Evidence of Impact
“Statements without evidence are just opinions – there are too many of those in education and that’s what’s got us into trouble.” ~John Hattie~
There are a lot of opinions about what our schools should do to fix the problem of of gaps in student achievement. We don’t really have the luxury of entertaining popular theories or opinions- our professionalism requires that we look to the valid research on what represents effective classroom practice. The chart above is an attempt to represent the complexities of effective teaching into a manageable graphic. It is a representation of the massive inquiry that John Hattie, a researcher from New Zealand, conducted to answer the question- when we consider learning for children what influences or factors actually have an impact on academic learning?
If you click on the link it will enlarge and allow you to read it more closely. The inquiry focused on six areas that contribute to learning: the student, the home, the school, the curricula, the teacher, and teaching and learning approaches. A key understanding in reading the graphic is the idea that the longer the slice, the greater the impact on academic learning. Another understanding in decoding the chart is that the average of all the influences is .40, so any influence above .40 in the study was deemed to have an above average impact, and any lower a below average impact. There are a few items, like summer vacation and retention of students, that were deemed to have a negative impact on academic learning.
I’ve read the study and took away a few key points:
- The factors with the greatest impact on student learning are classroom and school-based and involve the interaction between teachers and students
- Teachers need to reflect upon, on a daily basis, the impact of their actions on student learning and adjust accordingly
- The giving of feedback to students on their performance only matters if the student understands and acts on the feedback
- Teachers need to work together to build their understanding of how to design, teach and assess classroom learning; this learning needs to be situated in classrooms and focused on what the students are doing and saying
As you can see from the graphic, some factors have a greater impact than others. As a school community we need to focus our resources and attention on making changes that will have the greatest impact for all our students, but especially those students who need it most urgently.