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visible learning

A Guide to Visible Learning and Resources

Posted on: January 16, 2023

Adopting visible learning teaching strategies in school settings can be a positive and effective way to increase student achievement. Read more about the research on visible learning, learn about strategies for implementing visible learning at school and access helpful resources here.

What is Visible Learning?

According to professor John Hattie, an expert researcher in the education sciences, visible learning as a concept is incredibly simple: it aims to make student learning as visible as possible. This means that all students should be able to see how their efforts are contributing to their education and that teachers are able to self-reflect on their practice to measure how it impacts student outcomes.

Overall, the core message of visible learning is that teachers need to be evaluators of their impact. It recenters teachers' perception — focusing less on 'transmission' (how they're teaching) and more on ‘reception' (how well students are learning). By doing this, visible learning creates an environment of understanding as teachers self-evaluate and engage in dialogue to determine how well their students are performing.

Watch the video below to learn more as professor John Hattie explains the three different areas of visible learning (research, school implentation and students) before going on to describe the value of feedback in visible learning. Then, if you're ready to take the next step, download our free visible learning guide to fully grasp how you can implement this powerful teaching method in classrooms.

Visible Learning Benefits

The positive effects of visible learning can be seen across all levels of education, from kindergarten to college. But not only does it benefit students, it also benefits teachers and school leaders.

Students may experience increased motivation and a desire to learn. They may also begin to feel more comfortable with their own abilities, which can lead to better performance in other areas of schoolwork. In addition, visible learners will undoubtedly develop a better understanding of the material, making it easier for them to apply their knowledge in other areas. This can be especially beneficial for students who are struggling with a particular subject or concept.

Moreover, students will benefit from a teaching environment where they can express their ideas and opinions freely. The more they are able to participate in the classroom discussion, the more likely they will be to retain their knowledge and apply it later on in life.

How does visible learning benefit teachers?

Teachers are the backbone of the educational system. They interact with students daily, helping them learn and guiding them as they adjust to new ideas and goals. However, teachers weren't born that way — each started out as a learner!

They work to become better educators by studying pedagogy, learning about new techniques, and exploring innovative ways to connect with students. The more that teachers are exposed to visible learning principles, the more they can apply them in their own classrooms — helping them impact student outcomes and improve their own teaching practices.

Furthermore, a visible learning approach promotes a shift in perspective from that of an instructor to that of a student. A teacher can't teach students if they don't understand what it's like to be a student. A visible learning approach brings this perspective into focus by creating an environment where teachers can see and hear themselves as learners — and recognize their own strengths, weaknesses, and biases. This awareness allows them to identify areas of improvement and build upon their strengths in order to become better teachers.

Visible learning is a set of principles that highlights what works in the classroom and creates an incentive for teachers to learn more about how their students learn best. As students progress through the education system, they will, of course, learn. But it’s through visible learning, based on data and evidence, that students will make the greatest progress.

How does visible learning benefit school leaders?

Although the heart of visible learning occurs directly in the classroom between teachers and students, the benefits create a ripple effect beyond these two groups into the school as a whole. Visible learning helps school leaders create a culture of success that both celebrates and supports teachers.

Teachers have more autonomy to make decisions about their classrooms, which allows them to focus on what works best for students. Additionally, with data-driven decision-making at the forefront of visible learning, school leaders can be confident in their choices and make better decisions that benefit their students. As a result, school leaders witness improved academic performance while simultaneously seeing their teachers and students thrive in the classroom.

Incorporating Visible Learning in Schools

“School leaders need to stop creating schools that attempt to lock in prior achievement and experiences (such as by using tracking), and instead be evidence-informed about the talents and growth of all students by welcoming diversity and being accountable for all (regardless of the teachers’ and schools’ expectations).” — John Hattie, Visible Learning for Teachers

While there is a lot of visible learning research, it can be difficult to translate this information into actionable steps for school leaders. Here are some ways that educators can make visible learning a reality in their schools:

  • Focus on the importance of meaningful student work, and empower teachers to design learning experiences that encourage students to apply knowledge in new and challenging ways.
  • Create opportunities for teachers to reflect on their practice, such as professional development or coaching sessions.
  • Provide support for teachers by making sure they have the resources needed to be successful at school and in the community.
  • Foster a culture of feedback, and make sure that students are involved in the process. 

These are just a few of the ways that you can help teachers make learning visible in classrooms, but for more detailed strategies and activities to help you get started, read our article on visible learning for teachers which contains information about the mindset and principles teachers should keep in mind.

The Visible Learning Books

Hattie's evidence-based books, published by Routledge, are some of the most highly regarded texts in education today. The books are based on over three decades of empirical education research and analyze and consider all facets of visible learning.

His best-selling book, “Visible Learning for Teachers” presents the biggest-ever research project on teaching strategies to practical classroom implementation completed to date, as well as numerous meta-analyses that bring together the findings from over 900 studies. This book was described by the Founder of the Leadership and Learning Center in the USA, Douglas Reeves as “the most important contribution to educational research and practice in decades". Since then, John has partnered with other experts to explain how Visible Learning can best be applied in the classroom and how it can shape learning in other environments. They represent an amazing journey, but there is still much to do and more books in the pipeline!

His newest book, which is available on Routledge.com, is titled "Visible Learning: The Sequel" and is informed by more than 2,100 meta-analyses drawn from more than 130,000 studies conducted with the participation of over 400 million students, to provide valuable educator insights and improve educational outcomes for learners of any age, in any classroom, anywhere in the world.

In this sequel, Hattie reflects on the implementation of visible learning in schools, the impact of visible learning on teacher and student well-being, and the effects of visible learning on academic outcomes. In addition, he explains how his findings have been understood — and sometimes misunderstood — as well as what educators can look forward to in terms of the future of visible learning.

This book is great for researchers, teachers, students, school leaders, teacher trainers, policy-makers and anyone else interested in the field of education and what makes learning work. As John Hattie put it, "The central message has not changed and is simple — how teachers, leaders, parents, and students think matters most. Their mind frames, ways of thinking, interpreting and evaluating are core to the success of teaching."

What is a Meta-Analysis?

In the educational sciences, a meta-analysis is a statistical analysis that combines the results of multiple studies in order to answer a research question. The result is a larger sample size, which often provides more precise estimates than could be obtained from any single study. Meta-analyses are most frequently used when there are many studies on the same topic, with each having found different results.

For example, there may be 15 different studies on how effective visible learning is at improving student achievement — all of which have reached different conclusions. In this case, a meta-analysis would be used to determine which of the 15 studies’ results were most accurate and how impactful visible learning is overall.

Analyzing the breadth of educational data and sorting through it to pinpoint important messages is what makes the Visible Learning books so valuable. It’s evidence-based educational research that has been proven to work by data gathered over decades, from tens of thousands of classrooms.

Additional Resources from Routledge

To learn more about visible learning and enhance teaching instruction, check out our John Hattie books and download our free visible learning guide. Moreover, our curated selection of education and teaching books also offers a wealth of insight into the classroom and how to become a better educator.