Books: Editor's picks

Convincing but measurements may be a little off

Visible learning for teachers: maximizing impact on learning. 

John Hattie (2011).
Routledge: paperback,
£22.99 (978-0-415-69015-7);
hardback £95 (978-0-
415-69014-0).

I admit to coming to this book with more than a degree of scepticism for three reasons. First, as someone who primarily researches, writes about and works with post-16 providers, I wondered how relevant a book about teaching in schools might be to me.

Then, I was a bit worried that it looked like one of those ‘how to teach’ books. Finally, so many people had told me how great the author and his book were that I thought I was bound to be disappointed.

In the event, I found John Hattie’s book not only convincing but also engaging. Basically, Hattie’s central argument is that almost all teacher interventions enhance student achievement, but that the level of impact varies enormously.

He has devised a way of measuring the “effect size” and suggests that ameasurement of 0.4 (the average effect of interventions in the reviews he undertook) is the ‘hinge point’. Teachers should aim for impact at or above “hinge point” and his book aims to support them in achieving this.

Hattie takes the reader through the process of lesson planning and delivery. Finally, and in my view most importantly, he talks about changing mind frames and suggests that school leaders (and, we could presume, the leaders of colleges and other providers) should create:“An atmosphere of trust and collegiality to allow the debates to turn to the evidence of the effect on student learning – on a regular basis.”

There is every reason why the broad ideas and practices promoted in this book could apply equally to teachers in FE or higher education. However the very generality of this book also constitutes a major
weakness. The book does not specify what it means by “levels of performance” that students might be measured against. So it does not take into account the pressures that teachers face to push students through endless external assessments and examinations. If you want to read something that tackles
this issue then I recommend you to read Frank Coffield and Bill Williamson’s recentbook, From exam factories to Communities of Discovery: the democratic route. In fact, whnot read the two consecutively
as I did. It works well.

Professor Ann Hodgson, Institute of Education, University of London. IfL patron.

To access electonic versions of InTuition, log in to the IfL website and click on the membership tab, select 'InTuition: professional journal for teachers and trainers', and then 'InTuition-previous editions'.

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