“Well, the SLAs and the PATs indicate that the PBLs we are currently exploring through our PLCs lack the rigor that the ICs were hoping for.” It’s no wonder that people can get a little lost in education when they enter the field. There are so many initiatives and catch words it’s hard to tell what’s good practice that results in real student success and what’s simply a flash in the pan that sounds good on the surface but has no real depth or rigor. So – where do we begin? What’s really important for us to know and what is simply window dressing?
This is where I love John Hattie’s work. Through his deep focus on teaching practice which has real quantitative effect on student achievement, we can get a better idea of what are the teaching practices that carry real clout, that have real impact in the classroom and will help our students be successful. Is his research under the microscope a little in education circles – yes, somewhat. That being said, if we look at his work with a critical lens we may be able to pull out some useful tools for us to leverage in the field. Rather than bury ourselves in the new acronyms that seem to be so prevalent in education, we can simplify our approach and look carefully at a few high power changes that will give us the most leverage in learning. Here’s a few off his top ten list.
1. Self-reporting Grades – This makes sense to me and is the number one influence on learning according to Hattie’s work. When a child is asked to grade themselves according to how they believe they will do in the class but then are pushed to exceed that belief through teacher’s support and work, not only does the student out perform their own expectation on the learning, they also change the perception of who they are as a learner. They begin to believe in themselves and that they can excel their own expectations.
2. Formative Evaluation – This also makes great sense to me – look at me go! When students are given direct timely feedback about how what they are learning and how they are doing that is not evaluative in nature but rather supportive of their learning journey, things begin to come together for them. Writing is a perfect example. When a child is half way through a written piece, for them to sit down with their teacher, to examine where they are heading and what their thinking process looks like during the writing, the child adapts and learns, writing better. The conversation is the teaching and students thrive. This is why great literacy programs work on constant intervention with teachers helping students grow through formative assessment – go literacy teachers!
3. Teacher Student Relationships – okay – you got me. This isn’t a top ten strategy but I like it. It’s number eleven, so close enough. I am a strong believer that relationship creates environments for learning and, unless this environment is safe, little learning can occur. Great teachers know this. I look at my own learning but, more currently, I look at my own children’s experience with school. If they feel their teachers are respectful, qualified and caring, they simply learn better. If they feel that the teacher may mock their failures or that the curriculum is more important than the student learning to the teacher, they do less well. They need to feel they are nurtured in their learning – even in high school. We’ve all seen teachers who have a strong base in the discipline but students feel like the teacher doesn’t care. The discipline is more important than the learning though the lens of the student. Kids see it, they feel it and they are guarded towards the learning.
I like Hattie’s research. It’s a good guide for looking at what we should tweak and what we should not bother with in our teaching. Want to look at the top ten – click here.
Keep on learning!