So, what did you learn at school today? It’s an innocent question and very appropriate for any adult to ask a student. But why then do students consistently fail to recall what they learned? Often they just say, “Nothing” or “We read a book.” Visible learning changes that.
You plan instruction, write objectives on the board, deliver great instruction, and assess learning frequently. Is the learning visible for students? Do your students think about…
Wouldn’t that be awesome if students actually thought of these three things? Wouldn’t they be the perfect students, just ready to learn, learn, learn? Yes, of course.
That’s what student visible learning is. And your students can do it.
John Hattie reported the learning approaches with the largest impact on student learning. His 2009 research synthesis show the best strategies were metacognitive strategies (here’s a post on metacognitive strategies), self-reported grades, and formative evaluation.
He updated this list in 2015, so we could better understand those terms. In the update, he simply called these three strategies, “student visible learning.” This approach to learning had an effect size of 1.41…that’s big effect, but what does it mean?
It just means, that from 800 studies, there was not another student factor that had as big of an impact on learning. Student visible learning can be expected to help students achieve more than a year’s growth!
Yep, there are only three items on that list, but isn’t it a list of important thinking strategies? That’s tough stuff. Can you see how this strategy could impact learning?
Visible learning doesn’t happen by accident. It occurs through teaching and learning about learning.
Visible learning in the task.
Visible learning in the process.
Visible learning as reflection.
Help Students Understand the Task. Make learning expectations visible before and during the learning.
In a 6th-grade science class, the teacher explains the states of matter poster before teaching about the states of matter. Students are asked to think, “Before I teach you anything, what do you think you could complete on your own?” Then the teacher shows the students an example of the poster.
During instruction, the teacher refers to the example poster and asks, “What vocabulary word does this drawing help explain? What state of matter is shown here?” This makes a visible learning link from the instruction to the task. It also builds students’ expectations of their own work. When they begin working, their understanding will be clearer, and their own expectations will be higher.
That was a big key: their own expectations will be higher for what they can do and learn.Visible learning is powerful because it raises students' own expectations!Click To Tweet
Making Learning Processes Visible. It’s not just what they are learning – it’s also about how they are learning.
In a 2nd-grade math class, the teacher shows students how to solve a multi-step subtraction problem. She creates an anchor chart during the modeling. After showing a step, she goes to the chart, writes down the step, and draws a quick picture to represent the step.
During small group instruction, she points the students back to the anchor chart. She asks, “What step are you currently working on? What is easy about this step? What is confusing?” She is scaffolding student thinking (here’s a post on Scaffolding Strategies). She is making the learning visible and helping them learn how to monitor their own learning.
Visible Learning as Reflection. Students can “see” their learning better if you incorporate self-evaluation.
This is when students really are thinking about their own learning. How well am I learning this? What did my teacher say? What are my next steps? It doesn’t usually happen automatically. You can teach it.
An 8th-grade reading teacher asks students to stop half-way through creating an essay on civil rights. He asks the students, “Do you remember the sample essay I showed you yesterday? What were the great parts of the essay?” Students think about it and talk for a moment. Then he prompts, “Here is a rubric that I’m going to use to grade your work. Why don’t you help me? Look at your essay so far and give yourself a score for each part. Use this highlighter.”
The students self-evaluate and make adjustments to try to increase their scores. The teacher walks around and affirms students’ evaluations and tells them the next steps to improve. At the end of the essay, students assess their work with a pen. Their scores should improve compared to when they scored it with a highlighter. Their learning is visible.
Metacognition – thinking about thinking. It’s powerful for learning. It takes your students out of the current challenge and prompts them to think about what’s going on.
Here are important metacognitive strategies to make learning visible:
Questions are great for scaffolding learning. They are excellent learning strategies – not just for testing! They also can shape student thinking.
With the following question stems, you can coach student thinking to help make their learning visible.
In the next post, we’ll look at 15 visible learning strategies to use in any classroom. There will be 5 strategies for each of the aspects of visible learning. Classroom examples will be given to help you see how visible learning can impact students in the most positive ways.
What do you think? How do you already use certain visible learning strategies? How well do you think they work in your classroom? What new visible learning techniques will you use with your students this week?
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