Visible Learning 1st Edition
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About the Author
John Hattie is Professor of Education and Director of the Visible Learning Labs, University of Auckland, New Zealand.
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There appears to have been no consideration of data quality or causality while putting the research together. Data quality is clearly an issue - the average effect size in all the interventions identified by Hattie is 0.4. It is highly implausible that trying anything at all will result in an expected improvement of 0.4 standard deviations when state & national average results barely change at all, and when they do they go down as often as they go up. Not attempting to deal with this leaves a reader to their own devices to guess what may or may not be relied on.
Causality is also very important. Students' expectations of their own grades are highly predictive, and this is accorded one of the largest "effect sizes" in the work. However, this is of little importance to teachers, because it is not the case that students' expectations are a major cause of their success or lack thereof - it's mostly the case that students, being intelligent people with access to a lot of information about their ability, motivation and the challenges of the curriculum, are able to make accurate predictions of their success in it. While this may be nice to know, and there may be a small causal component to student expectations, making no distinction between causal effects and things that just happen to be associated with success again leaves the reader to guess as to which things might actually be good ideas to try.
Finally, Hattie's written summaries are poor. There are few explanations of what went on in the studies that make up the data summarised and fewer connections from these studies to Hattie's grand theories of educations. Under the heading of "feedback", coming with one of the largest effect sizes identified, Hattie explains that he spend a long time misunderstanding feedback until he realised feedback from students to teachers was important. Why is he confused about the difference between teacher->student and student->teacher feedback? Why are they collected under the same heading? Most importantly, how does this help me work out how to incorporate more effective feedback into my classes... should I be spending most of my time on surveys?
Overall, it is a good concept, but I didn't actually get much from reading it. I think the Education Endowment Foundation's Teaching and Learning Toolkit is a much better execution of the same idea.
The only reason I gave the book four stars is due to the fact my book came with two chapter 7s and no chapter 8. I’ve missed the return date so if you’re not planning to read it right away you might flip through to make sure you have all of the chapters.
This is a detailed contribution to the educators library, on the important theme- what affects educational outcomes for our students. Given the size and detail, it is best suited to the educated professional, but is also accessible enough for the educated reader - though having little opportunity to affect any change may prove frustrating.
The book is broken down into sections looking at the different influences on outcomes such as the influence from home, school reforms, principal, and teacher and teaching practices etc. Within these sections all the influences are assessed using a statistical comparison called 'effect size'. This aims to be a common scale on which to measure effectiveness- a nice speedometer type graphic is used to indicate the rating for each item.
Think sending a child to an 'elite' child will turn them into a rhodes scholar?
Think keeping a child down a grade if they are not progressing is a good idea?
Think the lauded 'direct instruction' technique is chalk, talk and worksheets?
Read on and see what the current evidence indicates- and it is not always what we want to hear.
Noteably most influences are positive- but the aim of the work is to find out what has a significant influence so that efforts can be made on practices that are more effective. In contrast to one of the other reviewers - there are some questions that are not answered in this book - namely which interventions work best with which types of students? It is great to know what 'on average' is more effective, but this is qualified by the fact that each intervention varies in effectiveness in different studies. This variance should be a source of further study so that we can know which strategy to use and when it is most appropriate to use it.
The other issue that is not acknowledged by some reviewers here is that the measure of success in this type of study is purely academic - did they learn more content or skills than at the beginning and in contrast to a control group. What it also does not tell us about are the other outcomes that are important too - were the students more engaged in their learning, did they become better learners, did they learn other (real world) skills that are useful, and did they learn to get along and work together better? These are all important outcomes that young people arguably need to learn to survive in a fast changing, modern world.
The other qualifier I would need to add is that some areas- such as the effective use of technology are largely dependent on the skill of teachers to design instructional practices that are complimentary and sophisticated enough to be effective. Currently teacher capacity in this area is still emerging and so the results here I would have to conclude are tentative, or at least open for review. The more recent works of Robert Marzano have shown far more promise in this area- particularly for interactive white boards.
As with all strategies, procedures or practices - no two practitioners, classrooms or school communities are alike and the research evidence presented by the late Graham Nuthall in "The Hidden Lives of Learners' indicated that a good educator continually modifies and adapts 'what works' at the chalkface every day. This would then be a qualifying consideration when analyzing the book. Hattie himself lists others including; the cost of the intervention, and from memory I think the complexity of implementation is also discussed. So don't use the work as a recipe book for state intervention in schools!
Overall an extremely informative book - sorts the wheat from the chaff, but must be read critically and in concert with other books from authors such as Marzano and Nuthall.
Top international reviews
Second, socially, it is difficult to appropriately understand the impact of schools and school practices on kids' learning without considering characteristics of kids and their families. The Hattie book does not consider whether results apply to grade school or high school (or other) kids. There is no consideration for how different factors play in achievement as a function of socioeconomic risk (which is where most of the academic problems are encountered) or for kids who experience challenges because of family issues, handicaps or disabilities. Many practices are implemented with specifically these kids in mind and overgeneralization of results from non applicable research may lead to faulty conclusions.
Third, those who study academic achievement are increasingly integrating the idea that family and child factors dominate the prediction of who will do well and who will have trouble in their journey through school. These factors have explicitly been ignored by Hattie.
I do not want to be overly harsh with Hattie. He has done everyone a great service in synthesizing results and getting a whole bunch of new conversations started with the results he has obtained. And he has done a masterful job of making the research accessible to non academic readers. However, the potential danger is one of deciding that the synthesis that is offered is a conclusion, rather than a starting point for discussion. There are only starting points in this book. No conclusions.
In this book, Hattie dispels many of the more prevalent attitudes to learning today. By distilling the findings of around 800 meta-analyses, he has effectively assembled one the largest evidence bases in history. What he has discovered should warn us against some of the new practices we seem so bent on introducing. Problem-based learning? It may be good for acquiring skills like teamwork, but it does little to improve achievement. Homework? The advice is keep it short and focused, which again counters the more recent belief that extended, open ended home learning tasks are more effective. Directed teaching? This is still one of the most effective ways of getting students to learn.
One of the most interesting, and oft repeated refrains in the book is the importance of constructive feedback. Time and again Hattie emphasises just how important good feedback is: and that it is feedback from the student to the teacher, rather than the other way round, that is most effective. This, coupled with clear learning goals and an understanding on the part of the student of what success is, has the greatest impact on learning.
I urge anyone with an interest in raising attainment to read this book.