Leading Teacher Learning: The importance of John Hattie

This series of blogs “Leading Teacher Learning: The importance of …” will give a short introduction and overview of the work of people who have helped me in my job leading teaching and learning. This series is purely a personal account of my “go to” people who have given me inspiration and insights into how to develop mine and others teaching.

This series is not intended to be a comprehensive account of any ones work and any omissions or misinterpretations are my own. I would strongly recommend any teacher or senior leader who is developing teaching to study the original sources.

In this series I will share the ways in which Dylan Wiliam, John Hattie , Andy Hargreaves ,Michael Fullen , David Didau and Alistair Smith have helped me as a teacher and as a deputy head leading the development of teaching and learning. This is not a critique , rather a purely positive personal view.

John Hattie

Like Dylan Wiliam (Leading Teacher Learning Series:The importance of …Dylan Wiliam )

John Hattie has a knack of making the complex simple and distilling effective pedagogy and teacher development into a few lines:

Visible learning is when:“when teachers see learning through the eyes of students and students see themselves as their own teachers”

“What does matter is teachers having a mind frame in which they see it as their role to evaluate their effect on learning.”  

“If you want to increase student academic achievement, give each student a friend.”  

“The major message, however, is that rather than recommending a particular teaching method, teachers need to be evaluators of the effect of the methods that they choose.”

Professor John Hattie has made a huge impact on how I look at teaching and indeed education. In a world full of ideas and strategies Hattie puts forward some complex ideas and observations within a framework of common sense. Often, early on in his talks and lectures he will make the point that most things  we do in our classrooms and schools will have a positive impact on achievement. Some have negative but most are positive. The point is not if something has an impact but what the size of the impact is.

In 2009 Hattie published a meta- analysis of over 800 studies covering 240million students on “What works” in education. From school type to performance related pay, to holding back a year, to class size, co-operative learning to feedback and everything inbetween. The TES called it the Holy Grail of teaching.  The Media grabbed onto his findings which implicitly criticised government policies on school types and reducing class sizes.  Hattie used the statistical measurement of effect size to rank the impact of strategies. The effect size number of 0.40 for Hattie is the average effect size.  The zone of desired effect is above this, and this for Hattie is what schools and teachers should be concentrating on.


So for example it is well worth developing teachers and students abilities at giving, receiving and using feedback because it has an effect size of 0.73, whereas ability grouping has an effect size of 0.12. Hattie points out that schools do not make the difference to achievement because within school variation is much greater than between school variation. In a nutshell what makes the biggest difference is not schools or teachers, but effective teachers that add value above the threshold of 0.40  and what these teachers do on a day to day basis.

Hattie calls much of the debates around how to improve education, schools and student achievement as the “politics of distraction” in this radio interview you can hear more about his views : http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04dmxwl or download the Politics of distraction here: http://visible-learning.org/2015/06/download-john-hattie-politics-distraction/

So what does Hattie suggest that as a schools and teachers we focus on? Well there is the “rank order” of strategies and interventions:


which puts teacher expectations feedback and developing student meta-cognitive abilities towards the top, along with others. However, Hattie and others have pointed to the fact that the devil is in the detail.

Take Feedback for example, although it is generally accepted that feedback is a good thing, it can have either a positive or negative impact on achievement, like almost everything in teaching its the bananarama principle of “It aint  what you do it’s the way that you do it”  (“It Ain’t What You Do It’s The Way That You Do It. The Bananarama Principle, The Xfactor of teaching)  In addition “Feedback” is complex and needs to be approached cautiously. Hattie suggests we concentrate less on the amount of feedback the teacher gives to students but rather how much students actually receive.  Even more important is the feedback the teacher receives from students about their teaching. (For  more thoughts on feedback read Getting the Buggers to respond: The complexities of feedback and what we can learn from Mr Miyagi.)

So Hattie has himself given a “health warning” to his own rankings. Rather Hattie talks about teachers and school leaders as evaluators of their own teaching, and not just a “gut feeling” or exam results but a combination of a number of pieces of evidence so that in Hattie’s words  teachers “Know thy Impact”

In order to aid this Hattie suggests a number of teaching technique which if done well can result in above average results for students. Things such as a well planned balance between surface and deep thinking the  use of success criteria, the use of prompts as precursors to feedback, peer tuition.  But all teaching techniques can be used effectively or not. What really matters suggests Hattie (and I agree) is the Mind Frames of teachers and School leaders.

Hattie proposes the development of  8 Mind Frames:

  1. Teachers/leaders believe that their fundamental task is to evaluate the effect of their teaching on students’ learning and achievement
  2. Teachers/leaders believe that success and failure in student learning is about what they, as teachers or leaders did or did not do…we are change agents!
  3. Teachers/leaders want to talk more about the learning than the teaching
  4. Teachers/ leaders see assessment as feedback about their impact
  5. Teachers/leaders engage in dialogue not monologue
  6. Teachers/leaders enjoy challenge and never retreat to ‘doing their best’
  7. Teachers/leaders believe that it is their role to develop positive relationships in classrooms/staffrooms
  8. Teachers/leaders inform all about the language of learning

These are taken from this book, which I believe should be compulsory reading for every teacher.


These Mind frames aid teaching and learning, and most schools and teachers attempt on some level to foster and encourage these. But how much? and how effectively?  The Visible learning training run by Osiris helps school and teachers audit and think about how aligned they are to these Mindframes. A quick shout out to Craig Parkinson who (https://twitter.com/CParkinson535)  run the training for myself and a colleague https://twitter.com/learningdataguy who both agreed that it was the best piece two days of external CPD we had ever attended.

These Mind frames along with the pedagogical approaches suggested by Hattie run through all of my teaching and how I approach developing teaching with others. Talk about success, but talk and analyse the magnitude of that success. Use a range of evidence and be humble and resolute about what you find. Take calculated risk and look at the research and evidence in your classroom, a colleagues classroom your school and across the globe.

This is just a very  brief overview of Hattie’s work, and as mentioned in the opening of this blog all omission and misinterpretations are mine. So get to a Hattie lecture, read Visible Learning for teachers, or take 40mins to watch this:













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