A Tip of the Hat to Hattie

I am currently attending the TCEA Virtual Convention, so I plan to share a little about what I’ve learned in each post this week.

Professor John Hattie has become a well-known name in educational research circles, and I have been learning bits and pieces about his work for the past few years. His extremely thorough studies on “what works” in education are changing the landscape of pre-service and in-service training for teachers. You can find out more about his background here. Though his information is not without controversy, much of it makes good common sense. As Hattie himself says, “We focus too much on the data and not on the interpretations.”

I was excited to be able to attend a session at TCEA last night presented by Dr. Hattie. He spoke about the delineation between surface and deep thinking, which he labels, “Knowing That and Knowing How.” One message that he seemed to feel people misunderstand is that we need both kinds of thinking in our schools, and that “Knowing How” is not nearly as effective when “Knowing That” has been skipped. He recommends that we spend time overtly teaching students the difference, and how to recognize when each type of thinking is required. “Are you snorkeling or are you scuba diving?” is a good question to pose to the students.

As a teacher of gifted students for 19 years, I agree with Dr. Hattie that there is still not nearly enough challenge in classrooms. We have got to work more effectively to design for the “Goldilocks Effect” in learning experiences so that students are not being given assignments that are too easy or too hard. This is tricky. In my opinion, until teachers are given better tools, smaller class sizes, and better professional development it is difficult to achieve on a consistent basis.

My hand was flying as I took notes throughout Dr. Hattie’s presentation, and I don’t want to inadvertently misinterpret his comments as I type this, so I will skip to a few comments he made toward the end regarding how the pandemic might impact students. His opinion is that the pandemic might be “The Golden Ticket” for when it comes to the effect of technology in our schools. Though technology has not made a huge impression overall on student learning for a long time, he thinks that it will help with a couple of things: teachers speaking less and students talking more. Teachers, through necessity, have learned to “triage” their teaching to make direct lectures more streamlined. Students are more willing to ask for help or clarification if they can do it privately, such as in discussion boards and with student response tools. Of course, this remains to be seen.

The newest Visible Learning tool for analyzing how specific strategies influence learning is located here. It can help you determine some areas on which you’d like to focus in order to make the biggest impact, or ones that you may be spending too much time on based on how little influence it may ultimately wield.

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