Teaching Strategies Don’t Make You an Expert Teacher

New Zealand Education Professor Emeritus John Hattie is publishing a new book this month, “Visible Learning: The Sequel“. It is a follow-up to his 2008 Visible Learning. That work was based on Hattie and his team statistically analyzing thousands of research studies on influences on student achievement (learning) in schools. His team published a ranking of influences (teaching techniques / personal circumstances) on student achievement. I am looking forward to reading his book and was interested in hearing what he had to say in this TES Magazine interview from January.

His book was all the rage in education and we offered teachers in one of my previous schools, consultants from Hattie’s Research Group to work with our faculty. We focused on the strategies that had a highly positive impact on student achievement.

The problem is: we are hopeless at identifying successful teaching and scaling it up; that’s one of the most frustrating things in our business.

So, we need to ask less about how students engage in doing work, and more about how students think, know and solve. We need to shift from focusing on the impact of talking to focusing on the power of listening.

Tes Magazine – January 11, 2023 John Hattie interview

Hattie’s thinking has evolved and the sequel does not have any tables of influence. Hattie mentioned a new observation technique in Australia of filming an expert teacher talk through his/her thinking behind lesson planning, then filming the lesson and afterward, filming the teacher breakdown the decisions made during the lesson based on what was taking place in class.

We stopped a couple of years ago because the technology is now far ahead of where we were. But one of the things we found, from our work in England, was that 89 per cent of classroom time is spent with the teacher talking. Teachers asked around 150 questions a day, most of which required less than three-word answers. That’s the norm. Most teachers don’t know that, and they deny it. But the evidence is undeniable, and when they do see their own results, it drives them to improve.

Tes Magazine – January 11, 2023 John Hattie interview

Hattie’s quote above shows teachers often rely too much on direct instruction. There is a place for this, but Hattie is stresses for educators to switch from focusing on what they are doing, and moving to what the students are learning, in other words, the impact of the teaching on students.

My final takeaway from Hattie’s interview is his key finding in his work, that teacher expertise and quality is the most important factor in student learning. As the leader of the school, I need to make sure we hire teachers with this expertise and support the improvement of the teachers we have.

This reminds me of admissions and thinking about why families choose a K-12 school or a university. Often they focus on the campus, facilities, marketing literature, etc. They should be choosing schools based on the teachers and professors.

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