The two criteria that make the most impact on improving learning outcomes for students are as follows;
- the quality of the relationship between the teacher and students and,
- the quality of the interactions/feedback between the teacher and students.
Note that it is not the things that we are told it to be or would assume it to be – eg. smaller class sizes, modern learning environments, access to computers, homework. Variables/criteria like these may have an impact on student learning outcomes, but not in the realm of the two mentioned above.
That’s what the research tells us. I recommend that you check out what John Hattie and his team have to say about improving learning outcomes for students. It is referred to as ‘Visible Learning‘. What a great description.
Needless to say, I am a big fan of this research and have spent the past decade reflecting on this knowledge and given careful consideration on how to implement this into the daily programme in the classroom. I feel like I have made great strides in making the learning in my classroom visible.
I am encouraged by the feedback from parents. They are open to these ideas and open to the possibility of seeing a classroom embrace the idea of ‘visible learning’. It is important to be able to have that conversation with them.
But it is not without its challenges.
- The teacher needs to create a classroom environment (physically and culturally) that allows for the providing the best quality feedback. With only one teacher shared amongst 20+ students, creating opportunities for direct feedback and the allocation of that time is critical.
- The teacher has tremendous responsibility in choosing the content to be taught and how it is to be taught. My experience at the ‘chalkface’ has allowed me to come up with some guiding principles.
Children need an education that is as broad as possible, for as long as possible. I am concerned about how even the very youngest students are being measured by narrowly defined achievement standards rather than encompassing more ‘human’ achievement goals. The good news is that the New Zealand Curriculum document allows for that possibility. It is sufficiently broad to allow us to focus on social as well as academic goals.
The importance of this should not be underestimated. According to Peter O’Connor of the Auckland University School of Education, high academic achievement at school is not a determiner of a ‘happy’ life out in the real world.
In future posts I will highlight how I go about creating a physical and cultural environment to achieve the ‘Visible Learning’ that is now known to be so desirable. To do so has required me to be innovative and very responsive to the needs of the children and the community but still stay ‘within the system’. The challenges that I have listed above can be overcome. Stay tuned.
Ease Education: Teaching at a human scale.