Professor John Hattie is a researcher in education. His research interests include performance indicators, models of measurement, and evaluation of teaching and learning. He became known to a wider public with his two books Visible Learning (now in a new edition) and Visible Learning for Teachers. Visible Learning: the Sequel is a synthesis of more than 2,100 meta-studies covering more than 400 million students. Visible Learning is the result of decades of research about what works best for learning in schools, Hattie says. TES once called him “possibly the world’s most influential education academic.”
Hattie has been director of the Melbourne Educational Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia, since March 2011. Before, he was chair of the Board of the Australian Institute of Teaching and Learning. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, Canada.
When John Hattie’s original Visible Learning® book was published in 2008, it instantly became a sensation. Recently, this revolutionary educator returned to his groundbreaking work and published a new edition. The research underlying Hattie’s book is now informed by more than 2,100 meta-analyses (more than double that of the original), drawn from more than 130,000 studies, and has involved more than 400 million students from around the world.
If you’ve read the book, you know this is more than just a new edition. This book is a sequel that highlights the major story, taking in the big picture to reflect on the implementation in schools of Visible Learning, how it has been understood—and at times misunderstood—and what future directions research should take.
Join us as we talk with Hattie about the need for education to move beyond claiming what works to what works best by asking crucial questions like: Why is the current grammar of schooling so embedded in so many classrooms, and can we improve it? Why is the learning curve for teachers after the first few years so flat? How can we develop teacher mindframes to focus more on learning and listening? How can we incorporate research evidence as part of the discussions within schools?
During the podcast, we will discuss these topics:
What Hattie means by visible learning
Three ways of making learning visible: student voice, student artifacts, test scores, and how the teacher interprets that information, and decides where to go next with a student’s learning
The importance of play in early learning
The need for intentional alignment of learning and teaching strategies
The evidence base and reactions to Visible Learning
The Visible Learning model
The influence of home, students, teachers, classrooms, schools, learning, and curriculum on achievement
The impact of technology
If you’re in education either as a researcher, teacher, student, school leader, teacher trainer, or policy maker, this episode is for you!
Welcome to EDVIEW360.
As students learn, they get motivated, they get engaged, they get involved. It's the consequence of learning that turns them on to learning, and we have so many stunning teachers around the world, you know, in your city, Louisiana, here in Australia. I'm just stunned, everywhere I go, that I see so much excellence of students feeling like they're invited to come to class to learn. They want to come to class to learn and they really want to turn on to the set, take on the challenges of learning. No kid comes to class to learn that which they already know. It's what they don't know.
You just heard from renowned researcher and educator, John Hattie, author of Visible Learning, the sequel. John Hattie is our guest today on EDVIEW360.
Hello, this is Pam Austin. Welcome back to the EDVIEW360 podcast series. We're so excited to have you with us today. I'm conducting today's podcast for my native New Orleans, LA. Today, we're excited to welcome a trailblazing thought leader, researcher, and author who has dedicated his life's work to improve learning for every child, and one who believes in the power of student voice. His book Visible Learning, took the industry by storm a few years ago and influenced the way teachers all over the world approach their craft, opening many eyes to new ideas based on his research. Now, with the publication of a new edition of his powerful book, we're excited to talk to Dr. John Hattie about the new research, what he's learned since the first edition was published, and what educators can apply to their teaching this fall.
Let me tell you a little bit more about Dr. Hattie. He has been director of the Melbourne Educational Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia, since March 2011. Before, he was chair of the board of the Australian Institute of Teaching and Learning, he holds a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, Canada. As a researcher, his interests include performance indicators, models of measurement, and evaluation of teaching and learning. As I mentioned, he is the author of Visible Learning, now in a new edition, and Visible Learning for Teachers. Visible Learning is a sequel, is a synthesis of more than 2,100 meta-studies covering more than 400 million students. Visible Learning is the result of decades of research about what works best for learning in schools. TES, a British educational newspaper, once called him possibly the world's most influential education academic. Welcome, Dr. Hattie.
Thank you, Pam. It's a real pleasure to talk to you again.
All right, so glad to have you with us. Our talk today revolves around the new edition of your book, Visible Learning. I mentioned it a couple of times. I think it's been truly groundbreaking for so many in the education industry around the world. Can you do me a favor and define Visible Learning for our listeners?
Yeah, it took me quite a few years actually to think of the name. To sum up, the major message I wanted to get across and in many ways it's a strange notion because learning for most of us actually isn't visible and the aim, the aim of the work, is how do we make that learning much more visible? The students want to know what's going on, Pam, when you solve a problem. How do I understand how you went about doing it? They want to know when their teachers are talking and demonstrating. They want to know what's going on and their learning notion. And so that whole focus on students learning, which is an obsession for the students.
It's kind of ironic in many ways for teachers. They're obsessed not inappropriately about teaching, but the students are obsessed about learning and of course, teachers are learners as well. In fact, the whole process of what we do is really a massive big learning organization, and so the reason of calling it Visible Learning ishow do we make that more learning visible? And that means we're going to have to make our understanding of where the students are now much more aware. Like it's a bit scary when up to 50 percent of everything taught in every class the students know already. Clearly, we aren't making that learning visible. We have to be much clearer and transparent to the students about what success looks like, and they have to be taught where they are in that process. The students are a little obsessed about improving. They want to improve, and so we have to help them make wise decisions about those next steps for improving, and so all of it is about making this much more transparent and much more visible. The notion of Visible Learning.
Wow, I just love the way you expressed that. It's all about that student involvement, right? And students are excited about learning success breeds success.
Look totally, and you know it l. Many people argue that our job is to come up with interesting, real-life, authentic experiences for the students to turn them on to learning. And my argument is the opposite. As students learn, they get motivated, they get engaged, they get involved. It's the consequence of learning that turns them on to learning. And we have so many stunning teachers around the world, you know, in your city, Louisiana, here in Australia, I'm just stunned, everywhere I go, that I see so much excellence of students feeling like they're invited to come to class to learn. They want to come to class to learn and they really want to turn on to this and take on the challenges of learning. Like no kid. No kid comes to class to learn that which they already know. It's what they don't know.
Now, sadly, that's not true in every class, and that's the aim of what we want to do here is how do we identify that success that's around it? We've never worked in a school year where we haven't found pockets of success. And, Pam, here's the thing that I find fascinating with my academic background, I think I'm actually pretty good at searching the literature, and when I ask how many studies have ever been written about scaling up success in education. I'm up to seven. What we do is we look for problems and we look for difficulties and we solve them and we're good at that. That's great, but we're not very good at esteeming success.
I think in the school you worked in, Pam, think of those teachers who are incredibly successful and we kind of all know them. We treat them as a little different, but we don't capture their power, we don't hear their thinking, we don't really make a way and, worse, our career structure doesn't reward them. We have the weirdest career structure in the world. If you get better and better and you want more and more salary, we invite you to leave the classroom. Doesn't make sense to me. We've got some stunning teachers who are able to turn students on. Students get turned on by their learning and therefore they become more motivated.
All right, the reciprocal skills that's what I'm hearing reciprocal skills. Now, let's talk about what's changed in this new edition. What do you mean by moving beyond what works to what works best?
Well, as I found in the 2008 book and repeat it again, is that 95 to 98 percent of things that we do to students enhances their achievement. And, so, if you want to argue what works, then the answer is almost everything. In fact, every teacher in the world almost has evidence that what they do works. That's not good enough because, on average, the average influence on the effects size I scale up four and there's half the teachers, half the schools, half the influencers are above that. So, my interest is saying what's the common story between those effects above that average and below that average? And that's a long way above just enhancing kids' achievement. Those teachers who do it do it remarkably well, and so we've got to stop saying what works, because that defends virtually every teacher's practice. But I'm sorry, there are some teachers who have much greater effects than that and those are the ones that we should be focused on as a research study. To say, and what one of the attributes of those really great teachers and great schools compared to those that aren't so? Aren't above the average, but they're still having a positive effect.
I'm sure you know in your country and mine, Pam, that politicians and parents use the school-down-the-road critique teachers. And, the inference is that they're doing a bad job of the holding kids back. Well, holding them back in terms of lowering their achievement, no, holding them back in terms of not as good as teachers down the corridor. Yeah, that is the case, and it's that notion of, given have an incredible number of teachers. My estimate, based on my analysis of data in your country, is probably 60 percent plus teachers at every school. Their students are gaining more than a year's growth for a year's input. That's impressive. We can't even ask anything more of a teacher than that. We have them and we need to recognize them, because that is the future of our profession. And at the moment, post-COVID, in both our countries we're doing real silly things by allowing anyone to come to become a teacher. We're reducing the emphasis on quality just to get someone in front of the class. That is not a good future for our students.
No. Something I caught from the conversation, John, was not just what works, but what works best and recognizing those teachers that are using the best, the best type of influences for the students. So, let's talk about teacher mind frames. How canhelp teachers? Because I'm thinking about the mind frame of a teacher who's really having a huge impact versus a teacher who, she's having the effects, but how can we help guide that teacher? How can we help teachers focus more on learning and listening?
One of the things that I looked at in the early days was the various, for example, teaching methods, and I take the jigsaw method. It has almost the highest effect of any of the teaching methods and teachers will say: "Oh, it's a high effect, I'm going to do it." And then, of course, some teachers did it really well and some teachers it was very low fidelity and they didn't do it very well. So, I switched the focus to knowing my impact. How do you actually know your impact when you choose a high-probability intervention? And then I started looking at teachers who were doing this and realized that it's not what they did that mattered, it's how they thought about what they did. And those thinking, those ways of thinking, those mind frames, are pretty critical. Take one, for example, one of them, and that's related to expectations of what you think your students can do. Teachers who have high expectations, Pam tend to have it for all the students and are incredibly successful, 0.96. Sadly, teachers who have expectations that are very low have them for all the students and are very unsuccessful, 0.06. And so when those teachers use a method like the jigsaw method and they have very low expectations, it's not going to work because they dumbed down everything. They explained away what's happening about the students. The students couldn't do it, it's them. And, so, I'm looking at those mind frames and they fundamentally change the nature of what teachers do in classrooms. And students are very perceptive about whether you think I'm going to succeed or not, and they're very perceptive about whether you're going to support them, whether you treat them differently in the classroom, whether you think they're the dummies or whether you think they're bright, and so those ways of thinking really permeate it right across. And in the new sequel, I spent a lot more time looking at those mind frames and we've developed them for teachers, for principals. My son and I did a book a couple of years ago where we developed them for parents, and we're working very much at the moment on developing them for culture and climate of the school.
And one of the interesting ones that also bemused me, Pam, is teachers are incredibly busy. We know that. Principals are incredibly busy. But how do you get them to stop doing the things that are inefficient so that there's room to do other things? And getting teachers and principals to stop things that are inefficient there's de-implementation, there's decluttering is really, really hard. So, we have mind frames about that too, and our emphasis is on what are these key ways of thinking? Now, one of the steps that perhaps I should leave your listeners with is the core notion here of what these mind frames are, and we're calling it evaluative thinking.
It's the judgments we make moment by moment, sometimes in the staff room, about what we do. It's the willingness to be critiqued about that judgment, which requires a lot of trust. It is the ability to stand in the shoes of others and see their world and make, see how they make judgments. They are all the key essence steps between. That distinguishes those teachers and principals that have incredibly high effect from those who have lesser effect. So, you can see these ways of thinking and this is why, Pam, in your school, where you have these teachers who have high impact on kids, it's how they think. But what do we do? We say: "Oh, no, no, no, best practice, this is what I do." And oh, Pam, you can have it. Those teachers are very generous. It is not serving us at all. We have to be smarter about listening to how we make our decisions, how we make our judgments, and that's the core of the business.
So, being smarter is really recognizing what your impact is. I love the idea of setting those expectations, setting those mind frames, so that we are looking at teachers expecting their students to know and to gain knowledge based on whatever resource they're using or whatever strategy, whatever influence that they have figured out. But this should work. I love the idea of decluttering. I thought about a closet when you got to get rid of the things that don't work and really focus on what can, and always evaluating your thinking. Those are just some little tidbits I pulled from the conversation, John. This is great. Thank you so much for sharing them. Now, you know this new edition that you have. It boasts incredible research and a vast amount of it. How can educators incorporate that research evidence as part of the discussions within school? Does it have anything to do with mind frames, dare I ask?
So, yeah, you're right and you know, one of the blessings I have is working with colleagues who are much, much better than I am. I'm the research nerd, but my colleagues are very good at translating that into implementation, and we've done a lot of work over the last 10 years on asking that question. That's key to this is how do we take it across? And, as you said there, Pam, it's not just picking things up and doing them, it's how you think about them. I take the notion of impact. It's how you make interpretations about the test scores, about the artifacts of students' work, about your noticing and interpretations about the assignments and assessments you give in the classroom and about the student voice about learning, and it's those judgments you make. Believe it or not, Pam, but Visible Learning was not my career.
My career is as a psychometrician. I'm one of those tests and measurement people and one of my arguments of that area is that we get so obsessed about data. Of course, I'm obsessed about data, but that's not the important matter. The important matter is the interpretation of it, and when you, Pam, interpret the results of your students' work, I want that to be critiqued. I want you to hear other interpretations.
I want you to stand in their shoes and ask yourself: "What does the student react to and see when they give these results back, what are they going to do next?" Because, from a student's point of view, as I said before, they're improvement agents. They want to know: "What do I do next?" If there's no way to next, they're little affronted and sometimes quite negatively reacted by what they see as the test score. Now, we can fix that by focusing on improvement, which is the nature of our business, and so one of the interpretations that we make as we do this and we look at all these kinds of data, and so this knowing your impact, which is a pretty core notion to my work, isn't as simple as just getting data. It's those interpretations, but they must be open to critique, they must be open to alternative interpretations, and that's where professional learning really makes a difference.
Thank you. You know, you've defined Visible Learning for us. At the onset. In your book, you mentioned three ways of making learning visible: Student voice, student artifacts, test scores. Tell us more about that and how teachers should use this information.
In our classrooms, we have a myriad of ways of looking at the impact of our teaching and you've mentioned the three big ones and it's how we triangulate that and no one of them is necessarily better than the other. It's the triangulation. When we get a test score, for example, sometimes that surprises us and that is a really good thing. Check it out. Check it out by looking at the other notions. Students actually have very strong views about whether they're progressing or not, and some of our students that's the problem they don't think they're growing. Other students think they're growing tremendously well and they may not be. Check it out, help them and, as we did in our work in New Zealand many years ago, when they were looking about introducing formative assessment into the country and I said to them hold it, it doesn't really work. You know, even my colleague, Dylan Williams, says it hasn't worked very well because people think it's about assessment and tests. It's not. The whole notion of formative assessment is how we use it to improve and so to break through that, what we decided is that we would focus our work on students' assessment capabilities, how we teach the students to make decisions about their tests. Our unions were very furious with us on the early days because they thought we were bypassing the teachers and we said: "No, it's the opposite." If we ask our students, when they get a test score back, how do they go about interpreting it, then we as teachers have to do that as well. So, it really focuses on this really powerful way of saying do your students, when they get a score back, when they get a comment back from you, do they understand it, do they hear it and can they action it? Take, for example, Pam, feedback. In the early book, I spent a lot more time on teachers' feedback and it was through the work of my Ph.D. students and others who convinced me that I'd been looking in the wrong area. We should be looking at how students receive feedback, what they do with it, and so our mantra is: Do the students hear it, understand it, and action it? When you focus on that, we end up giving better feedback. Sadly, most feedback we give in class and we do as teachers give an incredible amount of feedback. Most of it's really been heard, partly or primarily because feedback costs. Like take my marriage of 38 years. It's successful because I'm the world's best selective listener.
I know when she gives me feedback. I got a role. I have to do it again. It's easy not to hear her. Students do the same thing. I have a teenager, so I'll bring it out. And then do they actually understand it? Ask them, tell me what you understand by the feedback I gave you. It's a bit sobering because sometimes they completely misinterpret it or they say, oh, I have to put more commas in. Now, you did say that, but that wasn't the important part of the feedback. They get the balance wrong and then you say, well, what are you gonna do next? And if there's nowhere to the next, the students will argue they didn't get feedback.
I read in a study, Pam, where we gave students two pages of feedback that we had deliberately created. Half of them got nowhere to next and half of them got where to next. And I remember sitting with this 14-year-old boy. He held the two pages up where there was nowhere to next. He said: "Sir, I got no feedback." Despite two pages of writing. They mean, how does it help them improve? So, this is the whole focus of what we do with their assessments and tests, and know their impact is triangulate. Hear the views of the students, hear the views of the teachers hear the views of other teachers. How are you going about collecting that evidence about your impact? There's a fundamental principle of this which I think helps resonate with teachers. I think every one of us who went into teaching went in for one reason to have an impact on kids. I'm just reminding you of that.
I love that word impact and it all goes back to having more student involvement. That keeps circling inside my brain, John, getting students to give feedback on that feedback. And, you said something that really resonated with me just now feedback cost, and I was thinking, well, what does it cost? It would be the time right? Would you conclude that that is where that value lies, within the time that you spend there?
Absolutely, Pam. But I'd also say it's the emotional cost, like it was an embarrassment with your peers if you're the one that has to do it again. There's an embarrassment when often happens in classroom, when you make an error, like one of the studies was when what happens when a child in your class puts their hand up, teacher asks that child, the child gets a role. Up to 50 percent of the time, the teacher corrects that child. Up to 50 percent of the time, the teacher asks another kid to correct that child. What is the kid learning? They're learning that errors are embarrassments. Errors are mistakes. Should be the opposite. Errors should be opportunities to learn. But so many kids learn in the very early days of the school, by age 8, that it's all about getting it right and it's not. You said before you don't come to class to learn that which you know. And when you look Graham Nuttal's work, up to 50% of everything taught in every classroom the kids know already. So, you can see the engine that's going on. If you don't know the answer, if you don't get it correct, you're not part of learning. So, there's massive costs. And so this is why when we talk about the climate of classrooms and all that relationship stuff. Teacher/student relationship, student/student relationship is for a reason and the reason is so that this classroom it's OK, it's not embarrassing to make a mistake. You should be at the edge of what you don't know.
Or, the one that frustrates me, Pam, is gifted kids. Why is it that the majority of gifted kids do not become gifted adults? Like less than 2 percent of child prodigies become gifted adults because they learn that it's all about getting it right, it's all about being smart and looking like it's easy, and then they're asked to confront, usually in their teenage years, an area that they're not invested in and they've not had deep knowledge in and they've learned. Errors are mistakes. Errors are examples of a poor student. If you went to a doctor, Pam, and the doctor said you had disease X, he doesn't say you're a bad person, but this is what kids think. When they make mistakes, they make errors, and so this is why this cost factor is huge in understanding it. For many students learning the very, very early days. Feedback cost is so much easier to not see it, to deny it or, worse, to say well, I really am a D student.
Mistakes are part of learning. I agree with you there 100 percent, and you mentioned that early on students learn this and thinking about early on in your experience, what is the importance of play in early learning?
We got into trouble when we did our book on Visible Learning in early childhood and the one I mentioned earlier with my son on Visible Learning mind frames for parents, because our argument was that this obsession that particularly the early years teachers have about play is just misplaced. The most critical thing in those early years was three things language, language, and language. Sadly, a lot of play has no language in it. Play can be an incredibly powerful medium for language. Like around the ages of 2, 3, 4, kids are building theories of mind and their understandings about how the world works. They need that language.
Sadly, in some homes, parents talk to the dog more than the kids. There's no language, there's no helping them being exposed to new ideas, there's no ways of thinking, and so that's the key. Now, if you can do it through play, I'm an absolute supporter. Unfortunately, it's the obsession that play matters. Like when we did a study here in Australia of 3,000 early childhood care settings, most of them, nearly all of them play was endemic everywhere, but sadly the development of students in some of those was miserable because there was no language. And so, as a parent, go into the early childhood centers, count the language. Go into the home, count the language and place your child where the most language is. Now, am I against play? Not at all. I love it. I'm golden and my luxury of life at the moment is I'm a granddad. I have six grandkids between the ages of 6 months and 7. I love playing with them. Oh my gosh, wouldn't it be great to be that age again? But it's that language, it's that talking that matters.
Language impacts learning, particularly in early learning ages.
Yeah. How do we make our understandings? It doesn't come through nothing. It comes through language.
Excellent. I want to shift a little bit to technology. Technology is a huge influence in our world today. How does technology impact Visible Learning? Where and how does it benefit student learning?
There's been almost 200 to 300 meta-analyses on the influence of technology on learning since 1976. And the average effect size has hardly changed and it's very low. And the explanation for that is that many teachers have incorporated technology to be more efficient about what they're doing. Now they introduce word processing. It's more efficient than writing. It's more efficient to introduce spelling programs and so it's augmented and helped.
It's only in the last sort of five or 10 years where the technology is changing the nature of how we look about teaching. I take, for example, virtual reality. It has a dramatic effect on students seeing the world differently than when they sit there, because in the typical 89 percent of the time the teacher is talking and the students are sitting there either listening or pretending to listen. Virtual reality you're immersed and so it's changing that nature of that balance of what's happening in teaching. And things like ChatGPT, as that's coming in here at the moment, is gonna change dramatically the nature of the teaching. But most of the technology hasn't changed at that very much, and that's despite the fact, as you're saying, Pam, our students are immersed in it, they're built up in it. They sometimes see it as part of their social life, not as their learning life, and so I think we as teachers have to be smarter. Now, this is one of the benefits of COVID. Massive downsides, of course, is that it is probably not a teacher in your country and my country now that doesn't use technology. One of the things that fascinates me about COVID is that the effect size of COVID was actually incredibly small because teachers found ways and, like on Zoom, you couldn't talk 89 percent of the time. You couldn't ask 200 questions a day. They require less than three word answers. You had to go more to triage and listen to where the students are.
The travesty of COVID is that we're rushing back to the old normal and losing that learning that technology can make a big difference, and one of my arguments in the sequel is that there won't be a chapter on technology in any third edition, if there was ever going to be one, which I don't think so, because it's part of the way in which we teach, it's not a supplement to it, and so this is where I take ChatGPT. It's demanding different skills. It's demanding skills of asking more probative questions. It's asking skills of assessment, credibility of assessment. Can I believe this or not? It's asking evaluative judgments. Is it good enough and it's asking, and this is probably the biggest change is that as you play with ChatGPT and its equivalents, it actually and you ask at the end, what do I do next?
And actually can come up with some pretty impressive answers to that. And so we're gonna have to teach our students about whether they're making wise choices when they do these kind of things. And, so, it's kind of fascinating when you think of probative questioning, credibility assessment, evaluative thinking, and wise choices and relate that to what we used to think was the 21st century skills, which are a little bit dull here in 2023. These are dramatic changes and our students are gonna do them, whether we like it or not. So, let's catch up to them in terms of how they go about their thinking. That's the power of technology.
So, it's actually going back to the way we teach, and being evaluative in the manner in which we teach.
I'm using those tools at the moment to create lesson plans. They're much faster, they've come up with much better lesson plans, but here's the skill, that evaluative skill, of knowing whether it's good enough, whether it's actually touching the standards and the state standards that I'm doing, whether it's having the impact. All those tools help me focus back on what the core notion of teaching is knowing the impact, and so I think they can be very efficient ways of being better in the system than what we used to do in the past, and again our students are using them. I don't know about what's happening in Louisiana, but here in Australia we're banning it. Cause we can't keep up. Now, here's the good news, virtually everything we've banned in schools turns out to be an incredibly desirable attribute over time. We just need to speed up and catch up to our students.
Use technology as a tool. That's what it boils down to. Well, where does small-group instruction fit in?
Here's the problem first. Once we start to setting up groups, whether they're tracking between schools or whether they're small groups in classrooms yes, often are setting up expectations and the students know it. On the other hand, small-group instruction has a reasonable effect size. The key is making sure that you never set groups up in any quasi-permanent way. Mix them up. Welcome the variability that you have in your classroom. Never set them up based on ability grouping. Wow, what a devastating negative that is. There's no winners in grouping of those kinds of notions. But small-group instruction, yeah, it can be incredibly powerful because students learn off each other.
Now, one of the fascinating attributes is when the notion of teacher collective efficacy came out a few years ago, many of us spent a lot of time trying to understand it and implement it and when we were having troubles during that in our own work. So, we said why don't we step aside and ask what about student collective efficacy? And we realized that you have to teach the skills to students working in groups about being successful in groups. There are ways of thinking, there are expectations. You have to have two success criteria. One about what the individual does and one about what the group does. You need two assessment points one of the individual's contribution, one of the group's contribution, and so this is the same in small-group work.
You don't just put them in groups, you have to teach them the skills of working in groups. And here's the thing that's so powerful about that, Pam, is that when you look at what employers are asking for now, they want graduates who can work in teams, who can translate, who can communicate. If I came into your class, Pam, would I see the students sitting in groups working alone? Would I see kids going into groups, and the brightest person taking over all the work and the rest sitting back and watching them? If I came into your room and they were doing particularly high stakes, successful, would I see them doing it alone? We're not helping our students in the employment sector now. And so small-group work, yes, provided we teach the schools of doing it and provided we never institutionalize those groups.
Student involvement is what it sounds like to me again. You know, when we think about our teachers, you've mentioned that many of our teachers they deny their expertise. You kind of gave a little bit of a tidbit of this idea earlier. Why does this matter?
But it comes back to our profession, we get battered. Everyone's been to the school, everyone has an opinion, everyone knows some great teachers and they know what the not-so-good teachers are, and our politicians know, our funders know. And what I find and really really struggle with is that, as a profession, we often say: "But what we do is obvious." It's not like take any adult, any parent, and ask them to take 20 5-year-olds for a day. They would not survive. There are massive skills in what those teachers do. And identifying those skills, esteeming our expertise. Well, we do it in every other profession. We have royal societies of doctors and we have societies of architects and you name it. But no, we have this myth that we perpetuate that we're all equal and it's all about what we do, not about the impact of what we do, and so we lie to ourselves and, like again in our troubles in Australia at the moment with our retention and attraction, is that I know, for example, that when you ask our parents, our adults, on the esteem of teachers, it ranks in the top four, but when you ask teachers, about 40 percent of them say it ranks in very high. We have the problem that we don't esteem our expertise. Now it's tricky, because we don't want to have the tall poppy syndrome where we put people up and then we pull them down. We don't want to have the system where we say this one is good and that's it. It's how we use that expertise.
One of the things that I've been working on in both my political role and in my research role is making that distinction between graduate, proficient, highly accomplished and lead teachers. You have a national board system there in the U.S. How do we use those teachers much more effectively in our schools and our system? Similarly, with school leaders. They vary across their capabilities and I'm not saying they're all bad not at all, to the contrary. But I'm saying we have some incredibly expert leaders. Why aren't we using them to help develop policy whilst they're in the schools? But no, that's not how we think. So I think we've got this process.
At the moment that is not helping us. It's a tricky problem, Pam, and we have to get it right. When you go to a surgeon, that surgeon doesn't say: "Oh, the GP is useless because they're only a GP." They value the services of the GP and vice versa. And, so, that esteem that we have to have with our profession about recognizing that excellence, recognizing that expertise and promoting them. If we don't, our future is pretty gloomy, and we've seen it post-COVID. Oh, anybody can be a teacher. We can take people off the street and throw them in. They don't need to be trained, they don't need to have any growth, we don't need professional learning, we don't need to invest in the expertise and that's scary.
Yeah, we do need to value our teachers and we do need to invest in the teachers themselves so that they can be there to help support the teachers. Be impactful, as you say. And speaking of impactful when we are looking at interactions between teachers and students, what type of questions should teachers ask their students, let's say, after a test, and how would and should the teachers respond?
Go back to my grandkids 3, 4, 5, 6. They're obsessed with "why" questions. And then my oldest is 7. She's already switching to "what' questions, because that's what she is doing in the classroom. What is the answer to this? What's going on? Take, for example, the dinner time conversation at night time.
What are the parents asking the students: "What did you do at school today? What was exciting?" If the simple answer to your question, Pam, is let's go back to "why" questions?" Why is the essence of curiosity, the inquisitiveness, going into the depths, trying to understand how we analyze classroom interaction? It's dominated by teachers about what, and that's what the kids think is important. Now, nothing wrong with "what" questions, but the balance is completely in the wrong direction, and so questioning is really, really an important part of what we do, and I think we need to spend more time asking the "why" students questions. That is what engages the students, that's what grows the depth. Now that, of course, leads. We have to have great teachers who know their content so that they can explore those parts of "why." It's much easier to focus on the "why" because you only have to be one page ahead of the kids. I want a lot more "why" questions.
I agree with you on that one, John. Well, to wrap up, will you share with our listeners the difference between teacher as facilitator and teacher as activator, and how teachers can move more toward being activators?
Well, the facilitation notion is sort of summed up. With the other guide on the side, my job is to stand aside and let the students do the work. Well, it's a fallacy. Novices do not know what they don't know. We, as learners, need experts with us to helpguide us in the next direction. I'm not going to sit there long enough and discover how to write the works of Shakespeare or solve these equations. I need help, and one of the key steps in our education system is teaching students well and how to seek help. And I go back to things like ChatGPT. They're going to be given so much more facility to ask for help from other than teachers.
The reason I want a human being as part of the equation is the human being can hear whether the question that the students are asking about their next steps is the optimal question. We need us, and I struggled to come up with this notion of activator because I didn't want it to be the transmission model as so dominant that the teacher just talking. Teachers activate the knowledge. They turn the kids on. They introduce them to things that they hadn't seen before. They introduce them to new ideas and new notions. They push them in various directions. They give them more challenges that students can't do by themselves. And so this is this notion of how do you activate that learning? How do you then hear the impact of that activation to steer students in the right direction or the wrong direction and that's what we're very good as teachers is making sure that students don't go down blind alleys too often and don't stay down blind alleys. That's the activation notion.
The facilitation notion is where they either stand back, where they facilitate learning by talk. And, as a teacher, Pam, I know when a student doesn't understand, it's much easier for me to repeat it, to say it again, that's not the point. I should be understanding what the student is not understanding first. I should be standing in their shoes, but it's so much easier to be a facilitator. But it's just as we see the evidence of the research. It does mean that it kind of sums up what you've been saying here, Pam. It does mean when you're a facilitator, you end up doing all the work. Surely the point is to get the kids to do the work.
And an activator is using evaluative thinking. Am I right in saying that, John?
Totally, and it's so endemic and so clear, like here's the irony, Pam. Well, I wrote the first version of Visible Learning. I did not have a chapter on learning. Second, of course, I have a chapter on learning and it's that learning of the teachers, how the teachers are learning about their impact and then making their decisions. Pretty impressive when you see it happening.
Because we need us and I was thinking we is the world. Would you agree, John?
Yep. 100 percent, yes.
Thank you, Dr. Hattie. This has been an amazing discussion and we appreciate you joining us today. Please tell our listeners where they can learn more about you and the new edition of Visible Learning.
It's mainly through my writings because I'm not very good on social media. We do have a site that is common in the U.S. We have a large Visible Learning site that has a lot of resources on it. A lot of free resources on it. We've just started up a Visible Learning Facebook page, where we are talking to each other about these whole notions and what's working in schools, and so there's plenty out there that people can follow up on Visible Learning. But what I want more than anything, Pam, is to have those discussions in the schools, in the staff rooms, in the policies that focus on that incredible impact that we're having.
Thank you, Dr. Hattie. This is Pam Austin, bringing the best thought leaders in education directly to you.
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