Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What Works In Education: How Educators Can Make A Difference

Through a meta-analysis of over 900 studies, John Hattie’s Visible Learning evaluated the impact of many factors on student achievement. Using “effect size”, Hattie ranks factors from family structure, teaching practices, socio-economics, school policies, and more on student learning.

An effect greater than .40 is seen as above the norm and leading towards greater-than-expected growth. An effect size of .40 is the expected progress a student should make within a year. An effect size of .6 means that the relationship between one factor and student achievement was 60% of one standard deviation.

Effect size = Average (post test)- Average (pre-test)
                              Spread (standard deviation)    

While schools only have our students for 7 hours a day, Hattie’s meta-analysis proves teachers have an amazing ability to influence learning—and even overcome factors beyond teacher control.

Student expectations
Formative assessments
Teacher clarity
Teacher-student relationships
Creativity programs
Professional development
Not labeling students
Concept mapping
Mastery Learning
Student-centered teaching
Full vs pre-term birth weight
Socioeconomic status
Availability of resources at home
Parent involvement and achievement
Overall teacher effects
Family Structure
Ability grouping
Male-Female Differences
Red: influences beyond teacher/school control

We cannot continue to make excuses. There is no place in our schools for teachers who speak fatally: “His family life is horrible; he’s not going to be successful” or “My students aren’t motivated” or “He’s dyslexic”. Such cynicism has no place in our schools.  We need teachers who are up to the challenge and believe in their students and their own abilities.

While factors beyond our control influence student achievement, expert teachers focus on the 45 factors that have a greater influence than socio-economic status.  Of these, teachers and schools control and influence all but 2 (birth weight and home environment).    

Good teachers believe in their abilities. They maximize their impact by using research-proven methods. They know they can will make a difference. They don’t label their students (.61 effect size).  Good teachers don’t use a student’s disability, background, ethnicity, family, etc. as an excuse. Instead they embrace a growth mindset, a belief that good teachers make a tremendous difference.

We make a difference.

Sadly, Hattie’s research also illuminated how many teachers, schools, and policy makers continue to support policies, programs and interventions that don’t work, or actually negatively impact student learning.

Only influences above .4 are considered above the norm, leading to more-than-expected growth.

Some examples of educational movements that have low—and in the case of retention, negative—impacts:
Charter schools: .20
Gender-based instruction: .12
Whole language learning: .06
Open classrooms: .01
Multiple intelligences/Learning styles: .17
Retention: -13

If we are to move education forward, we must fully embrace research. We must confront what really matters. We can no longer make decisions based on our beliefs, anecdotal “evidence” or “that’s the way it’s always been.” The past two decades have seen an explosion of educational research, which we must embrace. No excuse exists for educational leaders continuing to make ill-fated decisions based on instinct or personal convictions.

Let’s ask ourselves: What can we do better? How can we progress? How can we make learning visible to the teachers?
Hattie, John. Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. London: Routledge, 2012. Print.

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