So What is Visible Learning Anyway?

So What is Visible Learning Anyway? Thoughts and Understandings From a School Principal

As with most fall meetings, this fall started off with direction setting meetings, visions, missions and re-establishing what we are about.  It was during these meetings that the notion of Visible Learning, as described by John Hattie came across my radar.  What was this Visible Learning?

So, I ordered the book Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement and cracked it open when it came. Wow, the book is not what I was expecting and not like I have ever seen before.  I find it is not a book you can read cover to cover, it is more like a reference book.  I gleamed information out of it and let it set until today when I participated in the Visible Learning webinar through The Leadership and Learning Center, facilitated by Douglas Reeves.

Visible Learning is now beginning to take shape in my mind, I am beginning to understand new information and think about applying it in my own context.

Lightbulb moment: Changes in teacher practice effect changes in student learning (Douglas Reeves).  Okay, maybe not a lightbulb moment but a critical thought none-the-less.  Even today, as we were working through some behaviour issues with elementary aged students, could it be that if the teacher changes the approach and the practice, perhaps the students behaviour would change as well?  Let’s focus on the teaching (and I mean teaching, not teacher), rather than on the behaviours.

English: A teacher teaching something in Da Ji...As stated by Douglas Reeves: Linking specific teaching strategies with specific student results is Visible Learning.  As mentioned in the example above, would there be a way to incorporate specific teaching strategies and measure specific results? I think so.  The key at our school is that I think we are very good at identifying what is wrong and what we need to be different.  I think we know what the preferred state would be.  I think we have many resources and teaching strategies (perhaps too many) but I DON’T think we know how to measure the effectiveness of specific strategies.

In regards to the teaching strategies, our goal has been to focus on those high impact strategies.  I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new John Hattie book Visible Learning for Teachers to ensure our understanding and implementation of high impact strategies.  As a side note, feedback (d=.72 effect size) is a high impact strategy I previously blogged about (see Feedback or Feedforward).

As mentioned in The Walk-About we have our observations in place – in other words, teachers are observing teachers each day.  We now need to make those observations systematic, objective, and precise (Douglas Reeves).  We need to observe for high impact strategies and the effect they are having on student achievement.  We need to gather specific data about specific practices.

Our goals with Visible Learning are:

1.  To raise awareness.  ex:”This is what feedback and engagement look like in our school and in your classroom.”

2.  To set targets. ex:”Now that we have this information, what are we going to do with it?”

3.  Practice. ex: “Last month my feedback to students consisted primarily of ______ and this month it consists of_____”

4.  Measure the effects of our practice.  “This teaching practice, resulted in this improvement (or not)!

5.  Keep what works, get rid of the rest!

Perhaps through Visible Learning, our understanding of what quality teaching really is will become more specific, objective and precise resulting in a greater understanding of knowing why we are doing what we are doing in the art form called teaching.

Leave a comment


  1. I agree that changes in adult behavior can in turn influence student behavior changes or improvements in learning outcomes. I am a believer than when there are behavior “issues” at the elementary level, we need to examine carefully the adult behaviors and instructional plans to determine how we can change the situation to better support students.
    Instructionally, as you’re working through this protocol with your teachers, I’m curious about #4. How are you asking teachers to evaluate the effectiveness of their practices? Do they look at student assessment data, or something more comprehensive? I know Reeves emphasizes looking at strategies to determine their impact on student achievement – I am just wondering what that looks like in practice, and whether our emphasis on instructional strategies (teacher-focused) during observations/walkthroughs is always the best approach. Read a great post on this by Ryan Bretag – . I know there’s a balance, it’s just a matter of helping teachers and principals work collaboratively on making that the priority of teaching and learning day in and day out.
    Thanks for sharing and making me think this morning.

  2. Hello just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The words within your article seem to be running off the screen in Opera. I’m not certain if this is a formatting issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know. The design and style look fantastic though! Hope you get the problem resolved soon. Cheers

  1. We Know Better… « ………..At the Principal's Office…
  2. Rethinking High Stakes Exams » At the Principal's Office
  3. Six Key Principles to Changing Behaviour » At the Principal's Office
  4. The Walk-About » At the Principal's Office
  5. Are You Maximizing Formative Assessment? Feedback or Feedforward » At the Principal's Office

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