Sunday, May 15, 2011

Making Data Easy To Understand With Visible Learning

It is hard to argue with the role that data can play in informing educational decision making.  That we need to make decisions to increase student learning is a given.  In an era of increased competition for educational funding it is important we maximize the value of our choices.

The challenge for educators is to know how to find and use data when making decisions in schools and districts.  There is no shortage of data in educational systems, when you consider financial reports, student achievement data, community data, etc.  Factoring in the data we collect locally with that generated by the significant world of educational research can be overwhelming.  There is so much data available, it can lead to paralysis before it leads to analysis.

Recently while attending a session on systemic improvement presented by Kenneth Leithwood I was introduced to a resource focused on educational research that I believe is quite valuable in this regard.

John Hattie is an educational researcher and professor of education at the University of Melbourne.  His book, Visible Learning, is an easy to read synthesis of other meta-analyses of educational research and presentation of the impact of different strategies on student achievement.  Hattie's summary and the effect of different factors on student learning has the potential to be very useful when trying to decide how we might make the best use of our available funds.  If we start by asking the right questions about our existing practice, Hattie's book can provide valuable data for making our decisions.

One of the unique features of Visible Learning is the way Hattie presents the summary of the research.  The visual gauge Hattie uses, below, is an excellent visual representation of the summary.  The use of formative feedback is something we often talk about as a necessary part of effective instruction.  As Hattie shows below, it is a very powerful factor influencing student achievement.  If you want to take a look at it the book before purchasing, you can check it out here on Google Books.  Much of the book is available for preview online.  If you are wondering if class size or teacher training will have a more powerful impact on student learning in your district, for example, search in the book and see what discussion ensues...

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