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visible learning

What Is Visible Learning?

Posted on: September 24, 2021

According to John Hattie, an expert researcher in education, visible learning as a concept is incredibly simple: it aims to make learning as visible as possible. His series of evidence-based books, published by Routledge, digs deeper into the data behind the concept to explain what works best to improve student learning. 

The core message of visible learning is that teachers need to be evaluators of their impact. It recenters the teacher’s perception to focus less on ‘transmission’ (how they are teaching) and more on ‘reception’ (how well their students are learning). By doing this, visible learning creates an environment of understanding as teachers self-evaluate and engage in dialogue to learn what is working and what isn’t working for their students. 

Carry on reading to learn more. And if you want to take your understanding to the next level and find our how you can start to achieve visible learning in your school or classroom, download our free Visible Learning Guide

John Hattie explains what Visible Learning means

Author John Hattie introduces the Visible Learning project and then goes on to explain the value of feedback in the classroom.

How does visible learning benefit teachers?

Teachers are the backbone of the educational system. They directly interact with students day-to-day to help them learn and guide them as they adjust to new ideas and goals. However, teachers are not born —each starts out as a learner.

Through visible learning, teachers are able to learn and implement different techniques that will increase their impact on their students. This is primarily due to the shift from viewing the classroom as an instructor versus as a student.

You can’t see how a student learns, but you can teach a teacher how to put themselves in their students’ shoes. By understanding how students think and process information, teachers can adjust their methods and see real change in their students’ academic work and performance.

The principles of visible learning don’t only highlight what works in the classroom but also create an incentive to learn what works best for students. As students progress through their education systems, they will 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?

The heart of visible learning occurs directly in the classroom between teachers and students. Yet the benefits extend beyond these two groups to the school as a whole.

Schools invest time and resources into the framework conditions of their education systems: number of students per class, length of school sessions, amount of breaks, student-to-teacher ratio, etc

When school leaders empower teachers to incorporate visible learning into their day-to-day and long-term plans, students benefit from an improved learning process and increased academic achievement. The main idea behind visible learning recenters the power of the school structure and gives it back to the teachers, allowing them to play an enhanced role.

Due to this, school leaders can improve academic performance across the board while improving the student and teacher experience.

Visible Learning Book Series

Based on over 30 years of empirical education research, the Visible Learning Series contains eight books that analyze and consider all facets of visible learning. Originally published in 2008, the first Visible Learning book covered 20 years of research and work by John Hattie, a world-renowned researcher in education, and became an instant bestseller.

The focus of the first book — and all subsequent editions — is to improve educational outcomes for children of any age, in any classroom, anywhere in the world. Through meta-analysis, Visible Learning synthesizes over 95,000 studies involving more than 300 million students globally to provide valuable educator insights.

What is meta-analysis?

Meta-analysis in the educational sciences is a quantitative-empirical research method. It enables the scaling up of hundreds and sometimes thousands of smaller studies on a particular topic to create one data-rich aggregated result.

This is what makes the Learning Visibility series invaluable as the breadth of educational data is analyzed and sorted through to pinpoint the important messages, as well as contextualize the data that may be influenced by other factors. It’s evidence-based educational research that has been proved to work by data gathered over decades, from tens of thousands classrooms.

Why the visible learning book series matters

Douglas Reeves, the founder of the Leadership and Learning Center in the USA, described Visible Learning for Teachers, the bestselling book within the series, 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!

Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement

This unique and ground-breaking book is the result of 15 years research and synthesises over 800 meta-analyses on the influences on achievement in school-aged students. It builds a story about the power of teachers, feedback, and a model of learning and understanding.

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Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning

Visible Learning for Teachers takes the next step and brings those ground breaking concepts to a completely new audience. Written for students, pre-service and in-service teachers, it explains how to apply the principles of Visible Learning to any classroom anywhere in the world.

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Visible Learning Insights

Visible Learning Insights presents a fascinating ‘inside view’ of the ground-breaking research of John Hattie. Together, the authors John Hattie and Klaus Zierer embark on a mission to build on the internationally renowned work and combine the power and authority of the research with the real ‘coal face’ experience of schools.

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Visible Learning Feedback

Feedback is arguably the most critical and powerful aspect of teaching and learning. Yet, there remains a paradox: why is feedback so powerful, and why is it so variable? It is this paradox which Visible Learning: Feedback aims to unravel and resolve.

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Visible Learning Guide to Student Achievement

Written by teachers working with researchers to incorporate the latest evidence from psychology and neuroscience, it explains how our growing understanding of the brain can be applied to improve cognitive performance and attainment, foster a love of learning and enable a healthy and productive approach to personal development - improving the learning outcomes for all.

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10 Mindframes for Visible Learning

The original Visible Learning research concluded that one of the most important influencers of student achievement is how teachers think about learning and their own role. In Ten Mindframes for Visible Learning, John Hattie and Klaus Zierer define the ten behaviors or mindframes that teachers need to adopt in order to maximize student success.

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Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn

Visible Learning and the Science of Learning explains the major principles and strategies of learning, outlining why it can be so hard sometimes, and yet easy on other occasions. Aimed at teachers and students, it is written in an accessible and engaging style and can be read cover to cover, or used on a chapter-by-chapter basis for essay writing or staff development.

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Visible Learning into Action: International Case Studies of Impact

Visible Learning into Action takes the next step in the evolving Visible Learning story. It translates one of the biggest and most critically acclaimed education research projects ever undertaken into case studies of actual success stories, implementing John Hattie’s ideas in the classrooms of schools all around the world.

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Other Books by John Hattie

10 Steps to Develop Great Learners: Visible Learning for Parents

What can concerned parents and carers do to ensure their children, of all ages, develop great learning habits which will help them achieve their maximum at school and in life? This is probably one of the most important questions any parent can ask and now John Hattie, one of the most respected and renowned Education researchers in the world draws on his globally famous Visible Learning research to provide some answers.

Writing this book with his own son Kyle, himself a respected teacher, the Hatties offer a 10-step plan to nurturing curiosity and intellectual ambition and providing a home environment that encourages and values learning. These simple steps based on the strongest of research evidence and packed full of practical advice can be followed by any parent or carer to support and enhance learning and maximize the potential of their children.

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The Purposes of Education: A Conversation Between John Hattie and Steen Nepper Larsen

This wide-ranging and informative book offers fundamental propositions about the nature of education. It maps out in fascinating detail a coming together of Hattie’s empirical data and world-famous Visible Learning paradigm with the rich heritage of educational philosophy. Additionally, it explores the inevitable questions of the purpose of education and the development of students in a learning society.

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The Turning Point for the Teaching Profession:Growing Expertise and Evaluative Thinking

Field Rickards, John Hattie, and Catherine Reid present the factors needed to affect real change for school systems, in classrooms, and in the teaching profession by:

  • Arguing for the establishment of teaching as a true 'profession' alongside areas such as medicine or law.
  • Identifying the expertise fundamental to the meeting demands of schools.
  • Elaborating on evaluative thinking and clinical practice as the basis of this new profession.
  • Outlining core levers of change to show how teachers can have profound impacts on educational, medical, and social dimensions of students.
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