What am I doing to help kids achieve?
How do I know when they are there?
What is the evidence?
One of my concerns is that as a teacher I will start to acquire “blind spots”. A “blind spot” in the simplest non educational terms is any practice that I do as a teacher that is really stupid and eventually harmful to students but because I have been teaching for so long I do not even realize that I am doing it. I try to protect myself from blind spots with a couple of things I do each year. First, I married a really pretty teacher who is incredibly gifted and does not hesitate to say, “Hey...that is a really dumb idea...don’t do it.” Usually she is right. (O.K...she is always right..but I would never admit to that in writing. Good thing she never reads stuff I write…) I also surround myself around other teachers and educators who are phenomenal. The best part about these people, besides that they usually pretend to be nice to me, is that their only real agenda is helping kids. Again, like my wife, they are great about saying, “Do this...not this..”.
Aside from these people, it would be great to have book I could read and refer to to help keep me on the right educational path and help point me in the right direction. I think I found it…”Visible Learning for Teachers” by John Hattie.
John Hattie is a guy who spent twenty five years doing over 50000 meta analysis studies on about 80 million students and wrote a book called “Visible Learning”. He has also done a number of TED talks. Essentially, he asks the question, “What affects students learning?” and clearly as well as simply defines what an “effect” is. He told the story of a researcher who spent years recording classroom interactions from the perspective of the student and the teacher. The researcher was surprised to learn that about seventy percent of learning was not visible to the teacher. So..even the best teachers with the best data only get about thirty percent of the picture. Next came the book, Visible Learning for Teachers and the website “Visible Learning Plus”. To summarize, John and friends provide a checklist of what teachers can do to make learning more visible before during and after a lesson. Here are just a few of the ideas that are discussed in the book…
Are classrooms filled with teacher monologues or dialogues?
How important is formative assessment in learning?
Should administrators observe teachers in classrooms or should they spend more time observing students learning in classrooms?
How important is it to have students self report grades?
Should we tell students, “Try your best” or is it better to say, “Challenge yourself every day”?
Is it better to focus feedback about the learner or the task?
Bottom line...it is not about blaming teachers or starting a major revolution. It is more about intentionally being more thoughtful about using research to help students achieve to their fullest potential. Ever wonder what one thing teachers can do to have a huge impact on students? (Spoiler alert!) We as an educational community can sit down with other teachers and ask, essentially, “What are we doing together to help our students achieve and what is the evidence?” Shocker….This book provides the tool kit and steps to start the journey in a positive way. It is certainly worth having on your bookshelf.