, and it was the first textbook that stopped me in my tracks. I mean, really– how many textbooks do we find arresting ever? This was the first researched-based text that allowed me to see what works and why when it comes to actually fostering learning. Not memorizing, not meeting standards, not testing– but good ol’ fashioned learning.
Let’s get to the good stuff.
Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning (John Hattie)
- The Stats: 296 Pages, published March 2012 (but online resources are consistently updated)
- Who Should Read It: Teachers, school administrators, educational program designers
- My Rating (out of 5 ♥): ♥♥♥♥.5
- My Thoughts: As educators, we’re constantly trying new things with the goal of helping our students learn. We want things to stick, but not for the sake of memorizing, but for internalizing concepts, ideas, patterns so students can draw meaningful connections and learn from a wide. But trying new things can be maddening and brings up more doubt and questions than just coasting with the status quo. Where should you start? Do you flip your classroom just because it seems like that’s the “in” thing right now? Do you try all the things, and see what works best? Do you just try one thing and stick with it for the year? What research should I trust? What works best? How do I know if what I’m doing is actually working?
Hattie’s book (hailed as “teaching’s Holy Grail”) takes out the guesswork and provides a no-nonsense meta-analysis of over 50,000 studies and 80 million students and offers 200+ instructional strategies and their relative effectiveness as related to student achievement. In other words, he tells us what helps and what hinders learning and helps us get into the minds of our students. With so much data analyzed, the results are at first a bit overwhelming.
…wait, w h a a a t ?
The chart takes a minute or six to digest.
What you’re looking at is a ranked list of the factors that affect student learning. The ones on the top? Those are the goodies. They have the most evidence that using them will increase student learning. Moving towards the middle, Hattie found that the “hinge point” was at 0.40. In other words– go for the strategies that are above 0.40(ish). And, finally, at the bottom, we’ve got what hinders learning: ADHD, deafness, boredom, depression, moving, corporal punishment (how is this still relevant enough to have studies…? #shudder), etc.
As you read the list, you might be struck by the vastness of the categories (breastfeeding? chess instruction? modifying school calendars?) and wonder how and why Hattie selected the factors he did. The original list was a scant (sarcasm) 138 categories, and was developed by analyzing data of studies spanning 6 major areas, including students, schools, home, curricula, teaching strategies, and the classroom. The list continued to take shape and grow after incorporating a holistic picture of students backgrounds, culturally, physiologically, emotionally, financially, and more. Personally, I don’t need all of the categories of the updated analysis and find the first iteration to be sufficient. Overall, the list hasn’t changed too much, though more categories have been added towards the top and bottom.
So, is the book all numbers? Ah, thank heavens, no, and in fact, you’re supplied with ample examples on how to leverage effective teaching strategies with examples, hands-on activities, and ideas. There are checklists, facilitation tips, as well as rich resources to use in nearly any classroom. The book was updated in 2012 and Hattie’s online resource bank is updated constantly.
If you’re a new teacher struggling to keep your head above water, a veteran teacher looking to mix it up, an administrator wondering what initiatives to promote, or an educational program designer… I can’t recommend this book enough. While, of course, each student group is different, and ultimately your students’ achievements may not fall exactly in the order laid out on this grand meta-analysis, Hattie’s book directs you to the starting line and points you in the direction of success.
Side-note: Since this was an assigned text, I admit it may not elegantly catalogue into taking charge of my own professional development. I take full ownership of this decision 🙂