John Hattie – Rebooting the system

John Hattie’s Jack Keating Memorial lecture at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education is worth listening to. John Hattie is the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL).

John Hattie’s theme throughout his speech is around ‘rebooting’ the Australian education system. The speech is fifty one minutes long and covers a range of Hattie’s views about how schools and Governments can change in order to improve student performance.

Some of Hattie’s ideas presented in the lecture include the following.

  • To shift the parent and Government focus of debating and pushing ideas that have minimal impact in education to a focus on what does have an impact.
  • To focus on the kids and not appeasing parents.
  • To stop blaming post codes and/or SES ratings for why schools struggle to get students to learn.
  • To focus on expertise and to value expertise.
  • To increase the number of Highly Accomplished and Lead teachers.
  • To have a common understanding of what ‘growth’ in relation to a child’s learning means. What does a years growth look like?
  • To change the narrative from schools believing excellence at the top end is the measure of success to seeing the growth of all students as the measure of a school success.
  • To develop collaboration and open classrooms – including student voice.
  • To focus on getting students into maths and science pathways who thrive on the struggle not just the ‘best’ students.
  • To abolish the exam system.

I think Hattie’s speech challenges us to think about what we do in schools and its impact on students. If you have an opinion about Hattie’s lecture I encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments section.

Do we make smaller class sizes work for us?

Smaller class sizes can improve the opportunity for learning to occur but without teacher awareness, knowledge and strategies it will not.

At Port Broughton Area School we have a small R-12 cohort. In some subjects and at some year levels this translates to smaller class sizes. While many of our primary and middle school classes are vertically grouped and therefore not considered to be small other classes are. Some curriculum areas through middle school have single year levels and therefore small cohorts of students while our Year 11 and 12 class sizes are always small in number. So does this translate into better outcomes for student learning?

John Hattie’s research suggests as a whole that smaller class sizes have a relatively small impact on student achievement particularly considering the significant financial cost that is required to implement this strategy. Hattie’s argument is not that smaller class sizes aren’t effective. It is that the research suggests teachers do not change their pedagogy to suit smaller class sizes and therefore do not reap the potential learning outcomes that a small class may provide.

“Hattie contends that some of the most powerful in-class learning comes from teacher-to-student dialogue and more especially from student-to-student dialogue. We might like to imagine that smaller classes facilitate increased student-to-student dialogue and learning and greater one-to-one feedback between teacher and student, but the evidence gathered by Hattie suggests that teachers can actually lecture to smaller classes more than they do with larger classes.” Margery Evans, 2015

The above paragraph is from Margery Evan’s CEO blog on the AITSL website and prompts the following thought:

When we have the opportunity to teach a small class, be it for a term, semester or the year do we ensure teaching strategies that take advantage of having less students? Do we engage students with more teacher feedback and provide opportunities for more student to student conversations? Or as Margery Evan’s points out do we manage small groups of individuals in more-or-less the same way that we manage large groups, therefore not realising any of the advantages that may be possible in having small groups?

To read AITSL CEO Margery Evan’s full post about class size click here.

PBAS Teacher Learning 2015

Professional Learning

John Hattie – Hattie’s research tells us the most important factor in student learning, within the school, is the teacher. It is not, among others, funding, school buildings, ICT or how good your camps program is. While all of these are valuable it is teacher quality in the classroom that has the biggest impact.

Dylan Wiliam believes “every teacher needs to get better”, not just those that are seen as struggling but every teacher. Taught for one year? Taught for 25 years? The teaching landscape is constantly changing and we must change with it demonstrating the attributes we seek in our students as learners.

AITSL – The crucial role of the teacher – ‘The greatest resource in Australian schools is our teachers. They account for the vast majority of expenditure in school education and have the greatest impact on student learning, far outweighing the impact of any other education program or policy’.

Below are some examples of types of professional learning. This list is not exhaustive but does provide a variety of types of professional learning:

  • Conferences
  • Workshops
  • Face to face professional learning communities
  • Online professional learning communities
  • Professional reading (education publications)
  • Professional reading (online including blogs, Twitter, education publications)
  • Classroom observations (peer to peer)
  • Student feedback
  • Visit another school

Professional learning should not be seen as “the extra thing we need to do” or “the 60 hours we need to keep our registration”. It should be seen as a part of our job that is central to our role as educators.

Classroom Observations and Student Feedback

Classroom observations and student feedback provide a different lens for us to view our teaching by. In a supportive and committed environment were all staff help each other to develop their practice this lens can be a valuable learning tool.

For example, without the help of an observer or student feedback we may never identify that:

  • we don’t use small group work effectively
  • we only ever use direct instruction
  • we talk too much and do not allow for student input during class
  • we heavily weight our questions to the boys and forget the girls
  • we only ever use closed questions
  • we only ever call on the loudest children at the front of the class
  • we rarely give students options and choice
  • we provide little formative feedback
  • we never ask our students to use higher order thinking skills
  • we forget to find out what students already know
  • we need help developing relationships in our class
  • we do not challenge our students regularly enough
  • we only ever use one method with students to communicate their learning i.e. essay writing

Below is an example timeline of undertaking observations and collecting student feedback.

  1. Term 2 2015
    1. Student feedback – TfEL Compass survey tool. Domain 2 Create safe conditions for rigorous learning.
    2. Classroom observation week 7 Focus  – questioning
    3. Classroom observation week 8 Focus – questioning
    4. Classroom observation week 9 Focus – questioning
  2. Term 3 2015
    1. Student feedback – TfEL Compass survey tool. Domain 3 Develop expert learners.
  3. Term 4 2015
    1. Student feedback – TfEL Compass survey tool. Domain 4 Personalise and connect learning.

While undertaking this plan during terms 2-4 constant consideration must be given to changes that can improve your teaching. 

The PBAS Classroom Observation Process

The Foundation Document

This document should be an integral part of the observational process. It allows teachers to see what is considered quality teaching. The document should be used as a starting point for professional discussions and classroom observations and can be found in your white PD folders.

Peer observers

Observers should be people who are respected and trusted by their colleagues.

Pre observation meeting

The observer and the teacher need to agree and be clear to what the observation is about. This needs to be specific and easily definable. Consideration needs to be given to where this fits with TfEL, the Australian Professional Standards and School Priorities.

Observe the lesson and the learners

What are the students doing, writing and saying? There should be no hidden agendas. The focus of the observation should be about improving student learning and not ranking/grading the teacher. A new observation tool will be implemented in 2015 based around TFEL but with the flexibility for the teacher to focus on what is most relevant to them at that point in time. This proforma can be accessed by clicking here.

Follow up meeting

Both parties will meet after the observation preferably within 48 hours and discuss professional development ideas. Initially the meeting needs to provide specific feedback based on the original goals set prior to the observation. After this questions like, “How can I use the feedback to improve future lessons?”, “Where to now?”, “How will I get there?” and “When will my next observation occur?” are important to consider in terms of improving teacher quality. There are a number of reflective questions on the back of the 2015 observation proforma we discussed in our week 1 staff meeting.

John Hattie’s Visible Learning Errors

I am not a statistician and so have very little understanding of the statistical maths used by Professor John Hattie to produce his book Visible Learning. I do however understand that some of Hattie’s work has been called into question regarding his use of statistical concepts.

It has been pointed out that Hattie’s use of the Common Language Effect Size (CLE) is incorrectly used. Some of the sources below also question Hattie’s use of effect sizes.

I have included a comment found in one of the links below which I think sums up the issues found with Hattie’s work. It resinated with me as a non maths /science person.

“Sometimes scientific critique is like a cannonball shooting a hole in a sail. The ship can continue sailing but has some repairs to do. At other times the critique hits below the waterline and the ship sinks (like Titanic). How does Topphols critique hit Visible learning? Do the main conclusions sail on or do they sink?” Jan Pålsgård

Based on the evidence that I have read so far I believe “Hattie’s ship can continue sailing but has some repairs to do”. This criticism of Hattie’s work is not recent (2012/2013) so if his work didn’t hold up due to statistical errors we would probably have heard more about it. Just because their are some errors in a particular aspect of Hattie’s work does not mean the work is to be dismissed.

My motivation for posting this information is to make people aware that if we are going to use educational research, particularly to the level that Hattie’s work has been, we should know as much as possible about how that research came to be.

I have provided a variety of sources to read in relation to the issues found with Hattie’s work. Be warned most of this is not light reading and involves, predictably, a lot of mathematical language around statistics.

Source 1

Source 2

Source 3

Source 4

Source 5

Source 6

 

Got Feedback? Used Feedback?

Have you had someone observe your students learning in your classroom?

  • If yes have you been able to use this information to plan some professional improvement goals for the remainder of 2014 and into 2015?
  • If no then when do you plan to invite someone into your class to observe your students learning?

Have you invited feedback from your students about your teaching?

  • If yes have you been able to use this information to plan some professional improvement goals for the remainder of 2014 and into 2015?
  • If no then when do you plan to invite your students to provide feedback to you based on your teaching?

John Hattie tells us the most important factor in student learning (outside of the student themselves) is the teacher. Dylan Wiliam also believes “every teacher needs to get better”, not just those that are seen as struggling but every teacher.

Of all the things we have to do, and there are many, helping students to learn is at the centre of our professional responsibilities. It therefore stands to reason that improving our ability to do this is also at the centre of our professional lives. We all attend T & D but how often does traditional T & D support us to drill down and examine our practice at the coal face, in the classroom?

If we only ever attend traditional T & D and rarely have our classroom practice analysed then I am suggesting that our T & D is going to be less effective than it could be. No doubt we need to attend conferences, develop networks, share ideas and keep up to date with the latest educational information and traditional T & D can do this. However all the great conferences in the world mean nothing if we choose not to find the time to change our classroom practice for the better. A conference may help us identify aspects of pedagogy that we need to improve but the disconnect between the conference and classroom is often too great with all our enthusiasm dissipating by the time we return to the real world. Conferences also struggle to identify our pedagogical blind-spots. There are certain things that we cannot identify in our own teaching without the assistance of observation by our peers, students or video. The idea that “We don’t know what we don’t know” (blindspots) is a key reason why we need to have others provide feedback on our teaching. This is not to say that traditional T & D can’t change practice for the better, I am just suggesting that classroom observations and student feedback provide a different lens for us to view our teaching by. In a supportive and committed environment were all staff help each other to develop their practice this lens can be a valuable learning tool.

For example, without the help of an observer or student feedback we may never identify that:

  • we don’t use small group work effectively
  • we only ever use direct instruction
  • we talk too much and do not allow for student input during class
  • we heavily weight our questions to the boys and forget the girls
  • we only ever use closed questions
  • we only ever call on the loudest children at the front of the class
  • we rarely give students options and choice
  • we provide little formative feedback
  • we never ask our students to use higher order thinking skills
  • we forget to find out what students already know
  • we need help developing relationships in our class
  • we do not challenge our students regularly enough
  • we only ever use one method with students to communicate their learning i.e. essay writing

So how might this all look? How do I get started, if I haven’t already? What do I do with all the feedback I get?

To be reminded about the PBAS observation process click here for a post I did in early September.

To help demonstrate the practical application of using classroom observation and student feedback I would like to share my use of student feedback and classroom observation and how they have helped me to develop some learning goals for the remainder of 2014 moving into 2015.

Below is a timeline of when I collected my feedback:

  1. Term 2 2014
    1. Student feedback – TfEL Compass survey tool. Domain 2 Create safe conditions for rigorous learning.
  2. Term 3 2014
    1. Student feedback – TfEL Compass survey tool. Domain 3 Develop expert learners.
  3. Term 3 2014
    1. Classroom observation week 7
    2. Classroom observation week 8
    3. Classroom observation week 9

Time is often a reason for not getting to things. If we can aim to gather information over time rather than think that it all needs to be done now we will be much more likely to maintain a process that provides regular (term by term) feedback. I have estimated that over the first 30 weeks of the year I have spent approximately 2.5 – 3.5 hours in total organising, collecting and analysing feedback on my teaching.

Below is what I have taken from my feedback to work on over the next 6-12 months. I still have the TfEL Domain 4 student feedback survey to complete in term 4.

I intend to try and complete one thing per term for terms 2, 3 and 4 in 2015 that is around classroom observation and student feedback. I want to leave term 1 2015 free to try and continue to develop what I have already identified below.

Issues/Concerns for me:

  • Will I get to focus much on these things in term 1 2015? It is a big term  for me with sports day, inter school sports day and SANTOS athletics.
  • Are there too many things to work on in the document below?
  • Will future feedback change my direction?
  • How will I go about improving in these areas? Where/how can I access support to get better?

Feedback

Access the TfEL Compass tool via the LearnLink staff portal.

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 9.20.20 pm

For me, this quote (a modified Robert John Meehan quote) sums up what our attitude towards professional learning should be.

IMG_3853

John Hattie – What really works?

As a follow up to what was presented on Thursday for staff I have decided to put the video we watched into a post plus expand on some of the things that are in Hattie’s list. The video I showed was a slightly edited version I created in iMovie of the two videos below, in total they are about 3 minutes longer.

Part 1

Part 2

 

The information below is taken from “Visible Learning by John Hattie (2009) summary by Gerry Miller (North Tyneside EAZ Consultant). Click here to visit a site that has this summary in the form of a link at the bottom of the web page.

The first one that I am going to mention is homework. Homework is not in Hattie’s top 30 and has an overall effect size of .29 and listed at number 88 out of 138. The reason I am putting it in is because of the variance Hattie found between primary school and high school. In primary school the effect size is.15 while at secondary school the effect size is .64 placing it inside the top 20. In the video Hattie mentions that surface level homework is more effective than deep level homework and that homework of more than one hour is less effective.

Another not inside the top 30 but ranked at number 42 with an effect size of .52 is classroom management. I mention this one because there are areas within classroom management that rank exceptionally high by themselves, they include:

  • Teachers ability to identify and act quickly on potential problems. Effect size 1.42
  • Effective disciplinary interventions. Effect size .91
  • Teacher retains emotional objectivity. Effect size .71

Number 1 – Self-reported grades (effect size 1.44)

This influence on learning comes from the student. It is not something teachers have direct control over, but we could influence it. Self-reported grades is when a student predicts their performance based on past achievement. If the student prediction is set to low then it is highly likely their achievement will reflect this. On the flip side if the classroom environment involves the student in goal setting with achievable short term and medium targets to achieve the goal(s) then their predictions are likely to be higher.

Number 4 – Micro Teaching (effect size .88)

Micro teaching is when analysis and reflective teaching occurs often through video taped lessons. It requires peer involvement in the process and discussion with peers about what occurred during the lessons.

Number 8 Teacher clarity (effect size .75)

Communicating clearly the intentions and what success means within a lesson contributed to significant student learning. Organization, explanation, examples, guided practice and clarity of speech from the teacher where prerequisites for teacher clarity.

Number 9 Reciprocal teaching (effect size .74)

This is an instructional process designed to teach students cognitive strategies that could lead to improved learning. Teaching strategies that involve summarising, questioning, clarifying and predicting supported by dialogue between teacher and student. Students take it in turns being the ‘teacher’, with the teacher and student taking it in turns leading discussion so that students are exposed to repeated modelling by the teacher.

Number 10 Feedback (effect size .73)

This is one of the most powerful influences on learning for both teacher and student. Understanding what is quality feedback is important for it to be successful. Feedback is only really effective if it follows up effective instruction. Feedback that focuses on the personal i.e. “You are a great student” is rarely effective in increasing achievement. Task orientated feedback is more powerful.

Number 11 – Teacher student relationship (effect size .72)

The ability for the teacher to develop trust within the classroom between teacher and student and student to student is key to students feeling comfortable in making mistakes. The highest effect sizes within teacher student relationship came from empathy, warmth and encouraging higher order thinking.

Number 19 – Professional development (effect size .62)

The four most effective methods of improving teacher knowledge and behaviour were:

  • Observation
  • Micro teaching (see above)
  • Video/audio feedback
  • Practice

Key to these being successful were – learning over an extended time (not one off), using external experts, challenging teachers, teachers talking to teachers about teaching, opportunities provided to process new information.

Number 26 Direct instruction (effect size .59)

Direct instruction involves having clear learning intentions for the lesson, , ‘hooking’ students into the lesson, modelling, checking for understanding, providing opportunity for students to practice, teacher time to review and clarify and an opportunity for independent practice.

Number 29 Mastery Learning (effect size .58)

This means students learn effectively when provided with:

  • Clear expectations of what it means to master the material.
  • High levels of collaboration (i.e. not competitive).
  • High levels of teacher feedback.
  • The ability to independently self correct.
  • Seeing mistakes as a learning experience.

Number 30 Worked Examples (effect size .57)

Worked examples that demonstrate to students what success looks like are very powerful for assisting student learning. With problem solving, worked examples can be used to reduce stress over what the completed product/task looks like allowing students to focus on the processes that lead to the answer.

 

These are only a selected few of Hattie’s 138 influences on learning. If you would like to view all 138 and their effect sizes click here.

I hope that after Thursday’s presentation and then having the opportunity to review again through this post that we begin to deeply consider the methods that we use in the classroom. Hopefully something has sparked your interest. Is there something that you could focus on improving during this year with the help of your peers?