Visible Learning Institute

This weekend, I had the opportunity to learn from John Hattie and Peter DeWitt at a Visible Learning conference by Corwin. Their sessions were divided into the following 5 sections: The Visible Learning Research, Creating Visible Learners, Mindframes, Instructional Leadership, and Feedback. FYI, this is a long post, but I hope it is just as valuable as it has been to write and reflect on myself.

The Visible Learning Research: Hattie began this session by providing an overview of strategies and influences listed by their rankings on his effect size scale. He explained that although .4 is the tipping point for growth in student learning, it’s not that the 0-.4 influences are bad, it’s simply that they do not effect learning as much as .4 and over. To help guide this movement in our schools, he suggested forming a coalition of those teachers in the blue zone and invite those in the yellow to learn and grow together. Throughout his talk he highlighted several influences, among those were background knowledge, success criteria, feedback, the Goldilocks principle, and classroom discussion. I think background knowledge and the Goldilocks principle (teaching and learning should be not too hard but not too boring) go hand in hand. We need to understand what students are coming in with in order to teach to an appropriate challenge level. To this he said, “if we don’t challenge students, they will challenge us.” (So, true!!) I think one way we can find the right amount of challenge is to really dig into our standards. Before planning, deconstructing the standards for what they mean is so important. Then, doing assessments that align, followed by writing targets and success criteria, will further help before actually planning the day to day activities. As we developed our instructional planning guides in my district, I love that we included a section in our UbD units that describes prior knowledge from vertical alignment documents. This helps guide the conversation during planning so we can ensure we are meeting students where they are at. Success criteria was exciting to hear about because our district has been studying and implementing this over the past 2 years. Hattie commented that success criteria is such a simple idea (simple idea, but definitely requires thought and practice) for teacher clarity in which we share our expectations with students, but yields such powerful results. And, when providing feedback based on this success criteria we can help students “deliberately interpret where to go next” and “what to do when they don’t know what to do.” He also said that the best success criteria is developed with students. I was actually just talking with a dean about this last week, and after hearing him say this, I plan to bring this up again to make it happen. Lastly, classroom discussions become so important for students and teachers as this is where we can truly hear our impact. I think this is an are of huge growth as I have learned, and Hattie and DeWitt further explained, that a lot of research points to the fact that teacher talk and teacher questioning out-numbers student talk and student questioning. To do this, strategies such as Think-Pair-Share and Jigsaw can be implemented to facilitate classroom discussions and allow learning to be in the hands of students.


Creating Visible Learners: Peter DeWitt then spoke about fostering Visible Learning Screen Shot 2019-10-13 at 4.03.23 PMthrough “assessment capable learners.” He explained that to create these learners, we must help students feel a sense of emotional connection to their teacher and school, as well as have a voice in learning. He then gave us a few minutes to reflect on how we are already fostering Visible Learning in our students and although there is always room to grow, it gave me a chance to celebrate the success I have had this year with developing success criteria, collaborating with our Student Leadership and Well-Being dept. to write social emotional learning into my math curriculum content, and doing learning walks. In thinking about learning walks, one dean and I have carved out time each week to walk classes and I am excited to tell her about DeWitt’s idea of interviewing students to ask what a good learner is. Furthermore, he and Hattie suggested asking students “what are you learning”, not “what are you doing” to eventually uncover habits of thinking, understanding progress of learning, and the power of feedback. This ability to be metacognitive in learning can be so powerful, and something he explained we need more of, but often see the least. Metacognition was actually the focus of the entries I just wrote for Kelly Harmon’s newsletter, so hearing this was affirming to continue to implement these strategies. DeWitt explained that assessment capable learners are also able to explain where they are going, how they are doing, and where to next. I am thinking we can create a quick reference paper with these three questions along with “what are you learning?” to help us remember to ask these and become even more student centered in our walks. These also connect with the campus and district goals as the responses to “where am I going” should reflect the learning target and “how am I doing” and “where to next” reflect success criteria.Screen Shot 2019-10-13 at 4.05.58 PM

Mindframes: Next was Hattie’s session on the 10 mindframes we need to have for Visible Learning to work in our schools. Impact is the first as we should be evaluating our impact on student learning. I also think this relates to when I work with teachers and ensuring I am measuring my own impact by listening, noting, and evaluating where I see student achievement increase based on our work together. He spoke of an incredible statistic that in 1900, 14% of the world was literate in linguistic and numeracy skills and by the year 2000, that number rose to 86%…and this is because of the work of teachers. Therefore, our impact is huge and it is essential to continue to measure and evaluate it for success. The second mindframe is using assessments to inform impact. He explained that assessments are for teachers to further identify if students learned and what was successful in our own teaching. I think this corresponds to PLC questions 2, 3, and 4 as we need to be aware of how we know students learned and what we will do if they don’t or are proficient. He suggested that before students do an assessment, have them put a mark for what they think they’ll get. I have actually done this self-assessment several ways and posted about it here and here, so it was exciting to hear that was validated as an effective practice. Third is collaboration and helping to create collective teacher efficacy among teaches. This actually has the highest effect size. I think this is so important to work on in our PLCs and I want to continue seeking more ways to develop this. Being a change agent is the fourth mindframe and it really resonated with me when Hattie said in his first session, “equity means no matter where they start, every kid deserves at least a years growth.” We must be steadfast in our beliefs that every student can and will learn at high levels. Next is to embrace and strive for challenge. He explained that we need to help motivate and inspire students to never want to get to the end of learning, and that through the Goldilocks principle students should always want to keep playing the game of learning. Feedback is the next mindframe and a powerful one to reflect on as he said “feedback costs” and “it’s easier not to hear it.” But, when we provide intentional feedback to students AND we reflect on and use our own feedback given to us, that is when real change happens. The 7th mindframe is dialogue and as previously mentioned is something I think we can continually improve upon as 90% of talk in classrooms is done by the teacher. By providing a safe and productive place for students to talk productively together, learning greatly improves. Next is helping students understand what success looks like. He said success criteria should be both surface and deep, and I think I am really understanding this as I work with Marzano’s taxonomy to write and analyze success criteria. 9th is relationships and creating a safe place for students to say “I don’t know.” He shared a powerful quote in which “students don’t come to school to learn what they know. They come to school to learn what they don’t know.” I believe we can foster this in our classrooms through explicit SEL strategies and positive interactions. Lastly, focusing on a language of learning requires us to connect prior knowledge to transfer knowledge. I have been working a lot in thinking about transfer knowledge with writing UbD units and Hattie explained one concrete way to do this is have students identify similarities and differences in what they are learning. It is also about committing to help students achieve at high levels and knowing what learning occurred everyday.

Screen Shot 2019-10-13 at 4.03.49 PMInstructional Leadership: The second to the last session was given by Peter DeWitt on Instructional Leadership in which he defined this as “when those in a leadership position focus their efforts on the implementation of practice that will positively impact student learning.” He had us reflect on how confident we are as an instructional leader and if we believe others see us an effective one. What a powerful reflection to imagine what others would say about ourselves and really dive deep into what impact we are making. He then explained key components of an instructional leader and I think this connected well to the 10 mindframes from Hattie. He also introduced us to the Program Logic Model and Implementation Cycles as ways to understand our current reality and what needs we have. I was reminded of a Student Centered Coaching conference I went to that made me reflect upon the idea that we are not changing teachers, we are building upon their strengths as we grow together. Next, he explained cognitive process dimensions and I loved his comment about cooperative learning vs. cooperative seating. This is something I collaborated with a teacher on recently as we created a strategy that built upon her cooperative seating, but enhanced it to cooperative learning through a protocol to help students discuss their mathematical process and then metacognitively decide on the accuracy of their solution. Read about this strategy here. Finally, DeWitt discussed collaboration and collective efficacy and suggested creating a list of evidence to understand what impact we are making…an idea I want to take back to my deans to try out.

Feedback: The last session was on Feedback and I loved hearing DeWitt explain his own experience with reflecting on feedback and how he turned around faculty meetings at his school. He also focused this session around ensuring we are always seeking answers to those three questions mentioned earlier, “where am I going? How am I doing? And where to next?” DeWitt said that providing and getting feedback increases our self regulation abilities, but in order to make a safe space for feedback, he walked us through the three triggers of feedback: truth trigger, relationship trigger, and identify trigger. And although it takes intentional practice and hard work, he explained feedback cannot simply be positive, but it also needs help “close the gap in learning.” It must be connected to success criteria and have a variance of levels, not just praise. I love the idea of using these four levels and also making sure I provide pathways for answering the three questions when I give feedback. I will definitely be sharing this with my team of teachers that is working directly on providing effective feedback, and also use this in my walkthroughs/debriefs.

I am so grateful I got to attend this conference and am excited to commit to fostering Visible Learning in myself and others. Thanks to my new friends I met…please keep in touch! And thank you to Corwin (I was the lucky winner to win this seat from the SCC conference), my district, and of course John Hattie and Peter DeWitt.

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