Note, this article refers to John Hattie’s 2009 book, Visible Learning. You can find an updated summary of his findings here.
John Hattie synthesized over 500,000+ studies related to student achievement in his book Visible Learning. In this book he showed that teachers can make a difference despite other circumstances that may impede learning.
In fact, Hattie found that most teachers have some degree of impact on their students’ learning. However, some teachers have far more impact than others.
According to Hattie: What Should Teachers Do?
John Hattie discovered that teachers are far more likely to have a large and positive impact if they:
- Are passionate about helping their students learn
- Forge strong relationships with their students
- Are clear about what they want their students to learn
- Adopt evidence-based teaching strategies
- Monitor their impact on students’ learning, and adjust their approaches accordingly
- Actively seek to improve their own teaching
- Are viewed by the students as being credible (Hattie 2016 Update)
You are far more likely to have a low (or even negative) impact if you:
- Repeat students
- Label students (fixed mindset)
- Have low expectations
Hattie & His Top 10 Teaching Strategies
According to John Hattie, high-impact, evidence-based teaching strategies include:
- Direct Instruction
- Note Taking & Other Study Skills
- Spaced Practice
- Teaching Metacognitive Skills
- Teaching Problem Solving Skills
- Reciprocal Teaching
- Mastery Learning
- Concept Mapping
- Worked Examples
Teaching strategies that had little or no impact included:
- Giving students control over their learning
- Problem-based learning
- Teaching test-taking
- Catering to learning styles
- Inquiry-based teaching
Hattie Found Curriculum Matters Too
John Hattie found that what you teach matters too.
Specifically, students achieve better results when they are taught:
- Core and subject-specific vocabulary
- Phonics and phonemic awareness
- Comprehension skills
Other programs that have a significant, positive impact on student performance include:
- Creativity Programs
- Repeated Reading Programs
- Visual Perception Programs
Programs that had little if any impact included:
- Perceptual Motor Programs
- Whole Language Programs
- Sentence Combining Programs
- Extra Curricula Programs
Other Key Insights
Following his extensive review, John Hattie wanted you to know that:
- Your actions can make a difference despite other hurdles that your students may face.
- Some approaches to your work as a teacher are likely to have a far larger impact than others. Therefore, it makes sense to start with those.
- No approach to teaching will work for every student, all of the time. As a result, you need to be always aware of the impact that you are having on your students. Then you adjust your approach when necessary.
Be Aware of Subtle Details In the Evidence
The above findings are clear cut. However, much of John Hattie’s work needs careful reading to appreciate the subtle nuances of his findings. For example, Hattie found that homework has a marginal impact. This true when you average out different studies. Yet, a careful reading of the underlying research shows that homework has virtually no impact on young students, and quite a lot of impact in senior secondary school. Furthermore, other research (found in a different section of Hattie’s book), shows that study tasks help students do better at school, which suggests the nature of homework may play a role. Also, Hattie found that:
- Ability grouping was not particularly helpful and that mixed ability groups were better. However, he also found that within-class ability groups in reading outperform mixed ability groups.
- Piagetian programs had a large impact on student results, where the underlying research actually showed that it was students’ Piagetian levels that correlated with achievement. Students operating at higher Piagetian levels were much more likely to achieve better marks than peers operating at lower Piagetian levels.
- That problem-based learning was less effective than alternative approaches, but that teaching students problem-solving strategies had a large impact on their subsequent results.
John Hattie’s Work
John Hattie’s work is one of the most (if not the most) significant educational projects undertaken to date. Yet, it is important not to over-simplify his findings. Many of the articles on this site unpack the subtle nuances behind the research he reviewed, and it is worth reading his book Visible Learning in its entirety.
Some people have criticized Hattie’s work. These criticisms are a mixture of pointing out genuine limitations (all research has them), and misleading claims by anonymous online sources. If you want further information about the quality of Hattie’s work read An Objective Critique of Hattie’s Visible Learning Research.