Monday, December 15, 2014

Biggest Bang for your PD Buck

At our most recent staff meeting we were presented with some information regarding "effects" and their impact on student learning. The information was based on John Hattie's "Visible Learning for Teachers." This report is a synthesis of 1000 + meta-analyses which included 240 + million students and reported by Stephen Kendall-Jones. The basic idea is to see what types of things (teaching styles, teacher actions, school environment, etc.) are the most and least effective in terms of student growth. I have no specifics about the measurement of student growth or how the data was analysed. Some of the findings were interesting to me. Below I have listed the 10 least and the 10 most effective "effects."

Least Effective Influences

  1. Whole language
  2. Perceptual-Motor programs
  3. Out of school curricula experiences
  4. Distance Education
  5. Teacher subject matter knowledge
  6. Diet
  7. Gender
  8. Ability grouping
  9. Teacher education
  10. Mentoring
Most Effective Influences
  1. Self-reported grades
  2. Piagetian programs
  3. Providing formative evaluation
  4. Micro teaching
  5. Acceleration
  6. Classroom behavioral
  7. Comprehensive interventions for learning disable students
  8. Teacher clarity
  9. Reciprocal teaching
  10. Feedback
I must admit that I don't know what some of these are. I do have some observations. 
  • Using evaluation to provide feedback is effective - I do not have the specifics and am unsure if this is regarding students or teachers. However, I do feel that it is important for both teachers and students to have formative evaluations. At times it is difficult for us as teachers to make changes unless we are given a nudge in the direction of improvement. Often times these changes are unnatural and uncomfortable for us. Focusing on these changes through the lens of a formative evaluation can be helpful if done in a supportive, non-punitive setting. I can see the same being true for students. Evaluations are an indicator of how a student is performing. We need to help students use evaluations to determine both there strengths and their weaknesses. We also need to help them improve in their weak areas through the development of a plan.
  • Feedback is important - Feedback does help us grow. Others see what we have done and how we perform differently than we do. Through feedback we change our perceptions about ourselves and learn how we can improve our performance. This feedback must be specific and immediate (or as immediate as possible).
  • High expectations - Most of us have no idea what we can really accomplish. We like to live comfortably and rarely reach beyond what is comfortable. Setting high expectations can be an effective influence if done so in a supportive environment.
  • Self-reported grades - This allows students to take ownership for their learning. Students learn to be self-reflecting which teaches them meta-cognitive skills. Through development of these skills students will recognize where they need to improve and what skills they have to help them through learning difficulties. 

Although it didn't make the top 10 list, another influence that has a high effective is teacher-student relationships. If every teacher could make the extra effort to connect with all students (especially those that have not experienced success in education) we could see huge gains. It is not always easy to do this with our busy schedules. However, a concerted effort is worth every second of time spent. Doing this right away and staying with it can have a great impact on students who otherwise may not experience their true potential. Often times we get caught up in the logistics of teaching. We forget that it really is about kids and helping them reach their potential. They are people and often need our support outside of content. Life is tough for way too many kids. Letting them know that we do care about them not just as a math student can go a long way to helping them do things they never thought possible.