LANGUAGE! Live offers more for struggling readers than any other product. Proven foundational and advanced reading intervention. Peer-to-peer instruction. Literacy brain science. A captivating modern, digital platform for grades 5–12. All
in one affordable solution. More is possible
Grades K-5 blended literacy intervention
Grades K-5 online reading practice
Grades 4-12 print literacy program
Grades K-12 writing program
Grades 4-12 literacy intervention
Grades Pre-K-5 adaptive blended literacy instruction
Grades 6-12 adaptive blended literacy instruction
TransMath® Third Edition is a comprehensive math intervention curriculum that targets middle and high school students who lack the foundational skills necessary for entry into algebra and/or who are two or more years below grade level in
A targeted math intervention program for struggling students in grades 2–8 that provides additional opportunities to master critical math concepts and skills.
Empowers students in grades K–8 to master math content at their own pace in a motivating online environment.
Inside Algebra engages at-risk students in grades 8–12 through explicit, conceptually based instruction to ensure mastery of algebraic skills.
Developed by renowned literacy experts Dr. Louisa Moats and Dr. Carol Tolman,
LETRS® is a flexible literacy professional development solution for preK–5 educators. LETRS earned the International Dyslexia Association's Accreditation and provides teachers with the skills they need to master the fundamentals
of reading instruction—phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, writing, and language.
Online professional development event is designed for preK to college educators interested in improving student success in reading and writing
Literacy solutions guided by LETRS’ science of reading pedagogy, the Structured Literacy approach, and explicit teaching of sound-letter relationships for effective reading instruction.
NUMBERS is an interactive, hands-on mathematics professional development offering for elementary and middle school math teachers.
Best Behavior Features Elements to Create a Happy, Healthy School Environment
Look to ClearSight to measure student mastery of state standards with items previously used on state high-stakes assessments. ClearSight Interim and Checkpoint Assessments include multiple forms of tests for grades K–high school.
Reliable, Research-Based Assessment Solutions to Support Literacy and Math
Enhance early reading success and identify students experiencing difficulty acquiring foundational literacy skills.
A companion tool for use with Acadience Reading K–6 to determine instructional level and progress monitoring.
Assess critical reading skills for students in grades K–6 and older students with very low skills.
Assess essential pre-literacy and oral language skills needed for kindergarten.
Predict early mathematics success and identify students experiencing difficulty acquiring foundational math skills.
Give educators a fast and accurate way to enter results online and receive a variety of reports that facilitate instructional decision making.
A brief assessment that can be used with Acadience Reading K–6 to screen students for reading difficulties such as dyslexia.
A new, online touch-enabled test administration and data system that allows educators to assess students and immediately see results, providing robust reporting at the student, class, school, and district levels.
Research-based, computer-adaptive reading and language assessment for grades K-12.
Unparalleled support for our educator partners
We work with schools and districts to customize an implementation and ongoing support plan.
Grades 5-12 blended literacy intervention
Flexible literacy professional development solution for preK–12 educators.
Focused on engaging students with age-appropriate instruction and content that supports and enhances instruction.
Reading intervention for grades K–5.
At Voyager Sopris Learning®, our mission is to work with educators to help them meet and surpass their goals for student achievement.
Step Up to Writing®
John Hattieauthor and learning/teaching expert
John Hattie is laureate professor at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne. He also is chair of the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leaders. His areas of interest include measurement models and their applications to educational problems, and models of teaching and learning. He has published and presented more than 1,000 papers, supervised 200 student theses, and authored 31 books—including eight about Visible Learning.
If you agree with John Hattie’s statement, “every student deserves a great teacher, not by chance, but by design,” then this podcast is for you. Become a “change agent” in your district, school, or classroom as you learn
from a respected expert about how you can implement the practices that accelerate student literacy.
Join us as we speak with Hattie, the renowned author and presenter, and discuss his book, Visible Learning for Literacy—the latest in his Visible Learning series.
During this podcast, you will learn:
To learn more about John Hattie, visit visible-learning.org.
Narrator: Welcome to EDVIEW360.
John Hattie: Learning is a struggle. Learning's hard work. And we have to, as teachers, communicate that message. There's nothing wrong with struggling in learning. There's nothing wrong with not knowing.
How can we get teachers to hear how students are thinking? How they are processing? What they do when they get into problems? What do they do when the struggle? Do they see the point to give up, or do they see the point to try an alternative strategy?
One of the things that I certainly want to highlight is how we can stop talking as teachers and start listening to how students think about their learning. That's the major point behind Visible Learning.
Narrator: You just heard learning and teaching expert John Hattie, author of Visible Learning for Literacy Grades K–12: Implementing the Practices That Work Best to Accelerate Student Learning, and the groundbreaking Visible Learning series. Mr. Hattie is our guest today on EDVIEW 360. Here's your host, Pam Austin.
Pam Austin: This is Pam Austin. Welcome back to the EDVIEW 360 podcast series. We are so excited to have you back with us. I'm conducting today's podcast from Dallas, TX, the heart of Voyager Sopris Learning®. Today, we
are honored to have with us John Hattie, author of Visible Learning for Literacy Grades K–12: Implementing the Practices That Work Best to Accelerate Student Learning, and the Visible Learning series. Welcome, Mr. John Hattie.
Thank you for joining us all the way from Australia. We're so pleased to have you with us. I have had the pleasure of diving into a few of your books, and using them as valuable resources for personal and teacher professional learning. How did you
become an author? And, more specifically, how did you decide to focus on education?
JH: Thanks, Pam, and it's great to join and talk with you in Dallas, and with Voyager Sopris Learning, because I can get quite fascinated about this topic and I have been for many, many years. And, certainly, when this whole started for
me was coming into education as a bit of an outsider, in that I'm a measurement person, a statistician. That was my training. And, I came into this business of education,was fascinated that everybody I met had the answer about what they needed to
do in their class, in their school, to make a difference with student learning. And every one of the answers were different. I've never met a teacher who said they were below average. And I was a kid once, and I remember that's not completely true.
And, so, it was this notion of reading the journal articles where everything seems to work, talking to teachers, looking at the policy space and realizing that there is a million answers out there. Why is it, then, we're in the situation we are? Where
we do have that variability across teacher quality. And, so, that's where it really started. And, at the time when I started my career, meta-analysis was pretty new, and so I dabbled in learning how to use it, did some myself. I then thought one day,
"Wouldn't it be great if I could take the many meta-analyses and synthesize them?” Which, ultimately, led to the Visible Learning book.
It took me about 20 years to write it, not because of the data. The data's the easy part. In fact, a few months ago we released a website, a free website with all the data on it, so anybody else can take all that data, save them hours and hours of work.
But what took me so long was, what was the story? What was that story underlying all those data? And Visible Learning was my 10th book, as I had practiced at being an author before. The previous nine, obviously, disappeared into oblivion.
And for some reason, it caught on. I think it was less about the data but more about the story. I don't know, it can be contested as it should be, but it was really quite exciting to see the reaction to the Visible Learning story, and to
hear teachers now talking about research themselves and seeing it as part of their day-to-day vocabulary, and asking that question about: How can we make learning more visible?
In fact, Pam, one of the ironies, it took me probably about two years of many, many discarded titles to come up with the title of Visible Learning, which is kind of weird in a way because learning isn't visible. It's what's happening inside your
head. But the argument was, how can we make it more visible? So, we can understand how students are thinking, how teachers are thinking, how policy and principals are thinking? So, that's where it all started from.
PA: When we take a look at your Visible Learning series, you've kind of alluded to why you created that series. But I want you to tell us, what is your definition of Visible Learning? You did mention that learning isn't
visible, but what would you call Visible Learning in your own words?
JH: Yeah, when I say it's not visible, it's not easily visible. One of the things that I certainly want to highlight is how we can stop talking as teachers and start listening to how students think about their learning. Let me ask you,
Pam, how do you go about learning?
PA: I stop, I think, I write. I process information. I try to apply it to the knowledge that I already know, and see if it makes sense.
JH: And just listen to that. The first comment I make is you had about six or seven different strategies of learning. Many students have one, and when it doesn't work, they do more of it. And then they say, "I can't learn. I'm not learning.
I'm not achieving at school." And, so, to understand what students do when they don't know what to do, do they have multiple strategies? And by multiple, I mean two or three. You've got about six, which is quite a large array of strategies. Quite
often, when I ask adults and particularly teachers that question, they say, "Well, I read it," or "I visualize it." And in many senses, of course, they do that. But if that doesn't work, they do what you do. They do other ways of thinking about it.
So, how can we get teachers to hear how students are thinking? How they're processing? What they do when they get into problems? What do they do when they struggle? Do they see the point to give up or do they see the point to try an alternative strategy?
Now, we went through transcripts from 14,000 hours of teachers' lessons, and we couldn't find a single instance where a teacher heard a strategy or taught an alternative strategy. That's the major point behind Visible Learning. Listen to
how the students are thinking, help them to articulate it. Even we as adults, perhaps not you, given what you commented then. Sometimes, we struggle to have a language about how we think. But isn't that the essence of what kids are doing every day
in the classroom? That's what Visible Learning's about.
PA: The whole idea that if you're teaching, it doesn't necessarily mean the students are learning, right? That whole processing piece is there. Since you already released a book, Visible Learning for Teachers, what made you decide
to then develop a book specific to literacy? Why did you think that was needed?
JH: Well, all education's local. Everyone argues that their class, their school is different. And whilst the evidence indicates that's not really true in terms of what makes the major difference, it's the reality in how people think.
The question I get and emails I get probably more than anything else is, "I've got a primary school, elementary school, does it work here?" "Is the research including university students? Surely it doesn't work the same for them, same for others."
What works here in Melbourne, Australia, is not the same as what works in Dallas, TX. What works for special needs kids doesn't work. What works in literacy doesn't work in social studies. And, so, part of what we've been doing, and now we have about
20-something of these books, and social studies is just about to be released, is to try and put the message in the language which the teachers use every day. And, many times, more times than not, the similarity is incredibly greater than the differences.
But all of us speak in our own jargon, all of us speak in our own language. So, when we decided the literacy book, the literacy people would say, "Well, it doesn't apply to us because we're literacy teachers." Well, we can argue black and blue at dusk,
but until we start writing the books in their language and acknowledging that we do have a professional language within our profession, then I think we're missing the point. So, the Visible Learning for Literacy uses lots of literacy examples.
As you probably can see, it's tried to take the way in which, and we spent a lot of time talking with literacy and English teachers, teachers of English to try and understand the language they use. I have the luxury now, in terms of when I write books,
we're able to trial them in schools with teachers, and at all times we're trying to listen. Do they understand what we're trying to say? And if they don't, we've got it wrong. So, we went back and re-wrote it.
PA: So, you are literally making connections to teachers.
PA: So that they can see how the information that you've gathered actually does connect, no matter what area, whether it's literacy or social studies, and I'm so excited to hear you mention that. Let's go back to the book, Visible Learning for Literacy.
You specify the importance of teachers taking responsibility. Why is this aspect of teaching responsibility so important, and to what degree is it impactful to student learning?
JH: Well, when the book came out 10 years ago, one of the mistakes in my writing of that was that people saw the lead table of the list of influences and said, "Yes, I'm doing the stuff at the top, I'm not doing the stuff at the bottom,"
and that was never my message. And, so, what I started to do is to change the top story, the big story around the concept of knowing thy impact, which is getting to what we're talking about here. And I want teachers, yes, I do want them to choose
high-probability interventions. But what really matters is the impact they're having on their class, and taking responsibility for the learning and, particularly, the lack of learning.
Teachers, believe it or not, are human. And as humans, we have an incredible number of biases, and probably the one I'm most guilty of is confirmation bias. I look for evidence that what I'm doing is correct, particularly as a father and as a husband,
and around my daily life. But if we're going to advance things, we almost have to ask the opposite question. What evidence will I accept that I haven't done a good enough job? About what? About which students? And am I getting the degree of growth
that I need? And when you start looking at classrooms that way, then, the only person in the classroom that's paid to be there is the teacher. So, I would expect the teacher to change what they do to reach more students, to have a greater impact on
the content and the understandings they want to do, to increase the magnitude of the effect they're having.
And, so, this whole notion of taking responsibility of the learning and lack of learning, particularly the lack of learning, and seeing that as the major piece. I want a teacher to walk into a classroom and say, "My job here today is to evaluate my impact."
That's when the students have the most benefit.
PA: It's a reasonable expectation, I would say, and it lends itself to that self-reflection and a focus on, "Hey, what did this research says works?”
JH: What I would like is kind of like Alice in Wonderland notion of reflection. How do you go through the looking glass, and see yourself from the other side? That's why it's so imperative that you talk with the students, you look at
the artifacts of their work, you look at their assignments, about what they do know and what they did not know from your teaching. We have a tendency as humans so often to say the kids didn't learn because the kids weren't paying attention, they didn't
put in enough effort. I want that turned on its head. What did we do as teachers? And do we just do it again, or did we just move on? Did we leave kids behind? Did we give the kids that were having the most difficulty the easy stuff, and say, "That's
good enough for them." No, I want that reflection to be seen through the eyes of others.
And this is why listening to the students, seeing it through their work, and seeing your impact through their work. So, reflection's a bother to me unless it's reflection through the eyes of others.
PA: You know, you've got a quote from your book. You said that every student deserves a great teacher, not by chance, but by design. And you mention that maintaining things such as a clean classroom, and communicating expectations, so
kids know what it is they're supposed to do and understand what direction they're supposed to go. Why are these factors so important?
JH: Well, there's two halves here, Pam. The first half is that there are a lot of pre-conditions to effective learning. When you ask students, right across the age range, "What's the most important thing about this classroom?" The concept
of fairness gets out to be No. 1. They want a fair classroom. They don't talk about whether it be quiet or noisy. Fair. And, quite often, fair classrooms can be buzzy, noisy places, they can be quiet places. So, there are a lot of pre-conditions that
are necessary to having great teachers. The second part of it, though, is that learning is a struggle. Learning's hard work. And we have to, as teachers, communicate that message. There's nothing wrong with struggling in learning. There's nothing
wrong with not knowing. You don't come to school to learn that which you already know. So, how can you make sure that not knowing is an opportunity rather than a demerit? And that then brings this notion of communicating expectations to students about
what they're learning.
Now, we've just completed a pretty major study here in Australia asking teachers about their concept of engagement. So, what does it mean when students are engaged and learning? And, sadly, the dominant notion of engagement is “doing.” The
students are doing the work, the students are putting in effort. And, sadly, in a lot of doing, there's not a lot of learning. And around the ages of 9, 10, 11, 12, a lot of students say, "I don't want to do this anymore." And, so, they start to turn
off. And, as Lee Jenkins has shown, by the end of primary school, the start of high school, four or five kids at most in each class want to be there deliberately to learn the stuff that we teach them. That's pretty horrific statistics.
And, so, how do we move away from engagement expectations as a function of completing the work, making sure it was neat, long, and handed in on time, to, there is a struggle of learning? And, when you ask students, as we've done, and I'm sure you've done
many times, what engages them most in learning is that a-ha moment of discovery. It's that sense of making connections. It's not knowing something and then knowing something. And that's a totally different notion from many people who see good classrooms
as kids getting high scores. And some kids, unfortunately, and some parents think that.
Learning is difficult, learning is a mess. Learning is a staccato. And this is why this notion of communicating expectations, providing the honest feedback, focusing on the learning more than the doing is so, so important.
PA: We're looking at changing a mindset, right? "I don't have to get it right the first time."
JH: That's right. That's why, when people were misinterpreting the early work, we decided to write the book on the 10 mindframes to make that very point you're making. It's a way of thinking.
PA: You also mention that each student should be able to ask...answer and ask questions, and these are the three questions: No. 1: What am I learning today? No. 2: Why am I learning this? And, No. 3: How will I know that I learned it?
How can a teacher ensure that a student is able to answer those questions during and after every lesson?
JH: We do a lot of work now in schools around the world, and promoting our whole Visible Learning model. And one of the one things that we often do upfront is we ask teachers, what is their understanding of a good learner? What
does learning look like to them? And, of course, we ask the students. When you get a mismatch in the answers, you've got a serious problem. Too often, students, when you're asking them what are they learning today, they talk about what they're doing.
"This is what we're doing." "We have to complete this.” “We have to do that." And as I said before, that's not really what learning is.
If I took you outside now, Pam, and said I'm going to make you do the high jump, and I'm going to put up two poles but I'm not going to put a bar across the middle. I have a hunch, like me, you probably wouldn't do it. And if you did do it, you'd probably
feel a little silly. But, unfortunately, for many kids, that's what school looks like. They don't know when good's good enough. They don't know what the bar is. They don't know what the criteria of success is other than handing it in on time and neatly.
And, so, this notion of what I'm learning today, and what we find time and time again, that the more the students are understanding when's good good enough, they look at a worked example. They see an exemplar, they see a progression rubric, and they
can see how they go relative to that. They are then much more involved in this task of learning than if you just give them something to do and hope like hang that they get it right.
And, then, this notion of “why.” I think we spend far too much time talking about real world examples, authentic examples. A lot of learning is not authentic, a lot of learning is not real world. But there's still a “why” to it.
Learning the times table, there's a “why” to that. And understanding that “why,” a lot of reciprocal teaching work is very much based on understanding the “why” of what we're doing. What's the connections here?
And, then, once again, as adults, we probably wouldn't stay on a task if we didn't have some sense that we're actually having some success. So, this notion of knowing how far or how close you are to success criteria, how you're moving beyond your
personal best, how you know you learnt it. That's a really critical question.
Now, if I had a chance, I'd add a fourth, and I'm sure you could add many others. And my fourth would be: Can you now teach it to someone else? Surely the epitome of learning is being able to teach something to someone else. This is why teachers are so
esteemed in my view, in the world. They can do that. I want kids to become their own teachers.
PA: You know, when I listen to you detail the reasons behind those questions, it came to my mind that, you know, we're teaching students to be self-reflective.
PA: Yes. It's a skill that they need for their lives, wouldn't you think?
JH: Look, particularly, in this Internet world where...Your country's very good at creating false facts, truths out of facts, all this kind of stuff, and it's endemic throughout the whole Internet system. And this is why at the moment
in my work, we're spending a lot of time on how you develop evaluative mindsets. As I said before, I'm not a great fan of the reflection word because it so often turns into, my view about what I think I did. I want, my view about what I think I did
and how it triangulates with others' views, and that latter part hardly happens.
So, we talk about the evaluative mindset. How can you, and this is what I think you're getting at, Pam. How can we evaluate how well we're doing? How can we use the artifacts around us, the evidence around us, other people's viewpoints, to understand
ourselves? To have our own viewpoints? And this is why this whole notion of evaluative mindset is really critical, not only for teachers but particularly for students. We want them to have a sense of how close they are, but the other part of it. When
you do have that a-ha moment, when you do make that connection, that's when there's the joy of learning. And we've got to bring those emotions back into learning. There's got to be a sense of accomplishment, there's got to be a sense, "I didn't know
that before, and now I do now." And I think without those kind of joys in learning, we as adults wouldn't persist in doing what we're doing. No different to kids. They've got to have that emotion as well.
PA: Oh, definitely. There is a wonderful feeling when you've accomplished something, when you've worked hard and you've worked through it, and you've gotten to the other end, the other side of it, and then you've added to your backpack
of knowledge and skills. Something that you can use again and again and again, so that definitely resonates with me. And the idea of the evaluative mindset as well. Now, I'm clear on what you mean with that, John, most definitely, and I think it connects
with another phrase that you use, and this one resonated with me very strongly. The fact that errors are the hallmark of learning. That joy you get when you make a mistake, and you feel a little bit disappointed. But, oh, I made a mistake. I can evaluate
what that mistake is and move forward. How are errors an opportunity for celebration? For that joy that you mentioned?
JH: No matter how much we try, Pam, talking about errors, it gets misunderstood more often than not. Sometimes, many of us, not just me, but others have tried to come up with other phrases like “desirable difficulties,” you
know, "The brain is a great predictor of error," to get around it. Because what happens is teachers think that when kids make errors, particularly in front of other kids, it affects their self-esteem. And, yes, it can. But that shouldn't be a reason
why we don't see errors as opportunities. Like if you're not making errors, the work's too easy. If you're making too many errors, the work's too hard.
So, errors can also be an indicator. And it's like all things. When you don't know something, how do you approach the fact you don't know? This is why, for example, less than 2 percent, 2 percent of child prodigies, become gifted adults. The majority
of gifted kids at schools don't become gifted adults. They are terrified of errors. Particularly, their parents. And, so, that is a really destructive thing that we do to many of those students, and quite frankly, we're not as good with kids above
average as we are with kids below average, for this very reason.
We see errors as mistakes, as wrong, as nasty, as needing kind of, "Go ahead and do it again," and kind of all the negative emotions to it. It's kind of like, when we ask kids in school, as I'd encourage your listeners to do, "What do you do when you
make a mistake?" The majority of kids say, "I put my hand up, ask the teacher." Well, go and observe them. No, they don't. The only kids that put their hands up are the kids who know the answer, and a few who think they know the answer.
The majority of kids who don't know have learned by age 8, socialized into silence. And I think that is a travesty in terms of where we're going, because anything that you can teach...You take a literary novel, and you're going to teach that. I would
never expect on day No. 1 for kids to know the answers. If they did, why am I teaching it? And, so, how can I see those misunderstandings, those errors, those struggles, as opportunities rather than mistakes? No kid, as I said before, comes to school
to learn what they already know. It's what they don't know. And that's why we talk about all the time, "What do you do when you don't know? What do you do when you don't know what to do?" And I would hope that you said, "I would seek help." And that's
sometimes the hardest thing for kids to do in a classroom. Some kids don't know how to do it by themselves. Giving them control over learning doesn't. In fact, it's the only influence that has an effect size of zero.
If I don't know what to do, I need to know how to go and get help. I can get help from the Internet. I can get help from a teacher. I can get help from a peer. I can express what I don't know, and that's what I want to see happen more in the classroom.
We're spending a lot of our time at the moment looking at transcripts of classrooms, and it's sometimes pretty scary. Teachers talk between 80 percent and 90 percent of the time. How can you hear what you don't know, while you're supposed to be listening?
How do we change that dynamic around? And that's why this notion of errors are the hallmarks of learning, they're the opportunities, is so powerful.
PA: All right, definitely powerful. Seeing errors as opportunities, as a shift to changing the idea of errors with a positive connotation, right? That's what we're looking to do.
JH: There's another conspiracy here, Pam, in that when we ask students about teachers talking, kids above average want the teachers to talk more, because they know how to play the game. It's the kids below average that want the teacher
to talk less and listen to them, because they want to learn how to play the game, but they're denied that opportunity. So many teachers, when they self-reflect, say, "Oh, all the bright kids asked the right questions. They wanted to hear me talk more."
Well, that actually is a sign that it's not working.
PA: Right, avoidance. Oh, and they learn the game. You're so right. You mentioned feedback.
PA: I'd like to know, what is the difference between good and bad feedback, and how do teachers make sure that they're providing good feedback to their students?
JH: Right from the very beginning of my work in Visible Learning, feedback became a very strong common denominator of the things that really made a difference. And I had a lot of pressure on me to write a book on feedback, which
I resisted because there's a serious problem here. About a third of feedback is negative, is bad. The same feedback I give to you works. I give the same feedback to another student, it doesn't work. I give you feedback today, it works. I give you
the same feedback tomorrow, it doesn't work. Understanding that variability is the key to feedback. Understanding that distinction between good and bad feedback is key. And, so, there are two things that really do matter here.
When I ask teachers what do they mean by feedback, more often than not they say it's about giving corrections. It's about giving more content. It's about working out what the kids know and don't know. It's about whether it can be informative, descriptive,
prescriptive, and on and on. And there's nothing wrong with that. But when you ask students what do they mean by feedback, they have one answer. "Tell me what to do next." If feedback doesn't include information about where to go next, students will
argue black and blue, despite two pages of your comments that you spent all Sunday writing, they didn't receive any feedback.
Most students will look at the mark because that's the only information they have about where to go next or where not to go next. Now, there's nothing wrong with comments, clarifications, and all that kind of feedback. But if there is nowhere to next,
as well, in fact, that actually strengthens the where to next. And, so, that notion of where to next, it's like at the end of this call, Pam, and your editor said, "Well, you did this right. You did this wrong. You did this right…blah blah
blah.” But they don't say, "And here's a way you could have done, and asked a question differently," or whatever. You're not going to learn anything other than it was good or bad. That where to next is so critical, and kids want it, so let's
give it to them.
The second part of feedback is where you are in the instructional cycle. As you're first learning something, you're learning a lot of content, you're learning a lot of facts. You're trying to put the content and the information in front of them. If you're
trying to teach a novel, what's the ideas? Tell me about the characters. Then, there comes a point where you want to relate those ideas and you want to say, "Well, when this character did this, what was the effect?" etc., that relationship stuff.
And, then, finally, you want the students to take some ownership of their own learning. If you keep giving feedback at the task level, the students stay at that level. So, the kids that are working at the higher levels will argue, "I've got no feedback,"
and vice versa. If you give them all this feedback about relationship stuff when the kid's just trying to work out who the characters are, the feedback's not received.
So, this is why in our work we spend a lot more time on not asking about the nature of feedback that's given, but we ask about the nature of feedback that's received. Teachers actually give an incredible amount of feedback a day. On average, each kid
receives about three seconds. They don't understand it, it's not relevant to where they are in their learning, it doesn't help the where to go next. So, what I'd like your listeners to do when they spend next Sunday and mark all the kids' work, give
it back, wait a day so it's not just short-term memory, and then ask the students, "Write in three bullet points what you understood by that feedback I gave you yesterday." It's pretty sobering. It really shows you that a lot of feedback's not received,
and in many ways, this is bad feedback. This is teachers doing all the work, and the students' not getting any of the benefit. And, so, feedback's a really tricky notion. We really have to understand that variability. And can you imagine, Pam, given
feedback has a very powerful effect, if we could reduce that third that's negative, whoa? It's dramatically dynamic.
PA: You know, you stressed the importance of a teacher changing their teaching method based on student performance. What should the teacher's next steps be?
JH: Stop. I think one of the words that we don't use in education enough is the word efficiency. Harry Fisher does this method. We talk all the time about how effective it is, but sometimes we take too long to work out whether it was
effective or not effective. There's a lot of work. Your country, right around the rest of the world. We've been obsessed with this notion of formative evaluation. And, sometimes, we miss the point, and we think formative information is about the assessment,
and about the tests. It's not. It's about us understanding about what we're doing, so that we change it.
I have no difficulty with summative, I have no difficulty with formative. I just want people to see more often that as teachers, we need to be the greatest formative engines of the lot, and we have to use the evidence, which isn’t just the test
scores. It could also be the artifacts of kids' work, it could be talking to the kids, to triangulate that. To continually ask the question about, "Am I having an impact? About what, with whom? To what magnitude?" That's why teachers should be the
ones that are the best listeners in the classroom to get that evidence, to know when it's time to stop using the method that they're doing, and start keeping going on.
The other thing I mentioned before, one of the sources of evidence we don't want to use just by itself is: “Are the kids engaged?” “Are they doing?” Because sometimes you can get very quiet, busy classrooms with no learning. What
are they struggling with? What are they grappling with? Where do they go next? And this is where I want teachers to shut up more and listen more. This is where I want teachers to sometimes have multiple teaching strategies. This is not a bag of tricks,
this is not eclecticism. This is a strategy so that they continually ask the same question: "What is my impact today?"
PA: In your book, Visible Learning for Literacy, you list out 10 mindframes for teachers, and I'm just going to read them for those of us who may not be familiar with them, so bear with me here:
Can you explain how these 10 mindframes apply to curriculum planning?
JH: It was that move from looking at the research as tips and tricks to choose between...But that worried me. To me, then moving to this notion of looking at how teachers think. When we say how teachers think, that's almost a glib statement.
We wanted to get beneath that. And this is why we spent quite some time working with teachers, particularly those that had incredibly high impacts, about how they were thinking. And these 10 mindframes are trying to capture that thinking of our most
successful teachers. And, yes, I do want them, teachers, to look at how they think, particularly when it relates to planning. This is why looking at, I set challenges, is the task going to be appropriately challenging for the students? Or is it going
to be students are going to be doing more of what they could do yesterday? And that Goldilocks principle of challenge, not too hard, not too boring, is really critical when we devise curriculum.
Now, the difficulty, of course, is we have 20 to 30 kids in the class, there are 20 to 30 different ways in which kids can be challenged. But if we're not challenging the students in our curriculum, I can guarantee you they will challenge you, and probably
not about the things you want to be challenged about. Telling them about what the nature of learning is required, and making sure they've got the tools and teaching relating to that notion of the different strategies of learning, as we've talked about.
How do you create the lesson so that there is more dialogue? Now, that's a tricky one because we've got to get that balance right. It's not dialogue vs. monologue. It's the right time for monologue. It’s the right time for dialogue. Surely,
89 percent of time, from our 18,000 transcripts of teacher lessons, 89 percent is the average amount of time teachers talk. Surely, that's too much. How do we reduce it at the right time? How do we get students to talk to each other at the right time,
about the right things? How do we actually get students to appreciate and realize in the curriculum and, in our planning, it's OK to go into the learning pit and not know? When's it the right time to come out? And that needs to be planned for, in
terms of what we're doing as a curriculum agent.
And, so, these mindframes really do underlie the whole notion about how we plan. When we looked at National Board teachers in the U.S., and the work we did on that, many of those teachers didn't have written curriculum plans. But they had very clear planning
about when they stopped something, when they listened, when they looked at how kids were thinking, what they were doing. They had really incredible challenges in the class. In fact, the most stunning difference between National Board teachers, which
I would call experts, and those who were as experienced but not experts, was 75 percent of the work in the National Board teachers' classrooms was about deep learning, and 25 percent surface, and the exact opposite in the experienced but not expert.
They got the balance right of the content that you need in terms of the literacy we're learning, the knowledge we're learning, and then moving on to using it. And they knew when to be surface, when to be deep, and that requires incredible planning.
We're doing a lot of work at the moment in our own research, looking at how we use, and it's terribly jargon-y here, Pam, cognitive task analysis. How are we going to actually structure tasks so that we have a better understanding of the kinds of
thinking that we want kids to have as they engage with texts, as they engage with notions of literacy, etc. etc. And it's not easy, and I won't confess we're there, but this is what we want to spend a lot more time on, and I'm really excited that
if we can start grading our lesson plans in terms of the rigor and complexity of thinking, I think we can make major advances to turn kids on to the challenge of literacy.
PA: I want to shift a little bit to, what advice would you give to school and district leaders to help ensure that they are also prepared to understand the complexity, right? The diversity. All that work that goes into teaching that most
people think is simple. You just go in and teach, right?
JH: The whole Visible Learning model has been criticized as, "All you're doing is telling teachers that they should do different stuff, etc." “And you're not investing in improving the nature of what teaching is." It's
the exact opposite. And this is where school leaders and district leaders are so important. To do the kind of work that we're talking about takes time. It takes resources. Like getting teachers to work together under this notion of collaborative efficacy.
I don't want them to do it at four o'clock in the afternoon. I want them to do it as part of their day job. That's expensive. And, so, we know this, and I think it's really important that school and district people realized that teachers do need to
critique each other's work in positive ways. They do need to start and understand how they go about thinking and the evaluative thinking in their classrooms, doing it together. This is where it really becomes really critical for school and district
leaders to see this, to resource it, and to make sure that the focus is right.
Your country has been going through a whole wave of professional learning communities. It's a wonderful idea that unfortunately is going to fail, because too many people are seeing it as, "Let's get some teachers together and talk," or share a resource,
or best practice, or watch an app, or worse, watch another teacher teaching. I don't want any of that. I want the interaction amongst those teachers about, what does it mean to have a year's growth or a year's input? What does it mean to have an impact
in this particular classroom? And this is where school and district leaders are so critical.
I just find it amazing that if you look over the last 50 years, like, when I went to school 50 years ago, teachers had no responsibility for my social and emotional wellbeing. Now, it's critical. As our teachers have taken on so many tasks, and they've
taken it on with 20 to 30 kids, incredible responsibilities. In some parts of your country, there is very little professional learning that's part of the day job, and I think that's really the travesty of this business. It is tough improving, continually
asking, and when we talked about reflection before, I don't want teachers to do it by themselves. I want teachers to come into other teachers' classrooms and watch the impact on the kids, not watch the teacher teaching. That's a resource issue.
And, so, yes, when we talk at school and district level, they start to realize that, yes, it's an expensive intervention to want to make a difference. But we also spent 10 years building up evaluative data showing that the investment is incredibly well
worth it, and that right at the moment, Pam, about yesterday, I'd finished the next book on teaching as a profession, the whole notion of evaluative thinking, and how we need to do it collectively. That is kind of a dramatic difference in terms of
how we fund our schools at the moment. So, no, school and district leaders are pretty critical to make sure that we do get teachers working together about their impact. We have professional coaches that help them understand that. And I want to do
it collectively, I don't want to do it one teacher at a time. So, the school level is pretty important.
PA: And I think about what district leaders want to do, how they want to support, and quite often they want the results in a hurry, and it's because there is pressure on them. And it is expensive, I agree with you, and time consuming,
but definitely worth it. Thank you so much for just adding your input on that, that evaluative thinking and processing is definitely what we need in our schools.
Narrator: You’ve just heard Part 1 of a two-part podcast featuring learning and teaching expert John Hattie. Download the second part of the interview at VoyagerSopris.com/podcast, or on iTunes. Thank you for listening.
*John Hattie is not affiliated with Voyager Sopris Learning, nor does he endorse or make any representations or warranties regarding products associated with Voyager Sopris Learning.
Narrator: Welcome to Part 2 of our interview with John Hattie. Part 1 addressed what Visible Learning is and its value to educators. In Part 2, John Hattie discusses how to apply and transfer knowledge of what meta-analysis shows to be the best strategies for teacher effectiveness and positive student outcomes. Here are Pam Austin and John Hattie.
Pam Austin: I do want to go more deeply into a few chapters that you devoted to surface, deep, and transfer learning. Can you tell us the difference between each one of those? You mentioned those terms, but when I think about teaching and learning, why are they so essential? That surface, deep, and transfer learning, for learning? You know, for our listeners that may not be familiar with these terms, we want them to be very familiar with them.
John Hattie: Yeah, look, a lot of Visible Learning books in the content area is structured around this notion of surface, deep, and transfer. And, again, it comes from the, so often the bipolarity of saying we don't want kids to know facts. "We've got Mrs. Google and we've got Siri, we've got Alexa. Why do kids need to know facts?” I want them to know the deep understanding. Why can't we do problem-based learning and inquiry-based learning and discovery learning? Well, the reason we shouldn't use them is that they're notorious failures, because they're based on a polarity that deep is good, surface is not good. And, by surface, what we mean is the contents, the facts, the knowledge. By deep, we're talking about how you relate those contents back. How you form higher-order pictures, how you do that self-regulation, that kind of processing.
By transfer, can you then apply it to a new situation? And our argument is the proportions are critical. When you're first attacking a problem in literacy, let's say, there is a certain amount of content and facts you need to know. And then there comes a point where you need to go beyond that, to the deep learning. Problem-based learning has been a failure primarily because it's introduced too early. I know this is not school, but it's a good analogy to look at medicine, where problem-based learning is used a lot, in first-year medicine. We don't need to do another study to know it has a zero to negative impact on learning. But, when it's used in fourth year, it has an incredibly high impact.
So, when problem-based learning is learned when you can be assured that the students have the sufficient content to do the problem-based, it's successful. And this is why we look at the right proportion at the right time, of knowing the right stuff, to then tasks about how you relate it, and then how you transfer. And a very simple, simple thing to do, Pam, is construct your assignments around what you ask kids to do, because that's what they see as valuable. Construct them around that. And I've done that for 30 years in my own teaching at university. This is the content I want you to know. And I tell them, "This is the surface question," "This is the deep," I say, "I want you to relate it," and "Here's a transfer." And I don't do all three all times, but make it very clear to the student I value all three parts. This is the really key message we're trying to get across here with surface, deep, and transfer. All three are valuable, all three are done at the right time.
All these people who argue you don't need to teach content anymore because of Mrs. Google, not true. They do need to know. Now, you and I, Pam, as adults, particularly as we're teachers, we often don't make the distinction between the content, the relationship, the transfer. They're mixed up for us because we're actually pretty good learners. But if I ask you, for instance, to play Canasta or to play golf or something you've never done in your life before, I need to be very good as a teacher to know what the right content I need to teach you to start with, particularly to motivate you to want to keep learning. And then the deep. I don't know if you've ever played golf but it's a good example because in golf, every single golfer in the world has got 53 reasons how you can improve your swing, and they often tell you all 53 of them. And you don't know which are the most important ones because you don't have the deep knowledge to work it out, and that evaluative skill again, that works it out.
It's the same with kids, whether they're 5 year olds, 10 year olds or 15 year olds. How do we get there? And that's why we use a lot in our curriculum planning, particularly in our assessment planning, and also in terms of the strategies we use. And how do you triangulate those to say to kids, "This is what's valuable to know, this is what's valuable to relate, and this is what's valuable to transfer?"
PA: I do want to shift to a particular type of instruction. I want to focus on phonics, and why phonics is important. When we think about phonics as surface learning, would you agree with that? Why is phonics such an important step in surface learning?
JH: Reading requires skills, and if you don't have those skills, you struggle to read. One of the skills is phonics. Now, I take the line of phonics and related skills. I think we overemphasize phonics. There's phonemic awareness, there's lots of other parts of the skills of learning as well. And I remember many years ago when I moved to Auckland, in New Zealand, my predecessor in the position I took was Marie Clay, who invented Reading Recovery, and what a wonderful, wonderful human being she was. And I used to meet with her for lunch once a month, and I remember saying to her one day, "Marie, you don't have phonics mentioned within the whole Reading Recovery." And she said, "No, I call it listening." I think that was a really incredible insight for me.
We overemphasize phonics and we have these teachers who don't like it and won't do it, and it's false, and it's decoding, and all these things. It's hard to teach and the teachers require knowledge to teach it. But kids have to be able to listen to sound, and phonics is one of the skills, and listening to letters, listening to sounds. And, so, I struggle. I learned years ago, Pam, never to become an expert on reading because, oh my gosh, the reading teachers fight so viciously about this, and I think they miss the point.
If you can read, then whole language and balanced reading is very successful. If you can't read, then you need the skills of reading. One of those skills is phonics, the key skill is being able to listen. That's why one of the best predictors of kids learning to read is, can they rhyme? That's why in preschool we spend a lot of time...I've got my grandchildren living with me at the moment, a 1 and a 4 year old. They're into rhyme all the time. They like songs, they love repetition, they like the sounds. And that's what the key skills, and that's why phonics is so important. It is a surface-level skill, it is necessary for kids who cannot read to learn those skills. But I'd rather your listeners think of it in terms of, what are the skills of listening? I think then we can break down this war of, do you use this rather than that, at the right time? If kids can read, they probably don't need to be taught phonics. But if they can't read, then phonics is a very successful, one of the successful strategies and skills to learn to read.
PA: Right, to get to that surface knowledge so that we can move in deeper. If students can't pull the words from the page independently, they're never going to get to that deep knowledge. And, when we think of phonics, we can say foundational phonics skills, advanced phonics skills, but the goal is to get that surface learning done. So, thank you for sharing.
I want to go back and reflect. In your book Visible Learning for Literacy, it also discusses how transfer learning occurs after deep learning. But, also happens during both surface and deep learning stages. Can you explain how transfer learning can occur in both stages of learning?
JH: One of the difficulties when you ever come up with a model is it looks linear. You write it on a page, it goes from left to right, and it implies there's a sequence. And I wished it was that simple. It's not a bad way to start. But most learning is pretty messy. And, yes, we use surface to deep to transfer as our notion. Sometimes, teachers might want to start at the deeper level, or transfer what they knew previously to new situations, to then move back to the surface. I wished it was as clean as we portray it. And this notion here is that...Phonics is a good example. You may have some skills in phonics, and this is a very common thing they do in phonics. Can you then decode ridiculous words? Words that don't exist? Because there's a skill in doing that. So, you're transferring it, then, to other kinds of tasks. So, yes, you can do transfer of surface-level knowledge, as well as deep. It's not a single package. And, certainly, we want to trial kids at various times to see whether skills they think they have developed or we think we have taught well can be applied to new situations. And that's why transfer can apply at each of the phases.
PA: And, hence, teaching is not an easy skill. We don't just go in and just teach. As you said, learning is messy. I agree with you John, on that one. It takes a lot of skill to go back and forth and understand where students are and to readjust that teaching and learning.
JH: Just on that, Pam. So, Pam, why is it then, my frustration? I spend quite a bit of time here in Australia in the political space because I have a political job here as well, and my frustration is that so many educators, so many teachers deny that expertise. I've kept going. I'm stunned by the expertise out of our profession, which we assume is common sense. I challenge any person who's not a teacher to come into a class of 25 to 30 5 year olds or 15 year olds and teach them for even half an hour, let alone an hour. We have massive skills. And all my work is trying to understand why that expertise is...And I just hope that your listeners will say, "Yeah, we're actually pretty good at what we do."
PA: Yes, yes. Definitely. And giving them the affirmation for the skill that they have to apply, and helping them refine that skill. I think that's what’s most important as well, so I agree with you with that, John. You gave us a summary of phonics and how we understand it as a surface skill. When I think about applying the science of reading and reading instruction, that's given a lot of attention nationwide right here in the States, as it should. It also seems that schools and districts are adding phonics to their instruction but are also continuing to hold on to instructional practices such as the three-cueing approach or visual memory for teaching, word recognition, even though cognitive science refutes its use in foundational reading. Again, I'm talking about that surface level. What will it take to convince schools and districts to move on from these instructional practices?
JH: What we do in our Visible Learning work in schools is we spend the majority of the time with schools teaching them how to evaluate their own impact. You go to a school and they say, "Oh, yeah, I've read those books, but that's not us. Doesn't apply here." And they're kind of right. So, we spend a lot of time getting them to evaluate what they're doing. And one of the things when I work with schools is to say, "OK, you're into three cueing. You're into visual memory, all this kind of stuff. Let's look at the impact of that." And you'll find pretty quickly, as virtually everyone else has, is they just don't make much difference.
So, this is why I want teachers to know their impact. This is why I want school leaders to help and resource understanding what the impact is. Because no one is going to get rid of their favorite method if we don't look at the impact on kids. And this is where I want to turn the conversation away from "Can we teach well?" to "What is the impact of our teaching?" I actually don't care less how teachers teach. I think we have spent far too much time on that, and it's misled us in the wrong direction. I don't care how you teach. I care about the impact of your teaching. And that means I'm going to have to help you look at and how you understand impact. What you mean by that year's growth. How many kids you're having that impact. And I'm going to have to spend time doing that. And then you'll soon find that some of the methods that I've been using, maybe in five, 10 years, some of these strategies that everyone else has found doesn't work doesn't work with you too.
On the other hand, Pam, maybe it does. I don't want to change it if that’s the case. The probability is that it doesn't work, and until we start mobilizing and utilizing evidence within school, and let's get real, evidence is a very contested term. It's not just the research in Visible Learning. It's the evidence that teachers have, moment by moment, that they use to make decisions. That is what I want to inform anything else. That is what really matters, and that's when you'll start to see that some of those practices that we've been using and is endemic through the textbooks, they have not made a difference, but they are seductive, they look nice. They have to go. And, so, I don't think having another war about phonics or whole language is going to make a difference. I think the war has got to be how we can, at each classroom and each school, look at the evidence of the impact that you're having in that very moment when it matters. And then you'll soon start to see that some of those methods disappear, hopefully, very quickly.
PA: With that in mind, I want to focus on the book Visible Learning for Literacy. In the later chapters, you really focus on determining impact, what we were just discussing just now. And you even have a formula that teachers can use to help evaluate student outcomes. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
JH: Yes, there is a formula. Effect sizes have been around a number of years. But the key statement you made there, Pam, was "use to help." It is but one method. I want triangulation. I want evidence from the test scores, from the assignments. I want evidence from the artifacts of the students' work. I want evidence from the student voice about whether they think they're progressing. I want to know what the teacher thinks about that, and I want to triangulate that, and through triangulating it, the teacher then learns, "Hey, maybe this is not right. I'm not having this impact that I thought I was having on these kids. When I look at their work, when I look at the effect size, it's not as high as it should be. I need to go back and revisit." Because the major message here is, I want to affect the interpretations that teachers are making. I want to affect their judgements.
The trouble with most tests and assignments and formula is they stop with the test, the assignment and the formula, and they're not interpreted. And, so, yes, we do spend a lot of time looking at effect sizes, and there's lots of good and bad things about effect sizes, and we can get into that in great detail, but that's not the point. The point is it is part of the arsenal. It is part of the toolkit. And, yes, the schools we work with, we do calculate effect sizes. It is one source of evidence. But what we're more interested in is, how do teachers change how they're thinking, keep doing what they should be doing in light of that evidence?
So, yes, we are great advocates of using those kinds of methods, using that formula, but what we want most of all to understand is, what do you mean, Pam, the teacher, by the notion of impact in your class, about this particular piece of curriculum you're teaching? How would you know that the students are retaining the standards you want? Not focus straight up front on the tools to do it. What's the assessment look like? What's the effect size? But what's your interpretation of them, and what would convince you otherwise? What would convince you that maybe you need to raise the ante and give more challenging work? Maybe the work's too hard and the majority of kids are not getting there. And, so, that's why all these formulas can be very good assistants to that interpretation.
PA: Triangulation, I love that idea, of looking at the evidence but looking at so much more. Which easily leads us into assessment. You know, what are some factors that you look for in a screener, in an assessment system, when we think about the evidence that we're finding for our students as they move forward in their learning?
JH: Well, no surprise, I'm a fan of the assessment if for no other reason my whole career was in psychometrics until Visible Learning came along. My fundamental argument is it's about the interpretations we make, not about the tester. Of course, I want great tests, but so often we stop there. It's about the interpretation. And one of the other things. Graham Nutthall did a lot of research. One of the things he found was that about 50 percent of everything taught to every class, the kids know already. I think that's taking scaffolding too far. And the argument that we're certainly trying to make is that using assessment for diagnosis about what the students know and don't know upfront, that screening notion.
Now, for many teachers it's a frustration because they find out that the kids already know what they're going to teach. Well, what do you do then? And if you're fast, you can change how you're going to teach, you can up the standard. If you prepared a beautiful lesson, you've got all the equipment and resources there, sometimes you keep teaching it. And this is why, when I mentioned earlier on in our discussions, Pam, moving away from measuring success by doing. Are they engaged? I want to measure success by, is it messy? Are they able to teach other students about these concepts?
And this is part of the assessment regime. But, certainly, this screening and progress monitoring, every now and then, dipping in and checking whether your assumptions about what the kids know and don't know. I'm brilliant at this, Pam. I go and I teach my classes at university, I ask the students questions, they give me the right answer. I give them a task to do, they really do it, they love it, they enjoy it. And, then, the next week, when I get them in and say, "Ask each other questions and give each other answers about what we were doing last week," it's barren. They know how to play the game. They know how to appease me. They know that they hope there's someone in the class that can answer these questions, and I stupidly assume that because one person answered the question brilliantly, all the students understood. This is why there's progress monitoring. This is why having a bag of kids' names and randomly pulling out a name and checking every now and then in the progress monitoring, and telling you about how well it's going.
The problem in too many classrooms is not that the work's too hard. The problem's it's too easy. And what a way to turn off kids off learning, by doing easy stuff. And that's why that diagnostic, that screening, that progress monitoring is so critical.
PA: Right. So, we're looking at not just administering the assessment, analyzing, and then changing your instruction, right?
JH: When you give an assessment, at the end of that assessment I want you as the teacher to say, "What did I learn about what I taught well?” “What I didn't teach well?” “And who I taught it well, who didn't teach it well with?" And if you can't answer that, you've just wasted the kids' time. Assessment is interpretive feedback for teachers much more than it's interpretative feedback to kids. And if you don't believe me, next time you do an assessment, before the kids do it, ask them right up the top what they think their grade's going to be. By age 8, they're pretty accurate. Your job's to mess that up.
PA: What are examples of the best ways a school coach or literacy leader can support teachers in this work? What supports have you seen teachers need in implementing these practices? I think you've given lots of examples, but if you could be more specific and targeted, if I'm speaking of a school coach or a literacy leader.
JH: OK, Pam. I'm going to ask you, I'm your school coach or your school leader now. I'm going to ask you as a teacher of literacy, I want you to bring along two pieces of a child, student's work. Say, three months apart. And I'm going to get the other literacy teachers in the school, and we're all going to do this. We're going to sit down and talk about whether we think this is an example of three months' growth. You ready to do that, Pam?
PA: Yes, of course. I will pull some data from my students, maybe my most struggling student, so I can see if there's any impact on the instruction that I've given over the last three months.
JH: No, Pam. You're not going to see. The other staff are going to see. And what's going to happen, Pam, in that discussion, where one of your colleagues says, "Well, I actually can't see any growth. In fact, I think that this piece of work three months later is worse than what this kid was doing three months earlier." How are you going to react?
PA: I would be angry and insulted, and feel very defensive.
JH: This is why literacy coaches and school leaders are so important. They have to build trust. They have to make it safe for you to talk about, and it can happen that a kid is actually worse off three months later. Building that trust and building the climate in the school where it's OK for all of us to help each other to improve is the fundamental role of school leaders and literacy coaches. It's not to give tips and tricks. It's not to improve the goal swing and say, "I did this, why don't you try this?" It's to create a safe environment where I can hear your thinking about what you think growth, success, and standards are in literacy. It is building that confidence and that trust so that we collectively can say, "Hey, we can help each other make a difference and improve that kid."
And, so, you're right. Many teachers, quite rightly, get angry because they feel like they're being disciplined and evaluated and accountability in many of the discussions, which is why in many staffrooms we never have these discussions. But this is why those school leaders are so imperative, and if you go into successful schools, you will find safer environments for teachers to say, "Hey, I've got this kid and it's not working." Or, "Hey, let's look at the success of this kid." One of the things we do in our work, we actually start with the opposite. We start and say, "Bring along two pieces of work," and obviously, in the early days, we talk with the teacher first and we look for really wonderful examples.
Now, here's the hard task of school leaders, literacy coaches. During that discussion, at some point, the teacher has to take credit for that success. It's not what the kid did. It wasn't that the kid put the effort in. It was the fact that you, the teacher, enabled the situation where the kid could put that effort in. We are very, very good, and one of the hardest things we do is to get teachers to take attribution for success. It's very easy to criticize bad teaching. But if this is going to work, school leaders, literacy coaches, we have to acknowledge expertise as well. And, so, my argument, and my answer to you of that question, school administrators, school leaders, school coaches have incredible responsibilities to create those climates where evaluative thinking is normal.
PA: If you had to choose a focus for districts and schools to start on for implementing your work, what are some practices that you have seen, beyond building that relationship, the discussions, and the trust? What practices have you seen that have had the most impact, and what factors contributed to these outcomes?
JH: Well, Pam, what we do in our work is we do really good diagnostic work. Now, we actually don't do it. We get the school to do it, because as the theme of this whole podcast, we want to hear the interpretations. Yes, we triangulate it so that if the school's not doing well or if the school's doing extremely well, they are coming up with the same conclusions. And, then, we look at what specific things they're doing well at, not they're doing well at, and this is this notion of errors. They're opportunities. When you're not doing well at things, they are the ones that we focus on because those are the ones that we need to improve, and we can make big differences.
We do the progress testing. We work with the school in terms of giving them that kind of information that's grounded. But all the time, we create opportunities in those schools where we listen to the interpretations. Sometimes, schools get stuck on the interpretations about what has happened, and we say, "Well, what can we do that will make the difference?" So, we come up with agreements about where we're going to go next, and then we evaluate those. So, this virtuous cycle continues, of, we do it about every 12 or 14 weeks. If you do it more than that you tend to over assess, and you forget the teaching. If you do it more than 12 weeks...Sometimes, learning, it doesn't happen linearly. Learning can happen suddenly, it can be up and down. And, so, 12 weeks, it about captures it.
So, two or three times a year, we get the staff together in various groups. We look at the evaluative evidence. We look at the teachers talking about individual students they've picked out. Bring along two struggling kids, two kids near the bottom, two kids in the middle, kids at the top. How have they gone over the last three months? And how do you have those discussions? And that is what makes the biggest difference. We don't spend time teaching them how to teach. We have got a lot of resources we're building that helps understand what's happening in the classrooms, we can get a transcript relatively easily now of what's happening, and analyzed using artificial intelligence on the spot, that helps teachers then reflect on what actually they're doing. We say to teachers, "How much time in your classroom are you talking?" Most teachers say 40 percent or too much. We show that they're talking 95 percent of the time, that's easily fixed. Most teachers don't know.
So, how do you help them look at those resources and understand what's happening, but at all times getting them involved and having those discussions about how they're having the impact. Coming into other teachers' classrooms. "Help me watch these students today. What are they doing, what's going on?" Don't talk to them because that's disruptive, and I know you can't hear them thinking, but you can actually see a lot when you're watching other students about what's happening, and this is a lot of the work we do. And school administrators, you have to support this. You have to create this opportunity. You have to be there as part of it. And, as Helen Temperley has shown, that one of the most critical things for school administrators is they have to be physically present. Too often they're not there, and they're just etiquette from the back room. How are they part of the story? How are they creating this trusting environment? And we're doing this now, as I say, we work with about 100,000 teachers a year around the world. It's hard work. It's difficult work. It takes, sometimes, quite a lot of time to build that trust.
Our biggest problem, Pam, is actually the opposite end. When the principal changes, we have to start again. It's a really serious problem because many principals, it's much easier to worry about the timetable, to worry about the resources, and not be involved in the nitty gritty of the evaluative thinking, but this is what makes the difference.
I think every teacher in the world came into this profession for one reason. To have an impact on kids. I just want to remind ourselves of that.
PA: Right. Thank you so much for joining us today. I really enjoyed this conversation with you. Learned so much, John.
JH: Thank you, Pam.
PA: Thank you for spending time with us today. This is Pam Austin, from Voyager Sopris Learning, bringing the best thought leaders in education directly to you.
Narrator: This has been an EDVIEW 360 podcast, produced by Voyager Sopris Learning. For additional thought-provoking podcasts and articles, sign up for our blog, webinar, and podcast series at VoyagerSopris.com/podcast, and on iTunes. Thank you for joining us.
*John Hattie is not affiliated with Voyager Sopris Learning. Nor does he endorse or make any representations or warranties regarding products associated with Voyager Sopris Learning.