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Making Learning Visible

September 5, 2014

Over the past few days, I’ve spent some time reading through John Hattie’s book Visible Learning for Teachers. Hattie takes his meta analysis data from his 2009 book, Visible Learning and puts it into a very straightforward format for teachers. There is quite a bit of useful information in the book regarding the interventions teachers should be utilizing in their classrooms to help improve student learning. I’ve chosen two quotes which really spoke to me to reflect upon for this post.

“Among the most important purposes of schooling is the development of critical evaluation skills”( Hattie, 20012, p.4).

Last year, I asked my students in grade 12 why they no longer ask the question “why?” My youngest (3 at the time) asked the question “why” far more than any of my 17 and 18 year old students. The response of the students really surprised me. They suggested they no longer asked “why” because they were conditioned, by school, not to question.

I really was both surprised and disheartened by this response. If Hattie is correct in his assertion that the development of critical evaluation skills is one of the most important purposes of schooling, shouldn’t students who are at the end of their formal schooling journey be well versed at asking “why?” One would imagine they would have this critical evaluation skill. But, they don’t. I am not suggesting they do not have the capacity to question. I am suggesting they grew up in a system which did not encourage them to pose questions and seek out answers. They are conditioned to wait for the answers from the teacher or from textbooks or worksheets. This is something we desperately need to change. We need students who finish school with the capacity to question and to solve problems. I challenge teachers to ask themselves how they are doing this right now in their own classrooms. It takes some work and some planning but it is an integral component of helping our students become critical thinking individuals.

“Schooling should have major impacts not only on the enhancement of knowing and understanding but also on the enhancement of character” (Hattie, 2012, p.4).

This is the second quote which struck me from Hattie’s book. Character education is nothing new. Yet, it is still discussed, suggesting maybe we have not met the mark in helping the young people in our classrooms develop their personal “intellectual, moral and civic character” (Hattie, 2012, p. 4). Alberta Education is attempting to address this issue on a large scale through the Ministerial Order of May 2013, Inspiring Education, and the Cross Curricular Competencies. But again, what is actually being done to help promote ethical citizenship in our classrooms. Actually, I’m sure there is quite a lot going on. However, I think we need to share that in more detail. Teachers are readily willing to share the amazing experiments, creations, and technology of our classrooms. I would really like to see more teachers sharing the ethical development of the students. In fact, it would be great to see students doing this in their own words or voice. I think providing students with an outlet to visibly demonstrate their personal character development would be incredibly encouraging.

The Next Steps

Having critical thinking students who act in an ethical manner does not seem like a huge stretch. It describes the type of individual I would like both of my boys to become. As a parent, I will strive to do my best to encourage this growth for them. I know teachers want the same things for the students who sit in their classrooms. 

Thanks for reading and have a great Friday!

Sean

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