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.
Strategy 1: A Clear Focus
Hattie states that lesson goals:
Marzano also found that posing questions at the start of a lesson is an effective way to focus students. For example:
Hattie suggests using questions in a slightly different way:
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:
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:
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.
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:
Engaging at the Surface Level
When students are relatively unfamiliar with what you are teaching, engagement strategies include:
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:
Marzano also recommends using analogies, such as:
These are practical strategies that exemplify the higher levels of the SOLO taxonomy. This is an alternative to Bloom that Hattie advocates.
Strategy 4: Give Feedback
It is vital that you give your students feedback after they engage with any new material. This involves:
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:
Hattie also highlighted that feedback is a two-way street. Student results provide the basis for both feedback to:
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.
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:
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
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:
For further information, read Group Work That Works.
Strategy 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:
Marzano found that you could build students’ self-efficacy through praise and expressing your belief that they can do well. However, to be effective, such praise must:
As Carol Dweck noted, if you praise lavishly and liberally, you end up praising mediocrity. In turn, this sends a message that you believe that this is all they are capable of.
Hattie highlighted the reciprocal nature of the link between self-efficacy and achievement
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.
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.
Updated December 2016
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 is an experienced teacher and principal with a passion for helping students to excel. He believes that assisting teachers to adopt evidence-based education is the best way to make this happen. Shaun is committed to bringing you practical advice based on solid research.