8 Strategies Robert Marzano & John Hattie Agree On

By | First Published: | Last Updated: 27 September, 2021

Robert Marzano and John Hattie have both reviewed the research on which teaching strategies work best. While they used different methods and terminology, they agreed on these 8 powerful strategies.

1. A Clear Focus

John Hattie highlights how important it is for you (and your students) to be clear about what you want them to learn. According to Hattie, teacher clarity is one of the most potent influences on student achievement. Robert Marzano agrees! He includes lesson goals in his top 5 list of factors that affect how well students do at school.

Hattie states that lesson goals:

  • Should clarify what you want your students to learn
  • Can focus on surface or deep learning (or both)
  • Must be challenging for the students relative to their current mastery of the topic
  • May be grouped (i.e. a single lesson may have more than one goal)
  • Need to be shared with the students

Marzano also found that posing questions at the start of a lesson is an effective way to focus students. For example:

  • How do you add mixed fractions with different denominators? That’s what you must know by the end of this lesson.
  • What is the difference between elements and compounds?
  • Why is Persuasive Essay A better than Persuasive Essay B?
  • When (what period) were Egypt’s great pyramids built?

Hattie suggests using questions in a slightly different way:

  • What are today’s lesson goals?
  • What do I already know that will help me achieve these goals?
  • What actions will I need to do to ensure I achieve these goals?

See How to Set Lesson Goals to Boost Student Achievement

Strategy 2: Offer Overt Instruction

Robert Marzano claims it is important to explicitly teach your students the things they need to learn. In fact, he found it was the most critical factor (teacher controlled) affecting students’ success. You need to:

  • Tell them what they need to know
  • Show them how to do things they must be able to do for themselves.

John Hattie did not review explicit teaching per se, but he did find that Direct Instruction was very effective. Direct Instruction involves explicitly teaching a carefully sequenced curriculum. And, it has built-in cumulative practice.

Hattie also highlighted the power of giving students worked examples. More specifically, you should use worked examples when explaining how to multi-step tasks. Marzano also highlights the importance of providing examples and non-examples of the concept you are teaching. For example, when teaching prime numbers it would be useful to highlight:

  • 2 as an example
  • 9, 15 and 21 as non-examples

This helps to avoid confusion with odd numbers.

Marzano also found that you can explicitly teach deeper levels of understanding. How? By using graphic organisers. You should use graphic organisers to show how different ideas were related to each other. For example, you should use them to show steps, cause-effect, hierarchy, lists, comparisons, etc.

Neither Hattie nor Marzano believes that great teaching is nothing more than standing out the front of the class and imparting knowledge. However, both agree that telling students what they need to know and showing students what they need to be able to do are essential aspects of teaching.

For an example of explicit teaching in context see the I Do, We Do, You Do model.

Strategy 3: Get the Students to Engage with the Content

You must teach students what they need to know and be able to do. But, it is also essential to get them to actively engage with the content.

Marzano and Hattie agree that this starts with students’ prior knowledge. You need to help them link new information to their prior knowledge of the topic. Students need to engage with the content as soon as they hear it by:

  • Adding it to what they already know, or
  • Using it to clarify some of the faulty assumptions they currently hold

Engaging at the Surface Level

When students are relatively unfamiliar with what you are teaching, engagement strategies include:

  • Generating questions while reading
  • Taking and organising notes
  • Summarising
  • Rehearsal

Marzano also found getting them to work with physical manipulatives is helpful.  And, he found that the simple act of asking students simple recall questions works well.

All these strategies are useful, but they only allow students to engage with the content at a surface level.

Engaging at a Deeper Level

Hattie and Marzano also found several ways for students to engage at a deeper level. These include exploring relationships between things using:

concept mapping fill in the blanks

Marzano also recommends using analogies, such as:

  • Persuasive devices are to a writer what tools are to a tradie, or
  • The Magna Carta offered citizens what a referee offers a game of soccer

These are practical strategies that exemplify the higher levels of the SOLO taxonomy. This is an alternative to Bloom that Hattie advocates.

For further information, see 7 High-Impact Learning Strategies You Must Teach Your Students.

Strategy 4: Give Feedback

It is vital that you give your students feedback after they engage with any new material. This involves:

  • Highlighting what is right and wrong, or good and bad about their work
  • Helping students to see how they can improve

See How to Give Feedback to Students: The Advanced Guide

See How to Give Feedback to Students: The Advanced Guide

Robert Marzano found that you need to give your students feedback while they still have time to improve. John Hattie agreed with this but went further. He found that:

See How to Give Feedback to Students: The Advanced Guide

Robert Marzano found that you need to give your students feedback while they still have time to improve. John Hattie agreed with this but went further. He found that:

  • Novice or struggling students need immediate feedback
  • More experienced and capable students do better when they receive delayed feedback

See The Value of Feedback Infographic

Hattie also highlighted that feedback is a two-way street. Student results provide the basis for both feedback to:

  • Students on how they can improve
  • You on the impact your teaching is having

Strategy 5: Multiple Exposures

If you want students to internalize new information, you need to expose them to it several times.

Robert Marzano explored ways to enhance students’ vocabulary. He found that it was critical for teachers to expose students to the same word multiple times.

John Hattie picks up on the significance of multiple exposures. He talks about the critical importance of techniques such as rehearsal and review.

  • Rehearsal means going over the material until you can remember it
  • Review involves going over things you have learned previously

He also stresses the merit of giving students time to practice doing the things they have learned to do. When spaced out over time, Hattie found that having students practice things led to a 26-percentile improvement in their marks.

On a more cautious note, Hattie warned that practice without feedback could be dangerous. Why? It leads to students internalizing the wrong things.

Strategy 6: Have Students Apply Their Knowledge

Robert Marzano found that helping students apply their knowledge deepens their understanding.

A Deductive Process

Knowledge application is a deductive process. Put another way, students apply general principles to specific case studies or problems. Marzano found that deductive thinking helps students to generalise their learning beyond the topic or task at hand. He advocates:

  • Teaching students how to think deductively
  • Giving them guided practice in doing so

Hattie confirmed that deductive processes are much more useful than inductive teaching (i.e. asking students to discover general principles from observing particular situations).


Knowledge application also involves problem-solving. Robert found that problem-solving had a significant effect (d = 0.54) on students’ understanding. Marzano believes that problems should require students to apply previously learned knowledge and skills. Hattie agrees.  When problem-solving is used in this way, Hattie found a similar effect size (d = 0.61) to Marzano. However, when a problem is used to stimulate discovery learning, the opposite is true (d = 0.15). Hattie also emphasized the importance of teaching students how to solve problems.


Strategy 7: Get Students Working Together

Robert Marzano and John Hattie agree that getting students to work together is a good idea. It helps them to achieve better results. The use of cooperative learning groups adds value to:

  • Whole-class instruction (d = 0.41)
  • Individual work (d = 0.59-0.78)

They also agree that inter-group competition can increase the effect of cooperative learning even more.

However, neither Marzano nor Hattie believes that cooperative learning should replace whole-class instruction. Nor should it replace individual learning activities.

Hattie highlights the importance of individual students’ competence.  If students haven’t gained enough mastery of the material, they cannot actively participate in cooperative learning tasks.

Marzano adds that if students are to master what they are being taught, they also need opportunities for individual practice and feedback.

Finally, Marzano and Hattie agree that cooperative learning is only useful when you:

  • Structure it carefully
  • Keep groups small
  • Teach students how to work in groups

For further information, read Group Work That Works.

8. Build Students’ Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy refers to a student’s belief about their ability to successfully complete a task. It is situation-specific. For example, a student may feel confident that they can dance well on stage but be insecure about public speaking.

Hattie & Marzano both found that students’ self-efficacy had a substantial impact on how well they did at school. Students who:

  • Believed they would master fractions were more likely to do so
  • Saw themselves as poor readers were less likely to improve their reading

The most effective way to boost self-efficacy is for your student to experience genuine success. Scaffolded tasks, such as with the I Do We Do You Do model, help students experience such success.

Students can also gain self-efficacy for a given task through:

  • Seeing ‘similar others’ succeed at the task
  • Verbal persuasion

Yet, these are both less potent than experiencing success.

Marzano & Hattie in a Nutshell

John Hattie and Robert Marzano have each conducted significant reviews of what works best in the classroom.

There are some apparent differences in their work.

  • They use different terminology to each other.
  • Marzano uses more isolated strategies, while Hattie combines strategies into broader approaches
  • Marzano’s findings are based heavily on teacher-designed assessments. Yet Hattie’s findings make more use of standardized tests

However, as you can see, there is significant agreement between Robert Marzano and John Hattie when it comes to what works best in the classroom.


John Hattie. (2009). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement.

John Hattie & Gregory Donoghue. (2016). Learning Strategies: A Synthesis and Conceptual Model.

Robert Marzano, Debra Pickering & Jane Pollock. (2001). Classroom Instruction That Works.
[+Ceri Dean, Elizabeth Hubbell, Howard Pitler & BJ Stone. (2012). Classroom Instruction That Works. (updated)]

Robert Marzano & Debra Pickering. (2010). The Highly Engaged Classroom.

Robert Marzano & Mark Haystead. (2009). Meta-Analytic Synthesis of Studies Conducted at Marzano Research Laboratory on Instructional Strategies.

shaun killian drawing

(MEd., MLead.)

Shaun Killian (me) is an experienced and passionate teacher, as well as a past school principal. After a heart transplant and having both my legs amputated, I am not yet capable of returning to work. Yet, my passion for helping students succeed has led me to use my time to research teaching and associated practices. I then share what I find in practical ways through this website. The greatest compliment I have ever received from a past student was I never left any student behind. That is mission of most teachers and I hope you find the information on this site useful.

Contact Me