Virtual School Meanderings

September 17, 2010

Presentation: Visible Learning, Tomorrow’s Schools, The Mindsets That Make The Difference In Education – John Hattie

So I came across the slides from a presentation that John Hattie did for some group a couple of nights ago. The presentation was entitled “Visible Learning, Tomorrow’s Schools, The Mindsets That Make The Difference In Education” and is available at http://www.treasury.govt.nz/publications/media-speeches/guestlectures/pdfs/tgls-hattie.pdf.

As a reminder for folks who may be unfamiliar with Hattie’s work, he is the author of the book Visible Learning and someone who I recommend every individual involved in education read – particularly everyone involved in K-12 online learning. I’ve written about this book in the past on this blog (see “Visible Learning” And K-12 Online Learning and Greatest Benefits Of K-12 Online Learning And Visible Learning) and I recommend the book for K-12 online learning folks because I think it provides research evidence to challenge the myths that proponents continually bombard us with on a daily basis.

To save those who don’t wish to go back and read these earlier entries, the bottom line is that a meta-analysis is a kind of study that combines the results of a bunch of individual studies to come up with a super result.  What Hattie has done is take over 800 of these meta-analysis – representing some 50,000+ individual studies and over 200 million students – that examine what things affect student learning, and combined them into these super, super results (or effect sizes in statistical lingo).  The book, and from what I can tell his presentations too, focus on telling the public what we know from the research to actually have a real and worthwhile impact on student learning and what are simply fades (or even worse, hurting student achievement).

In this particular presentation, and I ask that you open it up and take a look at his slides as they are quite telling even without his commentary of them, there were a couple of things that were striking to me.  Begin to follow along with me here as I describe how Hattie presents the data:

  • slides 10-12: “Disaster” interventions or things that hurt or have little to no effect on student achievement [-0.## to 0.19]
  • slide 13: “Not Worth It Yet” interventions or things that aren’t worth the time or money to implement because of how little they affect student achievement [0.19 to 0.23]
  • slides 14-15: “Typical ‘Average Teacher’ Territory” interventions or things that have just as much impact on student achievement as a child being taught by an average teacher [0.23 to 0.34]
  • slide 16: “Closer to Average” interventions or things that almost have the same impact on student achievement as a year of maturity and a year of being taught by an average teacher [0.34 to 0.39]
  • slide 17: “Average” interventions or things that have roughly the same impact on student achievement as a year of maturity and a year of being taught by an average teacher/essentially the amounts that students will, on average, increase each year anyway (i.e., without intervention) [0.40 to 0.48]
  • slide 18: “Let’s Have Them” interventions or the first things on this list that are worth considering adopting [0.48 to 0.53]
  • slide 19: “Exciting” interventions or things that are really starting to have an impact on student achievement [0.53 to 0.57]
  • slide 20: “Among the Winners…” interventions or things that are near the top and are worth adopting to improve student achievement [0.57 to 0.61]
  • slides 21-22: “The Winners…” interventions or things that have real impact on student achievement [0.62 to 1.44]
  • Note that the colour coded corresponds with Hattie’s grouping of these categories (e.g., red is bad, orange not good, green okay, purple is good).

I would challenge my colleagues in K-12 online learning to look through this list from slides 10 through to 22 and find the things that they believe are helping their students learn effectively in an online environment.  How many of them fall into the green or purple categories?  I suspect very few.

This becomes even clearly later in Hattie’s presentation!  On slide 30, Hattie begins to delineate the difference between two types of teachers or two types of education.  One is the activator, who he describes as “An active teacher, passionate for their subject and for learning, a change agent”; and the second is a facilitator, described as “A facilitative, inquiry or discovery based provider of engaging activities.”  On slide 31, Hattie lists the strategies that he believes these two different kinds of teachers with different philosophies would use:

An Activator A Facilitator
Reciprocal teaching Simulations and gaming
Feedback Inquiry based teaching
Teaching students self-verbalization Smaller class sizes
Meta-cognition strategies Individualized instruction
Direct Instruction Problem-based learning
Mastery learning Different teaching for boys & girls
Goals – challenging Web-based learning
Frequent/ Effects of testing Whole Language Reading
Behavioral organizer Inductive teaching

While I think K-12 online learning has characteristics that fall into both sides of this table, if you listen to the rhetoric of proponents of K-12 online learning the terms they use are more consistent with the right side of this table. Go to presentation and look at slide 32, you’ll see that the activator has more real impact on student learning than the facilitator.

Results like this should give us pause, and we should really begin to ask ourselves what the real effects are the K-12 online learning programs we are deploying having on student achievement and student learning?  And can we really afford to continue down a road where the practice of K-12 online learning is far outpacing the availability of useful research, particularly when the research indicates that a lot of what we are doing isn’t helping students that much? How much longer will our students be guinea pigs in what is more and more becoming a political movement?  When we will bring the focus back to what works best for the students, as opposed to what suits some political deschooling agenda?  Sooner, rather than later I hope…

11 Comments »

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