How do we make John Hattie’s “Visible Learning” work in maths?

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19 Responses

  1. Alex Crookes says:

    Interesting post. I was thinking of doing something similar, although I was toying with an assessment at the half way point then one at the end to demonstrate progress/learning. Just wondering why you feel you have to so this in lesson time: could it be set for a pre-topic homework?

    • Hi Alex,

      Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with you. Giving it a go as a homework is certainly something I’d like to do. It would be a way of doing it without taking up lesson time.



  2. Jon Hinchliffe says:

    I am only just completing ITT so I expect my views are naive but here goes:

    I have seen this approach in several schools and wondered about the balancing act of the time it takes against the progress it helps achieve. It is therefore interesting to see you trying this approach out.

    How would it be if you did the pre-assessment form and questions in homework? Do you think their would be any loss of efficiency? I would expect the ones that won’t benefit from it won’t make much effort but those students that do want to succeed will try just as hard.

    Having said I like this approach I do have concerns about the whole principle that students need to know what success looks like. As teachers we know there is no universal single solution to improving learning. It is a combination of different approaches that probably change from class to class, person to person and lesson to lesson. When students are in the real world they will face lots of situations where a 70% guess is about as good as we can get. If we have a check list that we need to know the area of parallelogram that implies we there is a specific rule for working this out and of course there can be but if we teach how to work this out from scratch the student will have learnt more principles of thinking mathematically and should be able to apply it to areas of other compound shapes etc. It is not as efficient for an exam but it is good maths technique to me.
    I am therefore wondering it the check-list is based at the wrong level of thinking. Whether it should be about the techniques and approaches of solving maths problems rather then specific types of maths problem. We are then back to the time problem does teaching higher principles save time because there needs to be less detailed content or is it a luxury that will impact on exam results? To me it seems a better way I don’t have the experience to know yet.

  3. steve says:

    Is there a risk that students will think “Oh I can do area of a trapezium already (based on the pre-test) and not fully engage with the trapezium lesson whereas they actually mean ‘I can do that individual question on area of a trapezium’?”

  4. Craig Wilson says:

    I use this approach on larger assessments at the beginning and end of term. I’m pretty confident I can get most kids to score well on a topic I’ve just taught but what do they remember at the end of the term/year? I think it also gives a better idea of progress.

    I wouldn’t consider time spent doing tests as wasted time though. Daniel Willingham etc have shown some pretty convincing evidence that just doing a test helps learning.

    I use very short one or two question tests at the end of lessons and questioning to assess understanding of what I’ve taught recently.

  5. bbking212 says:

    I am very interested in your approach as we have started to implement pretest in our school rather than just formative assessment. My problem at the moment is the recording of progress. Do you record their smileys on a spreadsheet or is book sheet evidence enough of “progress”?

    • Hiya. Thanks for your reply. I’m recording it in a spreadsheet. I pass a sheet of paper round with the pupils’ names vs learning objectives on. They tick and cross then I quickly put it into a spreadsheet. Sounds a lot of work, but only a couple of times a half term…

  6. Tim Dolan says:

    It’s interesting to read your thoughts on this as we are looking at pretests at the start of learning blocks in our new schemes of work. What do your post learning assessments look like?

    How do you communicate the success criteria to students? is i just a list of ‘calculate …’ or do you use examples of questions they should be able to answer, or something else?

  7. Kirsty Martin says:

    This looks like a fantastic way to really enhance the learning of the pupils. I can’t see how I cannot be a better more reflective teacher implementing this approach. I’ve got a couple of questions before I start planning this into Septembers lessons.

    Did you find it difficult to chose just one question to test each of the learning objectives? Did you experiment with different questions for different classes for instance to see if the assessment varies depending on the question?

    When you do the post-learning test do you repeat the same test or give the pupils a new test?

    Thank you for sharing this. It has given me the drive I needed to really look at visible learning, confidence and achievement for the new term!

    • Hi, thanks for your kind words. The pre and post learning assessments have different questions, they are different tests. However, the topics are the same, e.g. Q3 on the pre learning test is on the same topics as the post learning test: they assess the same objective.

      I haven’t experimented with different questions for different classes. Despite the time issue (!), I’ve been focussing on making the questions like the ones that would appear on exam papers. The thinking being, we take different routes to our destination with different classes, but with all classes we’re trying to get the to the point on being able to answer a GCSE style question…

      I’m going to start work next week on designing pre and post learning assessments for the whole syllabus. I’ll post these on here when I’m done for others to use if they’d like to.

      Visible learning is certainly something worth investigating. I can’t speak highly enough of Hattie’s work. It’s given me real focus in my CPD in a way that nothing has before. Rather than being flooded with too many ideas to try, I’m focussing on what has the biggest impact. Definitely check out his videos I blogged about a while back.

  8. Marc Evans says:

    Thanks, I love this and I’m making these to use in my lessons.

  9. Victor says:

    Would time be less of an issue if this technique was incorporated as part of a mastery curriculum ala King Solomon Academy?

  10. N Millar says:

    I was really interested in this article as it is something I am really trying to push with the department- we want to move away from traditional homework being the assessment. I was wondering if your resources on this are available to purchase anywhere please?

  11. Naomi says:

    this made very interesting reading. I have only just come across your website, but already lots of interesting information and food for thought.
    Do you have the materials/ assessments available to buy at all??
    Many thanks

  12. Tonya Girle says:

    This is a technique I have been incorporating, too, but I use the ‘homework’ time for it by creating online tests that self mark and automatically populate an excel spreadsheet for me (recording the whole classes results by individual students). Students complete the test outside of class time, we have discussions either in class or on a discussion board about the work and all other homework for the unit is based on a ‘flipped classroom’ ideology with students required to watch ‘preparatory learning’ tutorial videos directly linked to the learning objectives from the pre-test. They also have to post a response on the discussion board (I give a discussion topic that is a check-for-understanding open ended question) to ensure they have processed the knowledge from the video. Best thing about this system is once you have the digital bones in place, it is low maintenance 🙂

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