I’ve never met a teacher out there that doesn’t ultimately want to have a significant impact in students’ lives; to be a contributing factor in their learning so that they will, for the current and the future, not just cope but thrive in life. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be working so hard at our jobs! In the last number of years, I’ve been pondering on the nuances of working hard and working effectively. Our division has been delving into conversations around pedagogical practices, learning environments, partnerships, and leveraging digital in the last few years. What is having an impact? How do I know? How can I be as effective as possible?
Influence of Hattie’s Work
Professor John Hattie, a researcher at the University of Melbourne in Australia holds a global presence in the area of effective education. His extensive research includes performance indicators, as well as models of measurement and evaluation of teaching and learning. He is well-known for his books on Visible Learning (including Visible Learning, Visible Learning for Teachers, Visible Learning for Literacy, Visible Learning for Mathematics). He has developed the Barometer of Influence (see featured image) that helps us gauge the influences, strategies and actions within our pedagogical practices.
Hattie recently put out an updated 2018 list of factors related to student achievement (Hattie Ranking: Influences Related To Student Achievement). Ten mindframes for Visible Learning has also stemmed from the Visible Learning research conducted by Hattie and his team, who concluded that one of the most important influences on student achievement is how teachers think about learning and their own role (10 Mindframes for Visible Learning).
We Are Better Together
Being a teacher is very demanding in so many ways (despite the peaks and valleys, it can also be one of the most rewarding). The planning of learning experiences and reflecting on the effectiveness of them has traditionally been an isolating experience. More and more, we are realizing that we need each other. We are better together. Leaders are working at incorporating time and ways for teachers to collaborate together. Hattie’s research has shown that collective teacher efficacy has a resounding 1.57 effect size – that’s huge! Basically, that finding is indicating that together teachers can achieve more, especially if they collectively believe that they can do so! Hattie provides some guidelines of how to reframe conversations about teaching and learning in order to achieve collective impact. He suggests that conversations move more from:
- teaching to learning
- best practice to high impact
- observing teachers teaching extending to sharing observations of the impact and collectively evaluating this impact
- prioritizing achievement to prioritizing progress
Know your Impact
In thinking about the ideas behind Hattie’s words. I believe he is encouraging teachers to move conversations around design, content selection, delivery, and assessment practices beyond sharing “What am I doing?’” to “What is the learning that is taking place?” and “What is the impact of my teaching?” If opportunities arise to be an observer in another classroom, notice not only the teacher’s practices but even more importantly, look for the impact and effect on the students’ learning and the correlation between the two. Collaborative reflection brings multiple perspectives and a shared conversation about ‘noticings’ and next steps. This process also brings about the healthy notion that ‘these are OUR kids, not only mine or your kids’, a shared responsibility as a result of collective efforts.
Prepare, Sprint, Review at LES
This year, Landmark Elementary School (LES) has incorporated scheduled collaborative small group meeting times, held once per six-day cycle. We call them ‘Learning Sprints’, modelled after Dr. Simon Breakspear’s Teaching Sprints. Breakspear, an educational researcher and advisor from New South Wales has developed a team-based process that supports teacher teams to:
Prepare – define highly specific areas of student learning to improve, dialogue together, and consider relevant research
Sprint – design evidence-informed strategies (at LES we are currently referring to Hattie’s ranking of influences), test out in short, manageable cycles of teaching, have check-ins with the team, collect evidence to check impact
Review – analyze the impact evidence and consider how to transfer the new knowledge and skills
These shorter, purposeful sprints use proven strategies which connect closely to the needs of your students. Strategies are implemented and the level of impact is noted. Within a sprint, there are adjustments that may need to be made if the desired impact is not strong enough. What’s especially powerful is that the sprints are based on students’ needs and focus on the challenges specific to one’s classroom and learners. Here at LES, for each collaborative team of teachers, we link the sprint focus to one of three school goals as well as a dimension of one of the ‘Cs’. To raise the level of intentionality, a few students are chosen in each class to pay particular attention to in order to determine the degree of impact the teacher strategy has on learning. We are currently using Hattie’s findings to ensure that we are implementing higher impact strategies (note that 0.40 is the hinge point and anything above that has a greater than average impact on achievement).
Focus of Our Sprints at LES
What’s been the focus of our sprints at LES so far, you might ask? They are highly based on student needs made evident through teacher ‘noticings’, formulated through dialogue with colleagues, and influenced by Hattie’s ranking of influences. As you will see, the learning sprints have diversity of focus yet all intertwine curriculum with a dimension of a core competency:
Strengthening oral language and phonemic awareness by incorporating frequent, very specific, short tasks in area like a warm-up to a guided reading lesson, morning message, shared writing, etc. This is linked to the dimension of communicating clearly in the Communication progression. (phonological awareness – 0.86 effect size)
Increasing self-regulation and responsibility for learning (a dimension of Character) by giving clarity about learning outcomes and success criteria to help students to know where they are going and when they get there so they will be better able to set own expectations and self-report their own achievement. This is being incorporated into math stations as well as Writers Workshop where the current curricular learning goals in each area as well as characteristics of Character are identified and made visible. Students are involved throughout the process of learning and as part of this, are asked to use sticky notes to identify ones they feel confident in as well as ones they are finding challenging and want to work on. (self-reporting own achievement – 1.44 effect size)
Using classroom discussion to improve students’ communication and critical thinking skills with the voicing and justifying of opinions and thoughts. Students are developing this by frequently sitting together as a whole group, in a circle formation pondering rich questions and discussing important issues where everyone is learning from each other. Here, creating sentence starters as a scaffold for students is making a really big difference for depth of critical thinking as well as communication. (classroom discussion – 0.82 effect size)
Developing collaboration (working interdependently as a team) with peers using rich, complex tasks both in numeracy and literacy. This involves the co-construction of what working interdependently looks and sounds like and having students help develop success criteria which is known to boost achievement. (co-operative vs. individualistic – 0.59 effect size) (metagognitive strategies = 0.69 effect size) (goal setting = 0.56 effect size)
Big Impact Through Tiny Changes
Breakspear notes that we can have “big impact through tiny changes…tiny changes can add up to big shifts for student learning over time. We want to build on high quality existing practices rather than trying to rapidly transform them all.” Collectively, we are developing teacher expertise as we engage in meaningful collaborative time with colleagues. Be encouraged as you dialogue together, and remind yourselves that collective teacher efficacy has a huge impact on student achievement. We are better together!