A REVIEW OF John C. Hattie, (2009), Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement.

5.1.10 – by Donald C. Orlich – Hattie provides a very detailed synthesis of studies describing specific effects on student achievement using meta-analysis. Meta-analysis is a technique of combining several studies related to similar variables.

A REVIEW OF John C. Hattie, (2009), Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement.  London & New York:  Routledge, Taylor& Francis Group, 379 pp.   ISBN 10:0-415-47617-8, $42.00.

 

By Donald C. Orlich

Professor Emeritus

Washington State University, Pullman

 

            Hattie provides a very detailed synthesis of studies describing specific effects on student achievement using meta-analysis.  Meta-analysis is a technique of combining several studies related to similar variables.  Hattie summarizes this monumental task into sets of variables that he labels as  “contributions.”  The latter relate to: (1) students, (2) homes, (3) schools, (4) teachers, (5) curricula and (6) teaching approaches.

            Hattie then converts the statistics of the hundreds of meta-analyses into “effect sizes.”  An effect size (d) of 1.0 would show a one standard deviation gain on a normal curve, or an increase of 34.13 percentiles.  That effect would simultaneously be located at the 85th percentile of achievement, if the starting point were at the 50th percentile.

            Ninety percent of all 138 computed effect sizes were positive, while 10 percent suggested a negative effect on student achievement. Hattie set a benchmark of d=0.40, which would indicate a 16 percent gain.  This benchmark, argues Hattie, is a level at which “real world” differences could be observed in student achievement.  The 138 traits and their effect sizes were then organized into “domains.”   Of all the variables tested, 66 met the d=0.40 benchmark, while 72 fell below. 

            The variables measuring a “d” between 1.44 to 0.80 were: student self-reports of grades, Piagetian programs (growth models), providing formative evaluation, microteaching, acceleration and classroom management.

            Among the many domains (variables) falling between d=0.77 and 0.60 were:  teacher clarity, reciprocal teaching, feedback, teacher-student relationships, spaced vs. mass practice, meta-cognitive strategies, prior achievement, vocabulary programs, self-realization, professional development for educators, problem-solving teaching, not labeling students, phonics and teaching strategies.

            Of the domains that Hattie identified, the following were in the bottom 10 with  “d” scores ranging from 0.05 to -0.34.  Included in this embarrassing array were: whole language reading, multi-grade-age classes, student control over learning (too many choices can be overwhelming), retention in grade, television and school mobility.

            Obviously, this short review is incomplete, and impossible to discuss the implications of all the domains in detail.  Nevertheless, two conclusions may be inferred:  (1) Teacher quality is a key link to student achievement and  (2) Most current educational reform efforts have simply been “fads.”

            This book is a MUST reading for all involved in teacher education programs, those who determine educational policies and standards, and school evaluators.

The U. S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, might examine Hattie’s critique, and, perhaps, then resign.

 

            Hattie’s contributions to expanding our understanding of various effects on student achievement should receive accolades from every educational organization.

454 words in paper total

 

Donald C. Orlich, Professor Emeritus, Ed. D., Science Mathematics Engineering Education Center, Washington State University, PO Box 644237,  WSU, Pullman, WA 99164-4237, Office (509) 335-4844, Email dorlich@wsu.edu

Orlich is coauthor with R. Harder, R. Callahan, M. Trevisan and A. Brown,  Teaching Strategies: A Guide to Effective Instruction, 9th edition, (2010).   Boston: Wadsworth/ Cengage. 381 pp.

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