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Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximising the Effectiveness of Your Lessons

Posted on: February 9, 2023

Visible learning is an approach to teaching in which teachers reflect on their practice and use evidence of student learning to inform future instruction. That way, teachers can tailor their lessons to match student needs and ensure that students are engaged in the material. This method helps ensure that every child has an opportunity to reach their potential and develop the skills they need for success in school and beyond.

In this post, we'll go over the foundation of visible learning and teaching strategies for using it in the classroom. We'll also discuss some of the challenges that teachers and school leaders face when implementing visible learning, and offer some tips for overcoming them. Let's get into it!

The Basics of Visible Learning

Throughout his decades of experience as a researcher and educator, professor John Hattie has been dedicated to helping teachers understand how they can impact student outcomes through visible learning.

After numerous case studies and evidence-based research, he concluded that teachers' beliefs about learning and their role as educators significantly influence student achievement. In “Ten Mindframes for Visible Learning”, John Hattie and Klaus Zierer present a framework for understanding the mindsets that a teacher needs to develop in order to maximize student success, which include:

  • Examining their impact on student achievement and considering ways to improve.
  • Acknowledging the importance of feedback.
  • Viewing collaboration and community as the hallmarks of the work environment.
  • Explaining the success criteria for learners.

Adopting these mindframes will help a teacher develop a more positive attitude about their work and, in turn, increase the chance that students will be successful. They're founded on the principle that educators are constantly engaged in dialogue and challenge. They're evaluators, change agents and learning experts — and they all work together to improve the quality of education for their students.

Strategies for Implementing Visible Learning in the Classroom

When teachers use visible learning strategies, they're engaging in a process that can help them create a positive classroom environment for their students. These teaching strategies include

1. Setting goals and providing feedback

By using a variety of methods, such as observation and discussion, teachers can set a clear learning intention, as well as goals for themselves and their pupils. These should be specific and measurable — and they should be based on the needs of the students.

2. Providing opportunities for student self-assessment

A key component of the visible learning strategy is giving students opportunities to assess their own progress. Students can use rubrics, portfolios and other methods to reflect on a specific learning goal and identify areas for improvement. Then, teachers can use this data to identify where their students might need more support or guidance.

3. Promoting a growth mindset

The idea of a growth mindset is that, with effort and persistence, anyone can improve themselves. Students who believe this will be more willing to take on challenges and persevere when they encounter difficulty.

A visible learner will be able to see their education as a process, not just a preparation for an assessment. They will understand that effort is just as important as ability, and that improvement comes from working hard but also from making mistakes. 

4. Engaging in formative assessments

Formative assessments are used to give teachers feedback on how well their students are learning. They’re useful for teachers and students because they give both parties real-time information about what was learned during a lesson and what might need to be revised or added. Teachers can use formative assessments to measure student understanding of a topic before it’s taught and then adjust lesson preparation accordingly.

5. Making evidence-based decisions

Teachers can make evidence-based decisions when they have access to data that shows the impact of their teaching practices. There are many ways to collect data about how students are performing in the classroom in addition to test scores, such as surveys, school checklists, interviews and observations.

Overcoming Challenges in Visible Learning

As with any form of learning, visible teaching comes with its own set of challenges. Here are some of the most common:

1. Communicating with parents

Parents can be a great resource for teachers, but they may not always understand the importance of data-driven learning. You may need to explain your decisions and actions by sharing examples of student perspectives and progress or explaining why certain teaching strategies have worked better than others.

2. Balancing visible learning with other teaching priorities

Teachers who are already feeling overwhelmed by everything they need to do may be hesitant to add another task. However, visible learning isn’t an extra job; it’s a way for you to maximize the impact of your other efforts and boost pupil motivation.

3. Differentiating instruction

Differentiated instruction is a teaching strategy in which teachers modify their lessons to address the individual needs of each student. All students are working toward the same learning goal, but they may be presented with different materials and activities based on their personal interests, strengths, or areas for improvement.

Additional Resources from Routledge

To learn more about visible learning, download our free guide which contains a curated selection of chapters from John Hattie's series of visible learning books, as well as key findings and valuable insights that are useful for teachers and school leaders for professional development and implementation purposes.