Every student learns by design, not by chance


2 April 2024

The teacher must focus on the impact of his teaching in the learning

by Toni Gallemí

John Hattie is an emeritus professor at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne, chairman of the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leaders, and co-director of the Hattie Family Foundation. His research on “Visible Learning” is based on 250 million students, and in 2023 he published “Visible Learning: The Sequel,” which updates his previous work. He has published and presented over 1000 articles and has supervised 220 theses and 60 books, including 40 more on Visible Learning.

In Impuls Educació we are interested in the researches done at a global level and we try to build up connections with experts all around the world. We consider essential, a researcher and divulgation centre, to take into account the opinion and experience of such professionals; whose vision always provide us with new perspectives, along with new ways of understanding this passionate educational world.

We had the chance to talk with John Hattie and in our conversation they came up many aspects that are essential at the educative world. While talking with him, we asked him about the impact teachers have upon their students; as well as what’s the role parents play in the academic development; and, also, which keys he considers that make up a great teacher. In the following paper we pick up some of the conversation we had with Hattie; you can have the whole version of it, at the 5th sample of the “Diàlegs” magazine: “Training of the professorship”.

A quality teaching from the professorship’s perspective

Hattie takes into consideration that there’s a very important variable, which can affect more than it seems at once. That’s the impact teachers can have upon their students. Hattie defends that they are the ones which can cause the biggest impact at school. That’s why it is so significant to take it into account and to analyse it. As a school, it seems essential to know to what extent their teaching way impacts on their students; to analyse how this impact is and how far it goes.

The school principals must have the courage to identify the teachers who have a great impact

This way, they know around which concrete people they can build a coalition, inviting other teachers to learn from them, to follow part of their example. Hattie wants, through this idea, also that teachers can evaluate each other, in a critical and constructive way. That is a key point for him, as he considers that it makes the difference between potential schools.

Hattie talked to us about another factor that has been taken into account in recent studies, that is the number of students per classroom. It has been tried to evidence scientifically, to what extent influences in the academical development at the classroom, the number of students that is found at it. At first, it was considered that, the fewer the students, the greater the concentration and the better the achievement. However, is this the case?

There have been many studies that agree with the idea that the classroom’ size has a really low effect on teaching

However, many others argue that reducing the classroom size, equals reducing the work charge. But this is not always the case. Regarding this topic, Hattie offered us an example. If, as teachers, we had the opportunity, in a class of 20 students, to expel 10 of them randomly; or, to the contrary, we could expel only 5 of them, but chosen by us, which option would we choose? Probably, the last one. That is then indicative, as it is not only about the number of students, but also about the way they behave; which certainly depends on the way in which their teachers manage in class.

Key points in order to make up a great teacher

There are two key aspects that Hattie considers characterizes any great teacher. On the one hand, there is the ability of putting yourself in the other teacher’s shoes in order to understand the other point of view. On the other hand, there is the capacity of putting yourself in the students place and to try to evaluate things from their point of view.

The biggest effect on students is achieved when teachers are willing to work together in order to evaluate the impact they make

Students need to know and feel they are understood by their teachers. They should know that learning requires a big effort. Learning means making many mistakes. The teachers that are able to create a secure environment in their classrooms, that get to know their students and how ready they are to take up challenges; then, they can listen to how their students think aloud and, in that way, they can follow the steps they make at their learning process.

The cooperative work teachers do, together with the pedagogical leadership from the management, impact in a relevant way at the student’s school achievement. Hattie talks here about the importance of not talking about teaching in an abstract way, but to talk about the impact that can be made through teaching.

That’s why it is strictly necessary that those teachers who generate a big impact, are able to make their voices be heard

That’s also important for the students. They don’t have the ability, by themselves, to know if they are making any progress or not at all. That’s why, as teachers, it is essential to inform our students about how they are progressing toward their achievement. Something that can’t be reduced to their grades.

Impuls Educació Infographic: ‘Teachers with impactful effect. 6 keys according to John Hattie.

The role parents play

To conclude, we would like to highlight the message that Hattie transmitted to us about the influence of parents towards their children’s achievement. Much of what makes this achievement to be excellent, depends on the parents.

The expectations of parents are the most powerful family variable of all and what makes performance excellent

And, what is the influence of expectations? Most of what is expected from a student ends up determining its behaviour. It is not that parents are the first teachers, but that they are the first learners of all. That’s because kids imitate the way their parents learn. There is a huge variability of cases out there. From those parents that can’t deal with mistakes, to the ones that can’t tolerate failure; or, on the contrary, those parents who always give their 100% at everything.

El deseo que mueve a Hattie es el de que se le conozca como la persona que cambió las preguntas. La que pasó de “¿qué funciona?”, a “¿qué funciona mejor?” Del mismo modo, le gustaría que se le recordase como la persona que se centró en “cómo los estudiantes están recibiendo” y no tanto en “cómo los profesores están dando feedback”. Y es que es todo esto lo que considera que hace que una escuela tenga una enseñanza con impacto; lo que hace que los alumnos tengan un rendimiento excelente; lo que forma a grandes docentes.

Summary of the key ideas from the interview with John Hattie

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