Visible Learning – John Hattie

I’ve made this its own page since it will take a while and I’m rather hoping for a lot of content.

Click here to read some of it!

Click here to read some of it!

I’m up to about chapter 3 and have been completely bamboozled by the technical stuff of whatever an effect size is. Actually, what I really wanted to know was how I could measure effect sizes on interventions in my own setting. There were a couple of sentences that made sense for a nanosecond then it was all a blur again. I just needed some live uber simple examples such as with spelling test scores for example.

Without being able to qualify my ‘gut feeling’ objectively, his claim that all those meta-analyses can be located within a standard continuum makes his claims sound empirical and clinically scientific – like studying the growth of bacteria in controlled environments. Social science – especially studies attempting to research the metaphysical narratives colliding in, through, and around the practices of teaching and learning can never legitimately be reduced to a data set generated by inputs and outputs.

The idea of the meta analysis being a ‘pure’ epistemology is annoying enough – who can argue with Mr. Meta-Meta-Meta Analysis then? Imagine in 500 years. All anyone will have to do is read the latest meta (to-the-power-of -seven) document and we have the ‘singularity’ one document that contains all truth! Who might be the author of that I wonder!

None the less, you can’t read that many studies of what goes on in schools and not identify common stories and experiences. My goal is to learn from what he has learned and see  how it can make a difference in the lives of my students.

I’m on to his theory now and enjoying it very much. His bid to explain visible teaching and learning  (or as translated by the education authority I work within – clearly published learning intentions for every lesson) sort of left me stranded by the roadside. The metaphor is completely inadequate. A comparison between an abseiling instructor and a primary school generalist teacher is simply not fair. Nor is it right to compare the first time abseiler learning how to abseil and a student in their 6th year of school learning subtraction by decomposition up to tens of thousands with decimal places midway through the swimming program. I’ve done both – I’d rather the abseiling.

Having been involved in emergency services for years I have endured countless hours of tedious, poorly developed and uninspired ‘training’. To actually get a chance to put a Larkin frame together and drop some poor soul off the edge of a cliff was engaging even if only to avoid dot-point death rigamortis. The idea that teaching kids about proper nouns (and that last years teacher was correct about sentences  starting with capital letters and the six teachers prior to that) can be as engaging for them as abseiling for the first time is a non sequitur.

Our local Amazinthings has a ‘long drop’ that epitomizes this point exactly.

The pimply faced teenager on the minimum wage at the top of the drop is not particularly enthused or engaged in the learning journey the often small and terrified child. “Just hurry up and hold onto the bar then let go so the next person can have their turn” might summarise their disposition. Familiarity with the process can obscure the learner. My experience would suggest that the student is engaged because of the novelty, risk and often counter intuitive nature of the action.  I would not be surprised however, if it were possible to design a study that showed that this might not be the case – or that the teacher / trainer could act in a way that would impede the critical knowledge acquisition of the learner thereby diminishing their engagement.

Finally, I think that training and instructing is a part of teaching but that teaching is much more that just hands on training and instructing. Teaching is being a learners advocate which implies relationship and a passion to learn their students and know their needs and strengths such that trust is built up and resides in the bonds of relationship and not simply in the physics of the harness and kernmantle rope.

So – wrong metaphor in my opinion, but definitely the right message.

Hattie then got on to talking about what might be seen as a Popperian umwelt. He used this to highlight the binary notions of a constructivist pedagogy verses direct teaching (what I think of as ‘determinist’ teaching in this context). Bereiter’s work that is quoted for this was really useful to me. Poppers notion of human agents having a physical, subjective and ideas world tied in refreshingly well with the environmental education learning lab (EELL) process of ‘values’ ‘knowledge’ and ‘action’. More work to be done there however.

Well, off to bed now.

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