John Hattie, the author of the much quoted Visible Learning was recently appointed by the Federal Government to the Chairmanship of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.
Last week, Hattie indicated things were going to change in teacher education under his watch. He talked of “tougher”, “harder”, “standards”, “outcomes” and “impacts”. This is a harbinger of his approach, grounded in the requirement for evidence that reforms are working.
It went on:
Hattie would like the accreditation and evaluation standards for teaching degrees to be much tougher. If this results in some courses being scrapped because they don’t meet the standard for the academic rigour of courses or for graduate teachers’ impact on students, then so be it.
And who better to have at the helm than the guru of effect size himself, John Hattie?
Well it would appear that just as Hattie would like teacher education to be subject to tougher standards, there are some who suggest his research should be subject to a more rigorous analysis.
Despite having been challenged as early as 2011 in the British Journal of Educational Studies, Hattie’s work has been seen as the guiding light in educational reform, but of late it has come under scrutiny, not least because of this blog post and it’s subsequent follow up which asserts that half the statistics in Visible Learning are wrong.
I’ll let you follow those threads if they interest you.
What worries me is that a great deal of educators, regional leaders, keynote speakers and politicians quote Hattie to further assert their position, particularly if that position is at odds with common sense – the class size debate for example.
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that educational research is vital. But it is equally vital that we view it through an appropriate lens. As Dylan Wiliam says*,
Educational research can only tell us what was, not what might be. Moreover, in education, “What works?” is rarely the right question, because everything works somewhere, and nothing works everywhere, which is why in education, the right question is, “Under what conditions does this work?”
Besides I’ve always been skeptical that anyone could determine a numerical value for the impact any given teacher might have with any given student in any given classroom.
*If you want to access the quote from Wiliam you can get his PPT slides from a ResearchED event here.
[EDIT] Through the magic of Twitter, it was made apparent to me by Greg Thompson (seriously… follow him) that some of the issues raised here were first addressed by Snook et al in 2009 in NZ Ed Studies Journal.
[EDIT 2 – 19th Nov] John Hattie has agreed to an interview as per the comment thread below. I’ll let you know how things progress.
Recently I was chatting to a principal about what we would look for in potential staff members if we had the opportunity to build a school from scratch.
I scribbled down some notes, and later copied them onto my Tablet. I tweeted it out on my #DoodlesByDan tag and within about 2 hours it had been retweeted over 100 times. It’s by far the most prolific response I’ve had to any of my tweets.
I thought I’d share the scribblings here with some further thinking around it.
1. I’m over teachers telling me kids have to “earn” their respect. No they don’t. Respect for kids should be the number one pre-requisite for being a teacher. I couldn’t care less what your qualifications are if you don’t get past this first question.
2. Research suggests that teacher expectation plays in important part in whether kids learn or not. If you don’t think kids can learn, then I think you’re probably right. They probably won’t. We can’t have teachers thinking like this.
3. Trust me… there are some teachers who turn up at 8:55 and leave at 3:25. They do exactly what they need to in order to comply with their job description and no more. Not for me thanks.
4. On my travels I meet many keen teachers who are excited to push their thinking, explore new, or old, concepts and research with the mindset that regardless of their ability as a teacher, they want (and are able) to improve. They have what Carol Dweck would call a Growth Mindset. Unfortunately I also meet the odd teacher (as in numerically not characteristically) who has no inclination to explore such things. You know what that’s cool. It’s just not what I’d look for in members of my team.
And that is a key word – Team.
This is certainly not intended to be in anyway definitive.
What would you include in your criteria?