Saturday, April 20, 2013

John Hattie's Ideas

Videos are not my favorite way to take in ideas and content. I'd much rather read. That should give you some sense of how invested I am in learning about John Hattie's ideas if I've watched more than half an hour of him talking on videos.

This first one is the shortest, only about five minutes. It gives you a sense of who he is and where his focus is.

I'm interested in Hattie because his research seems to be a driving force for some decision makers in my district. Many of the decisions they are making based on Hattie's research are not ones I agree with. As a result, I decided I needed to do some learning to see if I'm missing something.

Hattie's book Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning is not cheap. So, I started with these videos. Then I managed to borrow a copy of the book from a leader in my district.

I started with this video:

The first thing I noticed, after his fabulous accent, was that I was hopeful when he said things I agreed with and annoyed when he said things I did not agree with. Clearly as I go through all of his work I will have to work to remain open-minded.

My quick thoughts from the videos:

  1. He talks a lot about making sure students know what success looks like. That makes sense and sounds pretty good. But what if we set the bar too low? What if we show students what success looks like and they can already meet that? Are we limiting their growth by always defining success for them?
  2. He discusses teacher-student relationships as one of the big ones, as something that gives a big return on investment. That doesn't surprise me at all. Unfortunately, I feel like all the things we're doing as a result of his research (common pacing, common assessments, common planning) are removing us from those relationships. Everything is standardized so we don't know our students as well.
  3. Another idea he says is strong is spaced practice instead of mass practice. This means continuing to practice things over time rather than cramming it all in and then moving on to something completely new. This struck me because my team recently found that our students who did not do well counting money struggled not because of the money, but because they don't have the number sense to support them. We taught number sense in the first quarter and then moved on. It's a critical piece and needs to be part of things all year. That's certainly possible but it gets lost in our laser focus on whatever unit we are currently planning and assessing together.
I am reading his book now. It's not a quick read but I intend to continue writing about it and trying to understand why we are doing what we are doing.


Philip Cummings said...

Thanks for sharing these. I'm interested to read your thoughts as you go through the book, too. I'm curious as to why he's so influential in your district. Any thoughts on that?

The Science Goddess said...

I saw Hattie present a couple of years ago (post is here)...and I seem to remember Jasonsitting in on his presentation when we were all at the ASCD conference in SF. (Don't know if he blogged about that one.)

One of the most important things to remember about his work---and he even points this out himself---is that you really have to dig down into the research. For example, the meta-analysis around decreasing class size shows that overall, it isn't particularly effective. However, if you poke around in the sources used to develop that meta-analysis, you'll find individual studies that show the opposite. Hattie urges people to look for those and get the details about what it is that does work. My hunch, however, is that most schools won't take that step.

I remember when I saw him present that I keep thinking, "Holy s*** is this guy going to be unpopular." But he is gaining ground. If you poke around in what he's done in Australia, though, you'll find a lot of pissed off teachers. :)

Karyn said...

Three or four years since reading his book, I keep coming back to it. has it for $50NZ. I didn't know Hattie's influence had spread to the US.

Jenny said...

Philip, one of our district-level administrators is a huge fan. We're a huge district so I don't know how widely felt his influence is, but certainly in our area it's strong.

Science Goddess, thank you for passing that on! I'm sorry I didn't see Hattie in SF that year. Like all data, I think it's not too hard to make this work for whatever you believe. That's not Hattie's fault. I have to keep reminding myself of that!

Karyn, I find the book challenging to read - it's not my typical professional reading. But I'm really glad I'm reading it.