In December, I briefly mentioned Professor John Hattie’s book ‘Visible Learning’: a synthesis of student achievement over 15 years, so it’s gratifying to read that his study of 83 million students has recently been lauded in the UK as teaching’s ‘Holy Grail’.
This is one of the most powerful and challenging texts to be published in the last decade and it deserves our close analysis and attention.
In my view Hattie’s work gives education systems and governments a yardstick to measure the often ill conceived and short term methods that are imposed on schools.
In an interview with the New Zealand Sunday Star Times (4 January 2008), Hattie says parents should worry less about class sizes, curriculum and computers and more on the quality of relationships between teachers-students. In particular, he notes the quality of teacher feedback and trust in classrooms.
Hattie’s research confirms a universal truth: the quality of the teacher makes the difference to student learning; yet this evidence seems to have been buried in populist debate and recent election promises to improve schooling by introducing school report-cards, a national curriculum or the latest overseas quick fix.
It’s no surprise that Hattie wants to see more money spent on rewarding teacher excellence rather than experience. While “twenty is plenty” may be a good slogan to garner populist support, it hardly passes for rigourous evidence-based scrutiny.
We all have some hard truths to face as a result of Hattie’s research. I just hope that as more educators, politicians, unions and parents begin to digest the evidence, we see greater consensus on where resources should be spent and less energy arguing over issues at the edges.