Visible Learning

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​Visible learning is an approach to education that focuses specifically on the elements of the teaching and learning process that have the greatest positive impact on student achievement. Visible learning comes from the work of Professor John Hattie. 

The major argument presented in this work is that when teaching and learning are visible, there is a greater likelihood of students reaching higher levels of achievement. Making teaching and learning visible requires an accomplished 'teacher as evaluator and activator', who knows a range of learning strategies to build the students' surface knowledge, deep knowledge and understanding, and conceptual understanding. The teacher needs to provide direction and redirection in terms of the content being understood, and thus make the most of the power of feedback. The teacher also needs to have the skill to get out of the way when learning is taking place and the student is making progress towards meeting the criteria against which successful learning will be judged. Visible teaching and learning also require a commitment to seeking further challenges (for the teacher and for the student) – and herein lies a major link between challenge and feedback, two of the essential ingredients of learning. The greater the challenge, the higher the probability that one seeks and needs feedback, and the more important it is that there is a teacher to ensure that the learner is on the right path to successfully meet the challenge.

The conclusions in Visible Learning were cast as six signposts towards excellence in education, as follows.

  1. Teachers are among the most powerful influences in learning.

  2. Teachers need to be directive, influential, caring, and actively and passionately engaged in the process of teaching and learning.

  3. Teachers need to be aware of what each and every student in their class is thinking and what they know, be able to construct meaning and meaningful experiences in light of this knowledge, and be able to provide meaningful and appropriate feedback such that each student moves progressively through the curriculum levels.

  4. Teachers and students need to know the learning intentions and the criteria for student success in their lessons, know how well they are attaining these criteria for all students, and know where to go next in light of the gap between student's current knowledge and understanding and the success criteria of 'Where are you going?', 'How are you going?', and 'Where to next?'
  5. Teachers need to move from a single idea to multiple ideas and to relate and then extend these ideas such that learners construct, and reconstruct knowledge and ideas. It is not the knowledge or ideas, but the learner's construction of this knowledge and ideas that are critical.

School leaders and teachers need to create schools, staffrooms, and classroom environments in which error is welcomed as a learning opportunity, in which discarding incorrect knowledge and understanding is welcomed, and in which teachers can feel safe to learn, re-learn, and explore knowledge and understanding.

In these six signposts, the word 'teachers' is deliberate, because a major theme is when teachers meet to discuss, evaluate, and plan their teaching in light of the feedback evidence about the success or otherwise of their teaching strategies and their conceptions about progress and appropriate challenge. This is not critical reflection, but the critical reflection in light of evidence about their teaching.

It is a way of thinking:

'My role, as a teacher, is to evaluate the effect I have on my students.' It is to 'know thy impact, it is to understand this impact, and it is to act on this knowing and understanding. This requires that teachers gather defensible and dependable evidence from many sources, and hold collaborative discussions with colleagues and students about this evidence, thus making the effect of their teaching visible to themselves and to others.

Powerful, passionate, accomplished teachers are those who:

·  focus on students' cognitive engagement with the content of what it is that is being taught;

·  focus on developing a way of thinking and reasoning that emphasizes problem-solving and teaching strategies relating to the content that they wish students to learn;

·  focus on imparting new knowledge and understanding, and then monitor how students gain fluency and appreciation in this new knowledge;

·  focus on providing feedback in an appropriate and timely manner to help students attain the worthwhile goals of the lesson;

·  seek feedback about their effect on the progress and proficiency of all of their students;

·  have a deep understanding of how we learn;

·  focus on seeing learning through the eyes of the students, appreciating their fits and starts in learning, and their often non-linear progressions to goals, supporting their deliberate practice, providing feedback about their errors, and caring that the students get to the goals and that the students share the teacher's passion for the material being learned.

This focus is sustained, unrelenting, and needs to be shared by all in a school. As Reeves (2011) has demonstrated, there is a strong link between a sustained focus across all involved within a school on limited goals and improved student achievement. The above is the 'foci' that can make a sustained improvement. ​​​ ​​

©Brisbane Catholic Education, Mary MacKillop College (2022)​​​