It is probably the same in any field of endeavour. A piece of research points something out that we probably knew in a way that makes it impossible to ignore. Quite often this piece of research becomes an orthodoxy, it becomes so well used that it becomes the pillar of a subject or an approach. Education is no different. There are thousands of erudite papers about education published each year; some sink into obscurity, others become critical to the way that we think about what we are doing in school each day as teachers.
A few years ago John Hattie, an Australian academic started to publish material evaluating the effectiveness of a variety of strategies being used in classrooms around the world. He asked the simple but essential questions that needed to be asked about what are the most effective approaches to education. What things that are done in lessons lead to the most progress being made by students? Hattie stated that one year in the classroom should result in at least one year’s worth of progress. A reasonable starting point. His evaluation has been taken on by other academics who have looked at what methods have resulted in the most demonstrable progress notably the CEM department at Durham University which has looked at interventions on a value for money basis. The results are interesting. Feedback, meta-cognition, peer tutoring and homework (in a secondary context) have a very high return for little investment. Take away the economic element and they still remain highly effective strategies to ensure that progress is made.
We have spent a good deal of time looking at Hattie’s research and we have implemented many of the suggestions that he makes into our academic year and our daily approach. We believe that effective feedback is essential to good learning and as a consequence we have regular assessment reports in the Senior School and Parents’ Evenings have just started in the Junior School. These moments are vital if progress is to be made. Meta cognition or learning how we learn is also significant. This week I was delighted to see a variety of peer teaching techniques being used as well as some excellent presentations about how to learn with our older students sharing their wisdom with others. As we start to consider all that has been achieved in this half term it is good to know that much of the academic achievement has been done with the support of both teachers and pupils.
Of course one of the most effective ways of learning is by doing. Our older pupils have been in the UK doing geography fieldwork (in the rain) and others will be taking flight to spend two weeks with our partner schools in Cambodia. We wish them well as they go on to learn through doing.