Reflections on Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers

I just discovered Hattie’s Visible Learning and the following book Visible Learning for Teachers which is more applied to the teaching context. I am truly amazed and excited on this find, and surprised I didn’t find out about this earlier or have been told about this in my more than 12 years of teaching experience.

I’d like to reflect on teaching in my context (Higher Education) based on Hattie’s definition of teachers (Hattie, 2012, pp.19-20)

Powerful, passionate, accomplished teachers are those who:

  1. focus on students’ cognitive engagement with the content of what it is that is being taught
    1. This implies that there must be a way to observe evidence for that cognitive engagement. Assessment is one way to do this, also projects and presentations or simply dialogue between student and teacher. This also brings to mind the necessity of challenging students with activities that are higher up on Bloom’s Taxonomy, i.e. creating, analyzing, synthesizing, applying. Activities that promote that kind of cognitive engagement must be prioritized over things like heavy assessments with multiple choice which just test remembering.
  2. focus on developing a way of thinking and reasoning that emphasizes problem-solving and teaching strategies relating to the content that they wish students to learn;
    1. Problem solving is something we probably need to do more of in Higher Ed, using real-life problems in the particular subject area students are studying. Case studies are a great way to do this, also projects that involve coming up with a solution to a known problem in that area (say, trying to build an ethically based company, or a sustainable business initiative, in the case of Business School students). Teaching strategies then need to be geared towards promoting that problem based learning. SETs for Problem solving from Barkley (2009)  would be excellent to apply.
  3. focus on imparting new knowledge and understanding, and then monitor how students gain fluency and appreciation in this new knowledge;
    1. It would be hard to define “new knowledge” in this age of ever-present knowledge on the internet. Perhaps evaluating what learners already know first would be the first step, then introducing new concepts in a very methodical way, then testing their understanding of those new ideas. There is also an interesting discussion around what it means to “impart” – is that lecturing, just giving a reading to do, or could it be more hands-on in some way? I would like to think that an instructor can impart new knowledge by presenting a new problem to solve and then working backwards to uncover the new knowledge as secret as it were to solving the problem.
  4. focus on providing feedback in an appropriate and timely manner to help students to attain the worthwhile goals of the lesson;
    1. Feedback is always a tricky one, and I often hear teachers not giving timely feedback, or the feedback mechanism is very slow and not very user friendly. In the case of online content, there are quick ways to give feedback to students (such as with assignment feedback or quiz/test feedback that could be relatively instant). The timeliness of feedback is something certain instructors are starting to understand as being very crucial for student development. Once they connect the timely feedback with student attainment of learning goals, they would be more eager to provide that to students.
  5. seek feedback about their effect on the progress and proficiency of all their students;
    1. Normally this is done through “Course Evaluations” but that happens at the end of the course when it is almost too late to change anything. It would only have an effect on the next semester’s students. But feedback on instructor effectiveness in the classroom should probably be done earlier in the year, perhaps by using anonymous surveys.
  6. have deep understanding about how we learn; and
    1. Not enough students and not nearly enough instructors really know “how we learn” and there are often misguided beliefs in effective learning strategies. I loved this article showing how effective certain study habits were: The lesson you never got taught in school: How to learn!
  7. focus on seeing learning through the eyes of students, appreciating their fits and starts in learning, and their often non-linear progressions to the goals, supporting their deliberate practice, providing feedback about their errors and misdirections, and caring that the students get to the goals and that the students share the teacher’s passion for the material being learnt.
    1. That sounds like a great ideal, very all-encompassing and idealistic, but the stance, the belief and passion of the teacher to do this is so important. I’m wondering what motivates the majority of teachers, and whether it is this or other things that motivate them. Often in a classroom of 200 plus students (large lecture halls) teachers can be very detached from students. Some have tried to solve this through discussion groups, online participation, forums, etc. But what this statement is saying is that the attitude of the teacher is so important for there to be a healthy learning environment. Encouraging that stance in teachers requires inspiration, comradery, and mutual encouragement. Perhaps when educatational leaders provide those opportunities for teachers to get together to do just that, more of that attitude can be shared and passed on.


Barkley, E. F. (2009). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. John Wiley & Sons.

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. Routledge.

Hattie, J. (2013). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.


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