What has 30 years of evidence in education shown us?

When Hattie visited Hong Kong last year to speak to our school group, most of the delegates left feeling dismayed and somewhat frustrated. Here was a genuine ‘rock star’ of education who just seemed poorly prepared and arrogant. I’ve still persisted in reading through his Visible Learning publications and I’m interested in what I read. That said, lots of bloggers have taken issue with the notion of effect size and how Hattie calculates it. Ollie Orange 2 explains here some of the reasons why.

I was interested to come across Hattie speaking as a key note at CEM’s conference looking at ’30 Years of Evidence in Education’; you can download his slides and view the video here. I found this much, much better than his presentation live last year. He talks about the nature of evidence in education, specifically what the evidence suggests makes the greatest impact to student learning. It would be interesting to ask colleagues what they understand by ‘having an impact’ and to what extent their exists a common understanding of what this is in a school.

What does a years growth look like following a years input and how pervasive is this impact within a teaching group? I wonder what sort of answers people would give?

The dominant feature of effectiveness (looking at Hattie’s list) seems to be with teachers and not curriculum, class sizes etc. I come across teachers that regularly want to develop a new course (re-hash or format existing content) or re-write a curriculum but don’t seem to want to develop their learning and teaching. Developing pedagogy is often less tangible and, I think, harder to do. It’s been quite noticeable that since working in Asia, many schools seek to develop a structure either physically in terms of space or in curriculum time as ‘the innovation’, but pay little attention to what happens in either. Wonderful open ‘collaborative’ spaces with staff and students struggling to know how to use it effectively or incredibly fancy labels for the blocks of time that form the curriculum but indifferent practice when you look inside the room. Hattie talks about teachers value of autonomy and of ‘what works’ in an individual’s experience. This innate expertise that teachers feel can make it hard to work on anything pedagogical. This ‘expert feeling’ of what works isn’t really valid evidence as it seems virtually nothing has a negative impact.

I was also good to hear Hattie clarify that his list of key influences aren’t to be read as ‘do the top ones and not the rest’, as I’ve heard Visible Learning folk state previously. The effects at the bottom are definitely important but perhaps aren’t been ‘done’ as effectively as the higher up ones. Having a flexible repertoire of approaches to deploy at the right time seems to come through in his research in terms of pedagogy and approaches to learning. This last point I strongly believe, that is not telling people how to teach but in developing mastery over a wide range of approaches and strategies that can be deployed as and when appropriate.


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