This may not have much to do with the topic, but I always think a little Carl Sagan thrown in on a hopeless Saturday morning to be a good thing to get some perspective. Everything from Ben Carson wanting to use his magic time machine and give guns to Jews, (and others who think he was right, who also have no idea how anything works), to folks conflating their religious beliefs with their tax dollars. Me? Shrug. I’ve got big data to keep me warm for a few hours! Seriously – no snark, promise –this is fun for me–looking over ideas from charts and exploring what’s behind the numbers.
Visible Learning by John Hattie (2009) takes on ‘meta-analysis relating to achievement.‘ This book is a gift from our new administrator, and I am grateful for it. In a nutshell, there are over a hundred concepts that have been tried in education to promote student achievement. The word “achievement” has a mental bookmark for me, because I need to stop and look up the definition of achievement in this context.
After a few attempts around the Interwebs, I came across this:
Achievement relates to the subjects typically taught in schools, with the preponderance in math and reading (followed by Science, Social Studies) and fewer in the Arts. In terms of the Visible Learning research, there is a good mix of standardised tests, state tests, researcher constructed and teacher made tests.
That still doesn’t quite answer my question, but I’ll take this to mean students are meeting or exceeding the expectations of the content at any point in time. No need to stir more into the pot.
Examples/Glossary and links to instructional methods are here.
A colleague and I were discussing at lunch that most of the reports, when investigated further, need to be considered through a critical eye–to me, the data are a tapestry. If, say for instance Home Life is not judged solely on the basis of its number, but on the complex responses of parents to children’s schooling, then it does have an impact when taken out of its data silo. The concept of parent ‘surveillance’ hit home with me especially in this day of instant progress and missing assignment reports. I’ve been guilty of this, and perhaps we need to look at our grading reporting systems so we don’t enable parents to be supervisors or spies in their children’s education, but seek to aspire as Hattie suggests. Looking at classroom size–this needs another review. If you’re at 20 to 30 there isn’t much difference, but if you get to classroom sizes of 40, yes, that has to impact learning, if those 40 are relenting to peer pressure and not tracking the instruction. Teasing out one factor from another is difficult. But maybe I’m just clinging to the Old Gods of Educational Myths.
Here is the big snake of data: (click to enlarge)
1. Self-report grades
If some of the systems in place in the positive zone on the lower rungs of impact aren’t in place, does this impact the upper rungs?
Well, ultimately, his message is clear: allow for risk and listening. I would add one other factor which I am not sure he addresses, and that is student influences on one another. Perhaps he does, but it’s not clear where it is in the data belt.
Overhearing students tell another to “not to do the work,” and adding that peer pressure and ridicule their friends when they do like school is HUGE. Perhaps this is covered under another of Hattie’s data point umbrellas, but in middle school where friendship and belonging are the rings that rule them all, it’s something to be mindful of. Students work ethic is affected by their peer groups, and using that knowledge to move the momentum back to achievement (it’s cool to be smart/gain knowledge) is a value that can help all students.
What’s your take away from Hattie’s work? Is he just another educator trying to sell a program? A scholar supporting important messages? I value the focus: the intentional focus on not getting spun out by the distractions or misdirections in educational conversations. If meta-analysis provides evidence of key educational concepts that have the greatest impact, then those focused conversations may be of great value.
I believe the larger vision is to align his work with those of our PLCs, so I plan on giving this some thought. It took my group about five collective hours just to agree on what a good summary is, but I have hope. This means we’re truly thinking and evaluating, and not taking things at surface level. (My mantra: ‘retell is not a summary…retell is not a summary….retell is not a summary’). One thing I do know is we’re a pretty savvy group of educators, and we’ll figure it out. This gives us some clarity, and what to reprioritize.