WHICH PRACTICES DO THE MOST TO RAISE STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT? It's the multi-million dollar question, but how can such a thing be determined?
Veteran teachers have read the repeated headlines about the underperformance of U.S. schools (leaving aside, for now, the legitimate question of how accurate those headlines are). They have seen teaching strategies, lesson structures, curricular frameworks and behavior management systems come and go. It is understandable, perhaps, that these changes are sometimes seen as fads - and, indeed, many ideas are reused and recycled across the decades (no doubt, in some cases, because the basic principles behind them are sound). While it is possible to become jaded by the many attempted reforms one witnesses over a career, the underlying reality is that any organization has room to improve its performance, and that the main lever for schools to raise the achievement of their students is through the hiring and effective continual professional development of its staff. But how do we know that? And how do we know which teaching strategies, which types of feedback, which curriculum approaches, actually have been shown to make a difference in helping students to learn better?
The answer is: evidence. And this leads us to the literature of educational research.
But no single study necessarily proves anything. What we really need are studies of studies (meta-analyses) - ideally, across a range of schools and students - that can attempt to point us in the most promising directions.
Needless to say, there is still controversy over what the evidence from educational research shows. When almost every program claims to be evidence-based, how do schools and teachers make decisions about where to focus their energy? You can only do so much, since there are limits on any district's, school's or teacher's time and money.
Amidst this backdrop, John Hattie's Visible Learning (published 2008) had an enormous impact on many conversations and decisions being made in schools around the world. Yet, we are still trying to make sense of Hattie's list of ranked effect sizes, indicating the relative impacts of different approaches upon student learning. Meanwhile, The Education Endowment Foundation has also compiled research, expressed in months of learning progress, that may be worth exploring. To that end, we have created two curated pages that summarize some of the overall findings of each source, and that are chock full of live links to learn more, if you are so inclined.