Tag Archives: Hattie

From the World of Assessment

2 Apr

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The question of “Why do we assess?” is one that is posed in everywhere in schools. It’s vital to challenge teachers to think about their assessment practice and how they derive information about student progress. Gathering data is important but what is done with that data is as important.

If the purpose of assessment is merely to rank and sort, then little needs to change from the assessment practices of previous generations. If, instead, the purpose is to focus on student learning, then teachers need to examine whether their current practice is aligned with that outcome.

Assessment data is only effective when it is actionable. It’s no longer acceptable to limit assessment analysis to determining what’s wrong with students. Teachers must use the evidence of student learning to collaborate with colleagues to identify either teaching strengths to share, or areas of concern for which to seek new instructional strategies. The purposes of assessment ought to be framed around diagnosing student learning difficulties and setting individual teacher, and team goals for student improvement.

Professor John Hattie (2012) in “Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning” offers the flip side to the question when he states, “There are certainly many things that inspired teachers do not do; they do not use grading as punishment; they do not conflate behavioural and academic performance; they do not elevate quiet compliance over academic work; they do not excessively use worksheets; they do not have low expectations and keep defending low quality learning as ‘doing your best’; they do not evaluate their impact by compliance, covering the curriculum, or conceiving explanations as to why they have little or no impact on their students; and they do not prefer perfection in homework over risk-taking that involves mistakes.” While this encompasses more than the assessment conversation, it equally serves as a compelling support for the broader discussion schools ought to engage in.

The answer to the question of “Why Assess?” is rooted in actions that dedicated teachers take as they continue to work towards refining the life chances of every student. Regardless of the initiative you and your colleagues are engaged in, the quality of your assessment practice will be the lynchpin to success.

Wherever you currently are in your assessment practice is where you are. That next first step could involve student analysis of their assessment (reviewing it for errors and then structuring a learning plan before getting re-assessed), it could involve you changing the instructional design and re-teaching a content piece students were not as successful with (an intervention plan that presents content with a new instructional strategy or more time), or it could involve a new format of assessment.

Gathering high quality evidence, using that evidence to guide next steps, and then gathering more evidence of the efficacy of the strategy, will provide teachers and their students the opportunity to focus on the reaching those broader goals. At the end of the day assessment is too valuable to waste by leaving it as a product and too significant as a daily routine to ignore the evidence that could strengthen the teaching-learning connection.

 

My Assessment Inquiry: Term 3

10 Oct

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Feedback is “the most powerful single moderator that enhances achievement.” (Hattie, 1999)

As teachers, we look for this same type of feedback from our school leaders during our evaluations. If a singular letter grade or symbol was delivered after an evaluation, frustration would ensue. In order to grow as teachers and learners, we need to know: What were my strengths? What were my weaknesses? What am I supposed to do to improve next time? We look for guidance and direction from our school leaders, as our students do from us. We also appreciate them taking a look at the process instead of just the product. We don’t want a single snapshot into our classroom to determine our value as a teacher. Like good coaches and school leaders, teachers see the value of ongoing assessment and meaningful, specific, personalized feedback that guides the learning and teaching process. It is time that we change the way we provide feedback to our students to make it more meaningful. So how can we provide this feedback – the kind that inspires, that students listen to, and the kind that promotes growth?

Feedback should relate to our learning targets
As teachers, we want to be transparent in our teaching. As we know, a target is much easier to hit when we know where it is. Students need to know what the end goal of their learning should be and how they are going to get there. Thus, when we provide feedback, it needs to be focussed around the learning targets.  We too often get distracted by the student’s mistakes and communicating what they did wrong. Communicating what’s wrong doesn’t explain how to be right.

Feedback should be student friendly
If our feedback is too complex or sophisticated, the feedback will lose its value. We need to make it manageable for our students and easy to understand, while not overwhelming them. The existence of feedback is simply not enough. Feedback must be accessible to students so that doing something with the feedback is more likely.

Feedback should be actionable
When students receive their feedback, they should know definitively what the next steps in learning are. Through actionable feedback, we can acknowledge correct understanding while guiding future thinking. Students should understand what they did right and what they need to do next. As well, we want to look forward instead of backwards. Instead of identifying what was done wrong, we should tell students the steps they need to take to improve their learning. Just as we use formative assessment to adjust our instruction, students should be able to use the feedback from formative assessment to adjust and guide their learning.

Feedback should be timely
If we want students to be reflective, students will need timely feedback. If we want to create reflective learners, assessment should be ongoing, and feedback should timely. A student receiving feedback a week after an assessment will not have time to reflect and grow. In fact, they have probably already moved onto learning a new topic.

Feedback should be ongoing
We want to make sure that we are continuing the teach – assess – feedback loop to develop that growth mindset in our students. Assessment should not stop the learning but should be imbedded into the learning process. If we are constantly communicating with our students, they are constantly growing.

Students are active participants in the feedback process
At its best, our feedback will allow students to take ownership over their own learning to be more reflective learners and effective goal setters. Increased feedback does not mean that the teacher is simply identifying the student’s mistakes and telling them what to do next. We are just narrowing the target and guiding the students’ learning.

It is time that we start using our feedback to help inspire our students to grow and not limit our feedback to a number or a letter. We have the power to create reflective students who know what they are learning and how to succeed. Let’s create learners who have a growth mindset and who OWN their learning. We owe that to our students.

References:

Hattie, J 1999, Influences on Student Learning. Inaugural Lecture: Professor of Education, University of Auckland (downloaded August 2015 from https://cdn.auckland.ac.nz/assets/education/hattie/docs/influences-on-student-learning.pdf)

 

Not Leading …

28 Mar

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Leadership is hard but it’s also important. Vitally important. And it begins with how leaders treat people. Unfortunately, if you’re a leader and you’re reading this, I’m probably preaching to the choir. Ineffective leaders are those who have all of the attributes from the above list. Have you worked for one? What would you do differently?

I have found how I lead in the school environment depends on the situation. I need to remember they have to work with people who may not be on board with those big dreams, and they lose those best intentions. I sometimes enter into the situation ready to move forward, but because of mandates, rules and the politics of distraction (Hattie. 2015) I become insecure and not sure what to do first. As leaders, when we have so many choices of where to start we sometimes choose not to choose at all. I often use the GROW MODEL. Understanding the current reality is important, but what should be on our radar is not always so glaringly obvious.

In Stephen Covey’s seminal work, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People he shows us this.  Covey showed me leadership isn’t about getting what we want and feeding our egos. Leadership is about raising the self-efficacy of others and collectively working to improve our school community together. That happens in creative communities more than it happens in compliant communities, and we know which 7 habits belong to each one.

Just like there are habits of highly successful leaders, there are habits that can bring leaders to a place of ineffectiveness.

These are things which I have been reflecting on this week as we reach the crunch time of the term.

Be reactive – Leaders who always seem to not see things coming and lack the ability to work with their school community on a collective goal.

There’s no end in mind – Everyone in the school is working on their individual goals…if they have one…and the leader doesn’t think about the future as much as they keep getting stuck in issues in the present.

Ego first – In Jim Knight’s work we talk a lot about status. Leaders have it because of their position. However, great leaders have status but they lower theirs and raise the status of those around them, which is often referred to self-efficacy. Unfortunately there are leaders who let their ego rule and that’s what they lead with every time.

My way or the highway – Instead of focusing on being collaborative and working with these leaders are more concerned with controlling everything and getting their own way. They walk into a faculty meeting with one idea and walk out with the same one.

Seek to be understood – Ego first. My way or the highway. Get on the waka or get out.

Discord – These leaders always seem to disagree with someone and they try their best to build consensus by getting others to agree with them at the same time they vilify those who disagree with them.

Efficacy Killers – These leaders are consistently going after new initiatives, so their staff feel tired, lost and insecure. They micromanage and look for compliance on all issues.

I sometimes see myself here but not often. The Leadership Framework is now a key document for all teachers. We are all leaders in some way. How is this reflected in your appraisal documentation?

 

Supporting Middle Leaders

5 Nov

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To talk about teaching without considering what is being learned, is just strange. Curriculum leaders provide a system that supports teaching and learning. In the absence of a system, students will enter class each day, participate in lessons, and at the end of the year, each student will be promoted to the next grade level. Instructional leaders must strive to identify the focus for each grade level or course and then work collaboratively to ensure that each student is challenged and provided with scaffolding as needed. Hattie suggests that principals are engaged in instructional leadership when they “have their major focus on creating a learning climate free of disruption, a system of clear teaching objectives, and high teacher expectations for teachers and students” (2012, p. 83).

The word ‘curriculum’ derives from the Latin ‘currere’ meaning a race or a course on which a race is run.  The Latin verb ‘currere’ means to ‘run’ or ‘proceed’.

I like this idea of running for many reasons. First, it underlines the importance of the journey: to take a short-cut would be to miss the point. The specified ground must be conquered or the race can be neither run nor won. All the running matters. If we tell the runners to practise only the final sprint, we not only miss the point of the whole race. In schools we seem to miss this point. We are always rushing to the assessment. Second, it reminds us that curriculum is not a mere aggregate of things. Its character is a key. Curriculum is content structured over time. Third, it points to the curriculum as continuous. Not just a sequence it’s much more like a narrative.  Curriculum is content structured over time with all the parts talking to each other.

So often our curriculum is not coherent and lacks a smoothness. How does this absence of curricular focus happen? And what can we do about it?

It happens because at the level of a whole school, the pull of the generic is strong and understandably so. Schools must be led and managed as coherent enterprises. Parity must be found across a school’s spheres. To ascend the ladders of school leadership, subject specialism must, to some degree, be transcended.  Whole-school leaders contribute in vital ways that transcend subject. They must communicate strategy, distribute resource, facilitate collaboration, align systems, review pupils’ progress across differing spheres, build policies for behaviour… In short, they must create the best environment possible for all teachers to make things happen.

Therefore, built into the culture of staff development is a sense of subject specialism as transient.  Each subject area empire building. Built into the structure of a school is an imperative for common proxies – from assessment to resourcing – removed from the actual substance what is being taught and learned.

How easy, then, to slide into the assumption of equivalence, especially with generic terms such as ‘learning’, ‘progress’ or ‘skills’. Senior Leadership Teams need to provide leadership talking about teaching and attainment, a language which, because of its curricular character.  Such a language cannot be empty of substance. It must be rooted in a shared knowledge base, one that makes curricular communication possible.

I have learnt this year to support and grow our middle leaders. When curriculum leadership becomes the priority for our kura student understanding will grow. A kura without clearly defined pathways for these people is like a ship without a rudder; it lacks direction and a slight wind could easily blow it off course (Wiles, 2009).

Term Two Planning

28 Apr

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When teachers are confident in their ability, persistent through challenge, and innovative in their practices, students can really benefit. This is to the forefront of my thinking this week as we evaluate of courses at school. Are we meeting the needs of students? Are we supporting the needs of teachers as they meet these needs?

According to Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning by John Hattie, collective teacher efficacy has the greatest impact on student achievement—even higher than factors like teacher-student relationships, home environment, or parental involvement.

At the heart of this is PLD. Nothing feels more counterproductive than useless Professional Learning Development (PLD) meetings. A school’s staff members are all at different points in their careers, possess varying levels of experience, and have likely sat through many workshops on any day’s meeting’s topic. When teachers receive PD on topics over and over, they can feel unrecognized and stagnant, lowering their sense of efficacy.

I have discovered another way. Utilizing the experience of staff and allowing teachers to self-elect PD topics, run training sessions, and share their own work can lead to teachers who are active participants in their development, rather than passive receivers. Here the PLF Café was born. This builds a culture of efficacy amongst staff who genuinely work together to improve their practice.  So, what can I as a school leader do to build teacher efficacy in their school? As I do this this some of the areas I am focussed on the following:

Empower Staff

Empowering teachers to take on leadership roles gives educators a voice in their school. When teachers have a role in making important school decisions, feel their voices are heard, and can actively participate in building school culture, efficacy is raised. Top-down, overly evaluative leadership models can lower teacher self-efficacy and ultimately demoralize teachers, negatively impacting classroom achievement. When staff work together toward mutual goals, so grows a shared belief in the direction of the work and the ability to effect change with students.

Praise You Like I Should

Effective praise in schools is authentic recognition of a teacher’s hard work and the resulting student successes. It’s also about sharing that work with others as a model of excellence. Teachers who feel valued and see positive outcomes for their students are more likely to persist in their efforts. A school that routinely recognizes the efforts and accomplishments of its teachers builds a community that believes in its members, collaborates, and continually pushes to do more.

Stop, Collaborate and listen

Building a collaborative environment is key toward building collective and individual teacher efficacy. Teachers need to know what’s happening in other classrooms to build trust and confidence in each other’s ability to guide students to success. They also need time to share their ideas with each other and to work together toward building school-wide best practices. Leaders can assist by providing co-planning time, exhibiting models of excellence, and hosting norming exercises for teachers to build and revisit a collective school mission. And of course, it goes without saying, when teachers are sharing their ideas with you, actively listen; actively show that you care about their insights and opinions, and ask questions.

It is hard and it is scary

The demands of teaching can be overwhelming. It’s easy for educators to feel like they’re drowning in paperwork, lesson planning, grading, teaching multiple courses and the many extracurricular activities they generally take on. A leader who truly understands and acknowledges the workload helps teachers feel like they’re not just endlessly treading water. When a leader doesn’t assist teachers who feel overwhelmed, they can lose their sense of efficacy. They may feel like they’re failing, and may blame themselves for not keeping up. Resentful of SLT, Classroom instruction and staffroom culture, in turn, is sure to be affected. How you can help: empathize with your teachers, listen when they ask for help, and do what you can to help them manage their responsibilities.

 

Being an Expert

5 Oct

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I love the way training and teaching continually complement each other. Today’s reflection is no different. Hargreaves and Fullan state: “To ‘teach like a pro’ is a personal commitment to rigorous training, continuous learning, collegial feedback, respect for evidence, responsiveness to parents, striving for excellence, and going far beyond the requirements of any written contract.”

Taking this on board, I look around my own school and the experts begin to stick out and they may not necessarily be the most experienced. When it comes to respecting the evidence, the first words I may hear in a conversation about teaching and learning is: “In my experience…” or “from my experience…” An educator’s experience may not acknowledge any other sources of evidence, which can be problematic.

Experience allows us more opportunity for reflection, experience allows us more opportunities to get it right and experience gives us more opportunities to learn and develop wisdom. Though to be an expert teacher, we cannot rely on experience alone, we have to spend time looking at education research, questioning it, discussing it, applying it and, at times, refuting it. My experience does not carry the same weight in conversations about education, if I have not taken time to read about my profession and how I can better support students.

With 25 years in education, I can certainly call myself an experienced educator but there are colleagues that I work with who have spent less time in the profession and have considerably more expertise in certain aspects of education; I can learn from them. I have to keep reminding myself that “if you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.”

References:

Hattie, J. (2003, October). Teachers make a difference: What is the research evidence? Paper presented at the Australian Council for Educational Research Annual Conference on Building Teacher Quality, Melbourne.

Hargreaves, A and Fullan, M. (2012, March). Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School. Teachers College Press. ISBN: 0807753327

Thought for a Friday May 26

25 May

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My leadership style I have learnt sometimes depends on the situation. You can head into a leadership position with big dreams and the best intentions, and then remember you have to work with people who may not be on board with those big dreams, and suddenly lose those best intentions.

Other times as a leader you go into the situation ready to move forward, but because of mandates, rules and the politics of distraction (Hattie. 2015) you can become insecure and not sure what to do first. As leaders, when we have so many choices of where to start we sometimes choose not to choose at all. Understanding our current reality is important, but what should be on our radar is not always so glaringly obvious.

Leadership is not for the faint of heart…

Personally I always go back to Stephen Covey’s seminal work, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People he showed us with 7 habits that all successful people have, and taught us that with some hard work we can adopt those habits too.

Be proactive – Anticipate and act, no matter how difficult the situation.

Begin with the end in mind – What do we want out of leadership, and what should we want as a school community?

Put first things first – Drop the politics of distraction, understand our current reality, and take actionable steps to achieve that goal.

Think win/win

Seek first to understand then to be understood – Leaders should listen more than they talk, and try to understand where the other person is coming from before they try to move forward.

Synergize – This is all about collective efficacy, which Tschannen-Moran, M., & Barr, M. (2004) says,“refers to the collective self-perception that teachers in a given school make an educational difference to their students over and above the educational impact of their homes and communities.”

Sharpen the Saw – Know when to take a break. Schools with initiative fatigue never sharpen the saw.

Evidence and Learning Styles

1 Dec

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In health there are well-established protocols that govern the introduction of any new drug or treatment. Of major consideration is the notion of doing no harm. In education there are no such controls and plenty of vested interests keen to see the adoption of new strategies and resources for a variety of ideological and financial reasons.

Teachers need to be critical consumers of research – as with medicine, lives are also at stake – yet with the best will in the world and without the knowledge and time to do so, decisions may be made to adopt new approaches that are not only ineffectual, but can actually do harm. How often have I entered discussions and I have been told research says.

The notion of the existence of learning styles. The theory goes something like this: that people are “hard-wired” to learn best in a certain way. The theory is that if a teacher can provide learning activities and experiences that match a student’s supposed learning style, learning will be more effective.

Probably the best known are the “auditory” (learning best by hearing), “visual” (learning best through images), and “kinesthetic” (learning best through touch and movement) typologies of learners.

Learning styles has become a vast, lucrative industry with inventories, manuals, video resources, in-service packages, websites, publications and workshops. Some schools have spent many thousands of dollars assessing students using the various inventories.

Psychologists and neuroscientists agree there is little efficacy for these models, which are based on dubious evidence.

If learning styles exist at all, these are not “hard wired” and are at most simply preferences. What we prefer is neither fixed for all time nor always what is best for us.

Education professor John Hattie has noted that in this weeks reading. Worth thinking about don’t you think?

Visible Learning: John Hattie – Measuring impact

22 Aug

Impact

John Hattie’s work provides an important insight into the nature of educational research and the notion of measuring impact.  The idea that some strategies can be shown to have had more impact on average over time relative to others is crucial and his general message about the implications for teachers and the profession is very strong.  This video,gives a very good idea of Hattie’s thinking.  Of course, the effect size concept is problematic and is open to misinterpretation. This will create more discussion. What do you think?

Planning My Lessons

9 Mar

Planning the level of challenge of your lessons can be a difficult task.  It is important that knowing your group and where they are will help this.  My pieces about the famous learning plan have illustrated this. What you plan to do needs to be related to prior learning – which is why formative and summative assessment, and what you do with it, is so important.  For a while I thought I’d planned challenging lessons for all.  But that was the problem.  I rarely differentiated on an individual level and predominantly set the same task for all.  Challenge should apply to the learning, not merely the task.  And the learning needs to challenge all students.  Now this is a real skill and one that I have been honing for a while. I often organise prior learning collaboratively which my students love.

“Planning can be done in many ways, but the most powerful is when teachers work together to develop plans, develop common understandings of what is worth teaching, collaborate on understanding their beliefs of challenge and progress, and work together to evaluate the impact of their planning on student outcomes.”

Hattie 2012

Using colleagues to bounce ideas off of can be an excellent way of designing lessons.  There have been numerous times when I actively seek out colleagues and run ideas past them.  I know many departments set time aside to collaboratively plan larger schemes of work, but having a critical buddy to work with on individual lessons can be a great resource.

I will pay particular attention to the level of it in my lessons.  It’s important that I pitch it right.  Too easy and there is no reward.  Feedback has less effect and becomes low value.  Too hard and it can provide a feeling that achieving this goal is unobtainable. The only way I will know if the levels are correct is if I go back and check prior attainment and know my group before planning my lesson.

So why pay more attention to challenge this year more than before?  Well because of the various factors that it links to.  Memory and feedback being two in particular.  If we are to get the glutamate and dopamine present whilst learning and thus commit what we are learning to memory, we need to ensure that what work we set is challenging (so there is potential for a reward – achieving the goal) and actually achievable (to release the reward – chemicals).  If work is too easy and not challenging, these chemicals aren’t released as highly and won’t be committed to the long term memory (the aim of learning).

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