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How can we ensure that every student achieves at least one year’s progress for one year of schooling?

Governments and schools have spent billions of dollars trying to fix education. But evidence shows that many popular solutions have little impact on student learning.

In two new reports, renowned education researcher John Hattie explores common policy “fixes” that distract from other, potentially better, solutions.

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Choice of school and smaller class sizes

Parents play a crucial role in the success of their children in school. However, too much attention is often paid to parents’ desire to choose which school their child attends, when the evidence shows that the classroom they attend is more important. Policymakers should therefore focus their efforts on reducing within-school variability of teacher effectiveness, as opposed to simply offering more school choice to parents.

Gear and wrench illustration

Distraction 2. Fix the Infrastructure

Curriculum, assessments, and buildings

One of the major distractions to truly making a difference is the quest for better infrastructure. Changing the shape of buildings, for instance, is only effective if educators are guided on how to teach more effectively in the new space. At the same time, assessments should provide teachers and schools leaders with actionable, interpretive information about each student.

Distraction 3. Fix the Students

Early childhood education, holding students back, and learning styles

There is a huge opportunity for learning and development during a child’s first five years, but despite enormous investment in early childhood education there is little robust discussion about what learning should mean for this age group. Holding students back almost doubles a student’s risk of dropping out, and there is little evidence that the matching of teaching methods to student “learning styles” - audio, visual, tactile, and so on - enhances learning.

Student illustration

Distraction 4. Fix the Schools

New schools, transformational leaders and longer school days

The evidence shows that what’s most important is to focus on the classroom - that is, championing teacher expertise, and spreading it from classroom to classroom. Yet, too often, policymakers propose school-wide solutions that have little proven effect, such as lengthening the school day or year, or creating new forms of schools, which tend not to be any better than existing options.

Distraction 5. Fix the Teacher

Teacher education, performance pay and technology

Studies show initial teacher preparation programmes, as they are now, have among the lowest overall impact of all the influences on student achievement. More focus should be placed on influencing the first years of full-time classroom teaching - where the greatest learning happens for teachers. Also, technology should be seen as a way to support different learning pedagogies and ongoing assessments, rather than simply as another tool for students to consume information.


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By John Hattie

John Hattie is Professor and Director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and Deputy Director of the Science of Learning Research Centre. He is the author of Visible Learning and Visible Learning for Teachers, the co-author (with Gregory C. R. Yates) of Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn and co-editor (with Eric Anderman) of the International Guide to Student Achievement.

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John Hattie

About Open Ideas

Pearson’s goal is to help people make progress in their lives through learning. This means we’re always learning too.

This series of publications, Open Ideas, is one of the ways in which we do this. We work with some of the best minds in education - from teachers and technologists, to researchers and big thinkers - to bring their independent ideas and insights to a wider audience.

How do we learn, and what keeps us motivated to do so? What is the body of knowledge and skills that learners need as we move into the second half of the twenty-first century? How can smart digital technologies be best deployed to realise the goal of a more personalised education? How can we build education systems that provide high quality learning opportunities to all?

These questions are too important for the best ideas to stay only in the lecture theatre, on the bookshelf or alone in one classroom. Instead they need to be found and supported, shared and debated, adopted and refined.

Our hope is that Open Ideas helps with this task, and that you will join the conversation.

Read other reports in the Open Ideas series