In the world of education, Professor John Hattie is sometimes a polarising figure. His key work is meta-research, researching the research. In effect, he collates the results of thousands of studies involving millions of students in the search for the techniques and approaches to learning that have the biggest impact.
In a recent keynote address, Hattie noted the following approaches, in order of impact, with each one having close to double the effect of a normal year’s worth of learning.
- Teachers and students working together to evaluate their impact– collaboration with a purpose drives the effectiveness of students and teachers alike. It provides the feedback mechanism that allows changes that bring about higher performance across time.
- All having high expectations– together, students and their teachers lift the bar.
- All moving towards explicit success criteria– when we see what success looks like, when it is modelled and clear to see, if becomes much easier for us to replicate it.
- Using the goldilocks principle of challenge– getting it just right, learning that is too hard or too easy can be equally debilitating. This is one of the key challenges and joys of differentiation in learning.
- Where trust exists and errors are welcomed as an opportunity to learn– it has been said that to do something well, first you have to do it badly, but this is only true in a climate where it is safe to make mistakes, and where reflection allows for learning.
- Maximising feedback to teachers about their impact– great teachers don’t just give feedback, they seek it. Learning in the classroom is a two way street, for students and teachers alike.
- A focus on learning with the right relationship between surface and deep learning– this is one of the key skills of gifted teachers, the ability to know what matters most and to also provide contextual understanding.
In many ways, the approaches above come as no surprise. The one key twist is that learning is as much a focus for the teacher as for the student. And this is our challenge as staff at NBCS. We must continually seek feedback and understand ourselves as learners. There is powerful progress to be made when staff and students learn together. This approach encapsulates the connectedness that Parker J Palmer puts so well:
Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves.