John Hattie: What Does It Mean to Be a Successful Teacher?
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John Hattie: What Does It Mean to Be a Successful Teacher?


– Okay, so, welcome to Facebook
live, I’m Elizabeth Rich. I am the Commentary
Editor at Education Week, we’re here at the Mayflower
Hotel, in Washington D.C., where we’re honoring district leaders for their great work that they’re doing with students all over the country. And we do this every year at our annual Leaders to Learn From event. And I have the good fortune of being joined by John Hattie. He’s the director of the
Education Research Institute at the Graduate School of
Education at Melbourne University, where he’s also a Professor of Education. As well, you are the author of many books on visible learning based on your research for the last 20 years. And it really culminates,
as I understand it, in this core idea that
the successful educator understands learning through
the eyes of the student. – That’s correct, yes. – So, you just delivered
this great keynote address and we had a rapt audience, and you’re about to go sign books. So, thanks so much for sitting
with us for a few minutes and welcome and thank you for joining us. – It’s great, it’s great to be here, it’s great to be talking. – So, we wanted to talk to you, we, I, you know, we have a lot
of teachers in our audience, and we wanted to talk to
you about what you see as one of the most important influences on student achievement and growth. Which is this idea of how
educators think about their role. So, it’s really not just about
educator competence is it? – Well, yes it is about competence, in the sense that it’s
about how they think. I certainly would argue that
we spend far too much time talking about what they do,
as opposed to what they think. Of course, then doing follows thinking. But those moment by moment decisions that great teachers make
to adjust, to refine, to improve in light of the evidence of the impact they have on students is what the core idea is. – Yeah, so, it’s not. I guess, my point just being
that it’s not just that, you know, you think your
a competent teacher. There’s so much more that goes into it. – Well, and, you know, the
problem there is that, that have you ever met a teacher who said that they’re not competent? They always argue they’re competent. And in many senses that’s wonderful, but I want more than that. I want the evidence that
they’re having that impact, that shows that they have
that competence, yes. – Great. So, speaking of impact,
I think a lot of schools spend so much time talking
about teaching strategies. We’ve all met, you know, those people that are working in those things, they get very vocal about it. And, as you say, your
work is about getting away from the strategy and thinking more about evidence of impact. So, can you just give us a little bit of an understanding about,
when you say impact, what is it that you’re
really talking about? – I’m always reluctant
to answer that question because I want the teachers
themselves to answer that. But, of course, I have a go. I want it, like, it’s not just changes in kids’ test scores over time, even though that should be in there, it’s also artifacts of
kids’ work to showing, bring along a piece of work, two pieces of work three months apart and let’s talk about
what growth looks like and is that sufficient
growth for three months? It’s about asking students what’s the concept of themselves as a learner? What do they do when they
don’t know what to do? It’s about listening to their voice about whether they’re growing. It’s about having teachers
watch other teachers in terms of the impact
they’re having on kids, and reflecting on that to help the teacher better understand their impact. It’s the triangulation
of those many notions and having that robust
discussion on impact. I don’t want it to be about achievement, I want it to be about respect
for self, respect for others. I wanna be about whether this place is an inviting place for
me to come back and learn. And it’s much broader
than just achievement but achievement’s in there as well. – I am curious, you know, when you’re out there traveling around,
what the receptivity… There’s the receptivity issue, right? And then there’s the fact of
what you were saying before, during the keynote: do you have
the courage to do this work? What is your sense of districts’ ability or educators’ abilities
to really take this what you’re saying and
go back and implement it? How hard is that? – Well, the first, the first
part is that I’m really feeding on the reason why most people
come into this business. We came into this business
to have an impact, so I’m feeding on that. And there is an excitement
among teachers, among schools. Unfortunately, they
have to live in systems that have other priorities
and instead teach it amongst those priorities,
which is the hardest thing. But as it’s being implemented
throughout the world, the reward for me is
watching those teachers get that feedback from the
students, seeing that growth, having them involved and
wanting to come back to learn. And it’s infectious. – I’m sure. And I was thinking, you
know, you were speaking to a group of school leaders downstairs. What kinds of conversations
should they be going back to their districts and
having with school leaders? The school leaders having with
their, with their teachers? And it, it goes back to
that courage question, it’s much easier to have a discussion about the curriculum or the assessment or the children or the resources. It does require courage to have a talk and it does require
skills and building trust. Often, that requires an
outside person to help you keep on the straight and narrow of the story. And so, yes, you could
have these discussions, but it’s kind of like a lot
of professional learning: it’s not what you learn today, it’s what you do when you go back to have those discussions. And I’d, I’d like to see a lot more of the school leaders join together and do it together to learn
about when it’s working, when it’s not, how do you do this, what happens when you get a break, what happens you get a barrier. ‘Cause it’s hard work
out there having those. Many teachers, we did the survey
of teachers in New Zealand a few years ago, and they
just want to be left alone. Now, that’s great if they’re
having a great impact. But, actually, it’s not
’cause I want those teachers to be a part of the solution. And, so, we do have to intervene. It’s not easy but it’s the right stuff. – And how successful are you, I mean, are you seeing communities
and school leaders getting together and
talking about this work? Is that in any–
– That’s what keeps me going. Yeah, we have about 90,000
teachers at the moment in the program throughout the world. My job is quality assurance,
I get the evidence of the impact and it’s quite stunning. It’s really quite
stunning what’s happening. – And over the years,
how is you, how are you or are you seeing this work
developing or changing? Well, you, I’m still,
I’m still the researcher, so I still add to the database, I still look at other parts of things, I’m still asking about
why some things don’t work when they should and
where they should work and how to get better. And, so, it’s, it’s
always growing that way and there’s always something to do. I’ve spent the last four
years looking, in particular, how students learn and
that is adding to it. So, plenty, plenty to come. We looked very strongly
at the feedback issue and why it’s so powerful but so variable. So, keep adding to that. But I also have a great team around me that also publish and
do work in these areas. And help convert it, because I’m, you know, I write academicese, they write it into the language
that teachers understand. And there’s some, some
really good stuff out there. – And, in terms of how
students are learning, what are some, I mean, can you
give us some ideas about how, you know, what you’re
finding out about that? – Yeah, it turned out to be
a little bit more complicated than the achievement story, in
that the same strategy works when you’re learning the content, but it doesn’t, that strategy doesn’t work when you’re learning
how to relate the ideas. But probably the best example’s
problem based learning. It has a zero to negative
effect in learning content, but has a point five effect
as you relate things. The trouble with a lot
of people in that area is it’s kind of like a religious mission. We’ve got to have problem based learning, but there’s a time and place. In fact, we call that model
the Kenny Rogers Model, there’s a time to hold ’em,
there’s a time to play ’em. And so, and the other thing
that’s really fascinating is that, with one or two exceptions, there’s hardly any strategies that cross, effectively, surface and the deep. And, so, we want both. We want kids to have idea
and them to relate them. But the strategies differ,
the same strategy differs. – Right, and there
obviously has to be a lot of engagement at every level
to do this work successfully. – It does and it’s like all lessons use, you have a mix between surface and deep. It’s not as simple as saying
you do surface and you do deep. But really good teachers help
kids try different strategies. This doesn’t work, here’s others. A lot of struggling kids only
have one or two strategies, and when it doesn’t
work they keep doing it. They wonder why it still doesn’t work. We have to teacher them
alternative strategies. We have to teach them,
when it’s not working, here’s another set of strategies. I bet that’s what you do in your work. – Of course. – Have them teach that. – And I love this idea that
you were talking about earlier where, you know, it’s
about imposing a challenge, rather than just saying,
“Okay, you’ve met the mark “and now you can go
and do something else.” – Oh, and particularly once kids get about the age of 11 and 12, they thrive on that challenge,
they wanna be challenged. And if you don’t challenge
them in the work, boredom sets in, all the problems set it, the withdrawal sets in. They love challenge, so
your job’s not to help them do their best, your job
is to help them do better. More than what they think their best is. – Yeah, I love that. One of the big issues
and, as we’re finishing up this conversations, of
course, is educator burnout. The rate, at least in this
country, I think, about half of all teachers leave after five years, roughly half of principals
leave after three years, depending upon what
metric you’re looking at. So, I’m wondering, you know, in this book, 10 Mindframes for Visible
Learning: Teaching for Success, you talk about this issue. And I’m wondering, you
know, do you have any sort of parting words of
wisdom to offer educators out there about grappling
with this burnout problem? – I think it comes back to the question of what you think it means
to be a successful teacher. And so often the notion
is: our job’s to be busy. And we don’t have the efficiency word. We have to be more efficient. This is hard work and something has to go. But, unfortunately, some
teachers think that they have to do it by themselves, seeking
help is a sign of failure, if they’re not busy
they’re not being good. That is the wrong concept of, of success. Success is having that impact of kids. Turning the kids on to that passion that you have for your subject. Seeing things in kids
that they, about them, that they didn’t see in themselves. And, if we go back to that, that’s the focus of what we’re doing. Doesn’t really matter that
they’re not coverin’ everything. Doesn’t really matter they
don’t know everything. How do we turn them onto
their passion of learning, so that they wanna come back and do this. So, I think we do have to look
at how we’re more efficient. I think good leaders get rid
of stuff and reprioritize. We can’t just keep adding. – And I think that’s true,
really, for every profession. – It is.
– You know, it’s just it’s, it’s
applicable everywhere. – I know, but we seem to think that we have to do it by ourselves. And, now the, the new number one is how we do it collectively,
how we build teams. And that’s what– – And I’m interested,
culturally, do you find this unique to any particular country? I mean, I would imagine America this is a big issue but
maybe it’s pervasive. – What’s pervasive is
that teachers, too often, deny their own expertise. They’re nice people, they
give credit to the kids. The kids did the work, the parents helped, the resources were right. We have to stop and stand
up for our own profession and say, “Hey, we have expertise, “we change, we cause learning, “and, quite frankly,
we’re pretty good at it.” – Yes, this is true. So, I just want to make
sure, before we wrap up, that there’s nothing else that you wanted to add to this conversation
before we say thank you and you go onto to sign all of your books. I know you have a very enthusiastic group of supporters out there. So, if there anything else that you feel is really important for people out there to know about this visible learning work? – My final challenge would be to look at how you promote our profession. For example, what’s on your website to say come to this school. And if it’s pretty kids, pretty buildings, pretty music, pretty sport,
you’re in the wrong business. It should be: come to this school ’cause we have great teachers. – That’s fantastic. Thank you so much, John,
I really appreciate it. – And thanks everybody out there for watching and we’ll see you next time.

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