Why are so many of our teachers and schools so successful? John Hattie at TEDxNorrkoping

Why are so many of our teachers and schools so successful? John Hattie at TEDxNorrkoping

October 13, 2019 32 By Stanley Isaacs


Translator: Yohanna Cordeiro
Reviewer: Denise RQ Given what you often hear in the media from politicians
and often from many parents, it can’t be that bad out
there in classroomland. Certainly, if I ask you to think about the teachers that had a positive,
profound effect on you, and you think of them – for me, there’s Mr. Tomlinson,
Mr. O’Neil, is Rob McDonald – and if you actually look at
what those people, what the attributes
of those teachers were, it’s often because they had a passion that they wanted you to share about what they loved the most. Or sometimes, it was
because they saw something in you that you didn’t see in yourself. Folks, the fact that you can think of
some of those teachers, [is because] there’s expertise
out there in our business. There is a lot of that kind
of expertise that’s going on, but at the moment, our politicians,
our voters are saying, “We have a problem.
We have to fix those teachers. We have to come up with
teacher-proof ways so kids can learn, we have to find ways in which we can use carrots and sticks,
and performance pay,” and all these kind of things. Well, in one sense,
the focus on teachers is right. Certainly, the work I’ve been doing,
and many others, is that the biggest source
of variance in our business that we have control over
are the teachers. On the other hand, we have to be very careful
that we don’t misuse that information, and then focus on individual teachers as if the system is bad
and needs to be fixed. And my talk today is about identifying,
the need to identify their expertise, the need to acknowledge
that it’s out there, the need to esteem and privilege it, and the need to, certainly, find out
and understand that notion of expertise. We have a strange profession,
in that unlike many other professions like medicine, engineering,
and painting, and paper hanging, in our profession,
when people first start off, we expect them to be experts,
the first-year teacher; actually, they expected to be rated
outstanding in their first year, and in many ways, we see them
as similar to 20-year-old veterans. If you look at other professions,
like medicine, they start with the registration years,
they have practices, they call it the practice of medicine. Painters and paper hangers
go through an apprenticeship. And they have a series of steps
before they get there, and I think that’s the kind of thing
we need to think about in our profession. Certainly, what I’ve been doing
is trying to say: can we take all the studies
that we know of in our business – and certainly, there are many – and see what’s up the scale in terms of what influences
student achievement; what’s the zero things,
what makes no difference at all, and what things decrease achievement? What I’ve been doing for the last 25 years
is screwing a way collecting data. I have close to a quarter
of billion students in the database to try and say:
if I could take all the influences from the home, from the family,
from the principal, from the schools, from the finance,
from the policies, from the curriculum, from the teacher,
from the strategies; I’ve got them all. And I turned them all around,
and I say, “Well, what’s the effect?” Well, I get a distribution like this. And you can see here
the zero point, the red zone. This is the kind of influences
which negatively affect achievement. And here’s the good news: there’s not much we do
to the kids that harm them. 95 to 98% of things that we do
in the name of enhancing achievement does enhance achievement. All you need to enhance
achievement is a pulse. And so when politicians, parents,
and everyone gets out and says, “We know how to fix schools,”
they are right. If they say they can improve achievement,
because everybody can, that’s one of our problems
of our professions because we have lowered the base so far
to say, “Can we improve achievement?” The teacher who comes and says, “Look, this is the performance
of the kids at the start of the year, and this is their performance later,
at the end of the year,” to me, they’re criminal. We need to get rid of those teachers,
because everybody can do it. But obviously, you can see this average
which I want to talk about today, this 0.4. The number is not critical,
the relativity is. Because what I want to find out is one of the common stories
about what is up there in that green zone compared to what’s in that yellow zone. I’m sure everyone of you here
that’s listening and watching, who has a child in school, if I said to you, “Do you want
your child in a school with a teacher who has a systematic impact
in the green zone or the yellow zone?” That’s easy. Yeah? All right. So let’s start and look at
some of the effects. And I want to start
with looking at structural things. I’m going to suggest to you that many of the things on this list
dominate our debates about education. “We have to give more money,”
“We have to fix the class size,” “We have to do ability grouping.” We have to come up with different kinds of schools
and charter schools.” So what do you think
the effect of those are? Do you think they are going to
be above the 0.4 or below the 0.4? I’ve got 200 different things,
so where would they rank? Well, I can’t find a single
structural effect that’s greater than 0.4. The majority of things that we debate
in education doesn’t matter much. And I say “we” because I include teachers
in that, along with the rest of us. The structural things?
Yeah, we need to get them right! But in terms of the hierarchy
of this business: no. So what about these ones? What about some attributes
of the students? We all know that if only schools had
the right students, life would be easy. So, you can see
some of the attributes up there. So what do you think their effects are? Greater than 0.4 or less than 0.4? Does it matter who the kids are? No. What works in our business,
works for most kids if not all kids. It’s very far and hard
to find differences. What about programs? I say here, deliberately, ‘deprograms’
because is what you hear all the time, “You’ve got to have
problem solving, deep thinking, individualized instruction,
problem-based learning, you’ve got to match kids’ learning styles
with their teaching.” So what do you think? No, they don’t matter. And I want you to remember this because I’ll come back
to this in a moment. Technology – Oh, come on! All we need to have
is laptops and technology. And then things will be marvelous. Now, you know the answer, don’t you? No! The interesting thing about technology
is that we’ve been doing these researches for almost 14 to 15 years,
asking the impact of technology, and the common claim is, “Ah, but wait. The technology revolution
is re-coming upon us. This new thing is going to come out,
this new app, this new Internet, whatever. For the last 14 to 15 years,
that effect-size has not changed. Technology is the revolution
that has been coming for 35 years and it’s not here yet. These are the kind of things
I’d argue are the politics of distraction, The kind of thing we talk
about in our business so often, which means we avoid addressing
what really matters in schools. And I get so frustrated when you read
the media, when you listen to debates – everywhere: in classrooms, in staff rooms,
in professional development sessions – particularly in the media
and amongst our politicians, they want to solve these things. Why? One reason, it’s simple:
you can see a lot of these things. You’re not going to be able to see easily
what’s on the other side of the equation. And so one of my missions,
in this TEDx talk today is: can we, when we hear
these kinds of discussions, ask those people to go into another room
so we can talk about what really matters? Let’s get to the good story. Now, the first thing with those numbers,
they’re dramatically different. And my point is that the biggest effect in
our business is expertise of the teachers. It’s the teachers who work together. I’ll say that again:
teachers who work together, collectively, collaboratively,
to understand their impact. And that’s probably the biggest,
single most fact in this business: that teachers, and principals,
and systems go into classrooms, they go into schools,
they go into systems, who say, “My job
is to understand my impact,” are the ones that have the biggest effect. Not the teachers who say, “My job is to cover the curriculum,”
“My job is to get kids through the exams.” It’s teachers who say,
“I want to understand my impact.” It begs the moral purpose question:
what is impact? And that’s a really critical question.
It’s not just scores on tests. One of the things I think is critical
is how do we get kids to reinvest in this business called learning
so they want to do more of it? Certainly, if you look at the evidence of what’s the best predictor of health,
wealth, and happiness in adult life, it’s not achievement at school. It’s more than years of schooling. So how can our schoolings
be inviting places to get kids to come back to? That’s a really critical part
of knowing our impact. It is understanding very clearly,
in every lesson, and every day, what the student knows already, because that’s the starting point to then say, “Now we need to know
what success looks like.” So you don’t go in there, and just create
a set of interesting materials, and hope every kid has
at some point, a starting point, but knowing deeply where a kid starts. But it’s also showing the students,
upfront, what success looks like as they are beginning this task. Could you imagine if I said to you, “Now I’m going to take you out,
and I’m going to play this game. I’m going to ask you to play it,
but I’m not going to tell you the rules.” Some of you would sit on the sidelines, some of you might actually get in there
and try the game. But you could imagine
chaos wouldn’t be out of the picture, and certainly, many of you
would start to drift away from it. Some of our kids in our schools
love playing that game; they’ll do anything we ask them to. But there is a large group of students
out there, the ones that often question, the ones that we often call
sometimes the ‘naughty kids’ – because they don’t play
the games we want them to – [who] the more you can show them
what success looks like, as they’re starting … It’s a bit like a video-game
for those of you, like me, who have been through
the Angry Birds fetish: it knows exactly what your prior achievement is,
your last score, and then sets a target, a goal, a success, kind of using
the Goldilocks principle – not too hard, not too easy. Then it powers in feedback and information
that gives you multiple tries. A lot of deliberate practice
you put into it to reduce that gap. And then what happens? They increase the standard.
They increase the success. And you ought to reinvest and reinvest. It’s no different than in our schooling, except the critical difference
is that, so often in our schools, the students don’t know what success
looks like in a series of lessons. Errors, mistakes – what’s the point of going to school
if you know it already? The reason you go to learn it
is because you don’t know. And not knowing is
an incredible opportunity. How can we get our schools
and our classrooms to create climates with a lot of trust so that it’s OK
to make mistakes and errors? Maximizing feedback to teachers – How can we get teachers to get
feedback about their impact? That’s the point of assessment in schools. To help teachers understand their impact. And I mentioned before
about those deep programs: well, look here, it’s simple. If you want to think,
you have to have something to think about. It’s the proportion
of knowing lots of stuff, and then moving on to relate
and extend those ideas. And if you’re learning something
for the first time here today, you need a lot of surface detail before I can get you then
to start thinking of connections; it’s that proportion. And is knowing when, as a teacher, to move from knowing stuff
to relating that stuff, the key. Then there’s that Goldilocks principle
of challenge: not too hard, not too easy. And then, asking the students,
teaching them the learning strategies so they can deliberately practice with a lot of coaching
from us, as teachers, to reduce that gap from where they are
to where they want to be. And certainly, my message here today
is this notion of expertise is incredibly powerful in our business. Now, today, we’re in Sweden. In the PISA rankings, you rank
in the top 10-20 in the world. That means there’s 150 behind you. My estimate here, in this country,
using the kind of data that I have is I would estimate around
50-60% at least of your teachers as having the kind of impact in the zone
I was talking about before. And so how can we acknowledge
this kind of expertise that’s around us? How can we build that coalition
of the willing and of the successful to help run and have
a major say in our schools? How can we get a ladder
of excellence in our business? How can we get away from this notion, that unfortunately, is common
throughout education, that all teachers are equal? You know that’s not true. Every student knows that’s not true.
Every teacher knows that’s not true. But our business is already
premised at the moment on this notion that that ladder is flat, that the one-year-old teacher
and the 20-year-old teacher[are the same]. I can assure you expertise is not highly
correlated with the years of experience so it’s not just years of experience
I’m talking about. And how can we get teachers
on this right now? In other professions, our doctors,
our engineers, painters, and paper hangers they start at the bottom. We don’t say when we go to a doctor
who’s reasonably new that they’re no good. There are minimum standards. They have to do;and agree to do no harm. In the same way
that many of our brand-new teachers are passing their minimum standards; the minute those brand new teachers
have an enthusiasm and new ideas, that gives them a heck of a good advance,
compared to many others. And how can we get,
like in other professions, some steps in our ladder so that we constantly ask
what is the impact you’re having? How do you demonstrate
the impact you’re having? And as you do that,
and convince the profession of teachers, we can then advance up that ladder. And then, when we get to teachers
who are near the top of that ladder, we get them more involved
in giving back to their profession, and being involved in
helping others up that ladder, and setting the standards of excellence, and trying to find ways
in which we can convince our community that we do have a lot
of excellence in our business, but not everyone’s excellent on day one. And so my message here,
in this TEDx talk today is that in the profession of teaching, we have a inconsiderable
amount of expertise. Bring on the debate about
expertise and teachers. There are so many of those teachers who can participate
and have a say in that debate. Thank you. (Applause)