Dr. Scott Benwell

In Collaboration and Community

What Should We Be Good At?

November 24, 2011 by sbenwell · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

John Hattie’s Visible Learning (2009) will undoubtedly gain a significant amount of traction in our districts – or at least it should.  Hattie defines the conversations that count and those that don’t when it comes to instructional leadership and effective teaching.  The results will raise more than a few eyebrows and commonly held assumptions about what is good practice.  In a previous post, I introduced the concept of educators becoming consciously skilled.  Visible Learning answers the obvious question, “Skilled at what?”  If we want to get good at something, to master it, we need to know what to pursue as component parts of our repertoire and Hattie gives us an amazing glimpse at what that should be in our business.

Ranking at the top of Hattie’s list for effect on student achievement are the following:

  1. Feedback
    1. Seek feedback from students as to what they know, understand, where they make
      errors, what misconceptions they have, and when they are not engaged,
      synchronized and powerful learning takes place.
    2. Teacher provides information specifically related to the task or process of
      learning that fills a gap between what is understood and what is aimed to
      be understood.
    3. Feedback is information with which a learner can confirm, add to, overwrite, tune,
      or restructure information.
    4. The most effective feedback relates back to learning goals.
  2. Comprehensive interventions for Learning Special Needs Students
    1. The important instructional components include attention to sequencing,
      drill-repetition-practice, segmenting information into parts, controlling
      task difficulty through prompts and cues, making use of technology,
      systematically modeling problem solving steps, and making use effective
      reading strategies.
    2. Direct instruction and strategy training models of instruction.
  3. Reciprocal Teaching
    1. The emphasis here is on teachers enabling their students to learn and use
      cognitive strategies such as summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and
    2. The aim is to help students actively bring meaning to the learning and to
      assist them to monitor their own learning and thinking.
    3. This learning and thinking is expressed back to the teacher through effective
      feedback loops.
  4. Teacher Clarity
    1. The importance of the teacher to communicate the intentions of the lessons
      and the notions of what success means and looks like in relation to the
    2. Clarity involves organization, explanation, guided practice, and effective
      assessment of student learning.
  5. Spaced vs. Mass Practice
    1. Students often need three to four exposures to the learning over several days
      before there is a reasonable probability that the concept will be
    2. Deliberative practice can involve specific skills and complex illustrations of
      knowledge.  It should be motivating not “drill and practice” repetition.

Fortunately, we are enriched in our district by a fabulous tradition of inquiry into professional practice and a recent visit from Linda Kaser and Judy Halbert has helped to solidify commitment to framing school growth around professional inquiry.  Our journey will be informed by research like that presented by John Hattie.  The ultimate goal in developing our district is to ensure that every student has the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with educators that possess the skills and attributes that motivate, enrich, challenge and inspire their learners to reach academic and social goals that are set high.

2 Comments so far ↓

  • Chris Wejr

    Thrilled that you are back blogging. As you and I have discussed at length and as Hattie has presented, ongoing effective feedback through sound assessment practice is the most powerful mindset that we can have.

    Here is my question: we know that assessment for learning (including feedback and reciprocal teaching) makes a huge impact on student learning and it costs no money other than professional learning…. And people like Guskey have been saying this since the 90′s, why is it not in way more schools and classrooms/learning environments?

    How does your district plan to make AFL part of what you just do. How does AFL become PART of the pedagogy rather than just a tool that is added on in some classrooms?

  • sbenwell


    Thanks for the comment and question re: AFL. Yes, it seems that we should simply be able to assume it is an integral part of our practice and something students, parents, teachers, and administrators can count on. It is our job to continue to promote, expect, and build capacity toward AFL. The quesiton we are posing here is, “How do we move from pockets of excellence to habits of practice.” It wounldn’t/couldn’t be through the use of professional carrots and sticks. The ethic of care moves us toward professional support and expectation – the creative tension we have discussed. Thanks, Chris.

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