Guest Post via @clarksroom: What Actually Helps Students Learn

Everyone thinks that being innovative and trying new and improved things is the way to improve student learning. The next new piece of technology or the next best curriculum will be what gets our students to be successful. While those things can be good, they may or may not be what is going to help students.

But better teachers will always help students; this makes sense but many times we forget.

John Hattie is a researcher from New Zealand who set out to find out what actually mattered in helping students, so he did a large study. You can find all of his information at But essential he did this giant study and was able to rate, or give an effect size, to things that influence student learning.

In the world of data, anything above a .4 has a moderate impact and is considered a hinge point. Meaning you want to focus on improving the items above a .4 and stop wasting time on things below a .4.

***This is an extremely basic interpretation of the Hattie Effect Size. Spend some time on his website and you will get sucked down the rabbit hole. It is awesome.***

It is no big surprise to me that 3 of the top 5 things are in the teacher domain area, 1 is from the student domain area, and 1 is from the school domain area (but about teachers). So 4 out of the 5 top items that improve student learning deals with teachers.

Top 5 of Hattie’s Effect Size List

  • Collective teacher efficacy – Rating: 1.57 – Area: SCHOOL
    • Helping teachers understand how they operate day to day has a significant impact on students.
  • Self-reported grades – Rating: 1.33 – Area: STUDENT
    • Students have a good feel for where they are academically before even receiving grades.
  • Teacher estimates of achievement -Rating: 1.29 – Area: TEACHER
    • What the teacher thinks the students are going to do academically, based off of how well they know their students.
  • Cognitive task analysis – Rating: 1.29 – Area: TEACHING – Focus on teaching strategies
    • Understanding how students learn and how to structure learning tasks.
  • Response to intervention – Rating: 1.29 – Area: TEACHING – Focus on teaching strategies
    • An intervention system that identifies struggling students and supports them in the way each student needs.

This is a big and fairly complex topic, but at the core, it is about maximizing what we do. Maybe we should spend more time on the things that have the most impact.


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