As educators, we often put undue emphasis on the students for why they can’t learn – it’s because of their backgrounds, their lack of motivation, their learning styles, their inattention, and their unsupportive parents. While it is true that the largest source of variance in student learning outcomes can be attributed to students, the underlying premise of this deficit thinking is that educators cannot change students. However, we must consider ourselves to be change agents. Hattie argues that teachers’ beliefs and commitments are the greatest influences on student achievement over which we have some control. This chapter provides an overview of the beliefs and commitments of the most successful teachers.
The research shows that teachers clearly do make a difference. In fact, the difference in effect between a high-effect teacher and a loweffect teacher is about 0.25 which means that a student in a high-impact teacher’s classroom learns about a year more than his or her peers in a lower-effect teacher’s classroom. This chapter makes the claim that the differences between higher- and lower-effect teachers primarily relate to the attitudes and expectations teachers have when they decide on the core issues of teaching – what to teach, what level of difficulty to teach at, and how rapidly to progress. It is the attitude or belief system of expert teachers that really sets them apart.
1. Expert teachers identify the most important ways to represent the subjects they teach
The research in Visible Learning showed that teachers’ subject-matter knowledge did not improve student achievement! However, expert teachers do differ in how they organize and use this content knowledge. They know how to introduce new content knowledge in a way that integrates it with students’ prior knowledge, they can relate the current lesson to other subject areas, and they can adapt the lessons according to students’ needs. Because of how they view their approach to teaching, they have a greater stock of strategies to help students and they are better able to predict when students will make errors and respond when they do. They seek out evidence of who has not learned, who is not making progress, and they problem solve and adapt their teaching in response.
2. Expert teachers create an optimal classroom climate for learning
The best climate for learning is one in which there is trust. Students often don’t like to make mistakes because they fear a negative response from peers. Expert teachers create classrooms in which errors are welcome and learning is cool.
3. Expert teachers monitor learning and provide feedback
Expert teachers know that a typical lesson never goes as planned and they are skilled at monitoring the current status of student understanding. They are excellent seekers and users of feedback about their teaching – that is, they see student progress as feedback about the effect they are having on learning. To do this they must regularly gather information to know who is not understanding.
4. Expert teachers believe all students can reach the success criteria
Expert teachers believe that intelligence is changeable rather than fixed. This means that not only do they have a high respect for their students but that they show a passion that all students can succeed! While passion may be difficult to quantify, students are certainly aware of whether or not their teachers exhibit this passion. In one study of the students of over 3,000 teachers (The Measures of Effective Teaching Project sponsored by the Gates Foundation), students overwhelmingly stated that the teachers of classes with the most student achievement gains were the teachers with the most passion (as defined by seven adjectives starting with ‘C’ – teachers who care, control, clarify, challenge, captivate, confer, and consolidate).
5. Expert teachers influence a wide range of student outcomes not solely limited to test scores
Overall, expert teachers exert positive influences on student outcomes and these are not confined to improving test scores. Expert teachers influence students in a wide range of ways: encouraging students to stay in school, helping them to develop deep and conceptual understandings, teaching them to develop multiple learning strategies, encouraging them to take risks in their learning, helping them to develop respect for themselves and others, and helping them develop into active citizens who participate in our world.