Think back to what brought you to your job as an educator. Whether you are an administrator or a classroom teacher—and whether you are aware of it or not—your beliefs about schools, classrooms, other administrators, and teachers had a significant influence on your decision to pursue a career in education.
“I want to work with children” or “I want to have an impact” are common phrases heard in schools and colleges of education around the world. I have had students say that they want to be teachers because of the subject matter: “I love science and want others to love it as much as I do.” On the flip side, there are those that make statements like, “Since I can’t get a job in the business world, I will just teach.” Now, that last statement probably made the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Mine did as I typed that sentence. However, the importance of teachers’ foundational beliefs—whether they are good or bad—can’t be overstated. This is exactly what I want to unpack in this post.
What We Believe Matters
Our beliefs influence our decisions about everything—from the clothes we wear, to our favorite sports teams, to our career decisions. Your beliefs about what is or is not stylish and what does or does not look good on you drive your decisions about where to shop for clothing, about how much to spend on clothing, and then, about how to budget your money for other expenses. For example, I am skipping the coffee shop this morning because I am saving up for a new bowtie or pair of shoes.
Not only do your beliefs have an impact on your decisions, they also affect your behavior. If you believe a certain sports team is superior to the other sports teams in the league, that belief influences your behavior at sporting events—especially when fans of the opposing team are in attendance. To be blunt, that specific belief can, at times, make us act crazy. The power of our beliefs cannot be overstated.
The Power of Our Beliefs Influences Our Schools and Classrooms
Over the past several decades, John Hattie has amassed over 1,400 meta-analyses of over 90,000 studies involving over 300 million students. To make sense of so much data, he focused his work on calculating effect sizes. Effect size information not only helps us understand if something does or does not have an influence on learning, it also helps us understand the relative impact of that influence. When you look at Hattie’s list of more than 250 factors in education, you will notice something fascinating. First, these are the largest two effect sizes:
- Teacher expectations of student achievement (ES = 1.62)
- Collective teacher efficacy (ES = 1.57).
What’s more, not too far down the list are factors like teacher and student expectations, teachers not labeling students, and teacher-student relationships. As factors with some of the largest effect sizes on Hattie’s list, they all share a common characteristic: they are the result of our beliefs. Again, what we believe matters.
10 Mindframes that Shape the Way We Think About Teaching and Learning
Our beliefs or, as Hattie calls them, mindframes, are ways of thinking about teaching and learning. Just like our beliefs about clothing and sports teams have an impact on the way we behave in our personal lives, these mindframes influence our behavior in schools and classrooms. Our mindframes are the driving force behind how we set up our schools and classrooms and how we interact with colleagues and students.
As a result of the Visible Learning research, Hattie identified 10 mindframes that can help shape the way we think about teaching and learning.
These mindframes represent the beliefs that are likely to have major impacts on student learning (Hattie, 2012).
So Now What?
If we want to have a major impact on student learning, research suggests that our decisions and actions as teachers and administrators are key. And if we want to change our actions, we need to focus on our mindframes and remember these two things:
- How we feel (our beliefs and mindframes) is real; it is the link to how we think.
- Where our mind goes, our actions follow.
What Existing Mindframes Do You Have About Teaching and Learning?
The first place to start is by assessing your beliefs. Consider the specific actions you take in your school or classroom as you read the statements that follow. For each item listed, where do you fall on the scale of agree, unsure, or disagree?
- I am very good at adapting my teaching when my students do not meet their learning goals.
- I use student learning as feedback on the success of my teaching.
- I measure the learning levels of my students regularly and systematically.
- I apply various strategies and methods to make my teaching more differentiated.
- I continuously question the impact of my teaching on student learning.
- I set aside time to collaborate with my colleagues.
- I encourage my students to talk about what they are learning.
- I strive get all of my students to participate in their learning.
- I take into account the strengths and weaknesses of my students.
- I show my learners the goals of each lesson.
- I work to promote a positive learning environment in the classroom.
- I obtain feedback from my students (adapted from Hattie & Zierer, 2018).
- I develop challenging tasks based on my students learning levels.
Each one of the above statements represents actions taken when an administrator or teacher embraces the 10 mindframes. Take a moment and reflect on your responses. Where you indicated that you agreed with the statement, consider why you agree. Where you indicated that you disagreed with the statement, consider that response as well.
Having the Right Frame of Mind about Teaching and Learning is Critical
What may now be abundantly clear is that the “why” behind your responses in the previous exercise are rooted in your beliefs. Change your thinking, change your classroom. Change your classroom, change the learning of your students.
In 2007, Graham Nuthall published a book entitled The Hidden Lives of Learners. Analyzing more than 500 hours of classroom video and audio, he stumbled upon two very humbling findings:
- Students already know 60 percent of what we expect them to learn in our classrooms.
- A large portion of what happens in our classrooms (80 percent) is outside the awareness of the classroom teacher.
Now reconsider the amount of time students spend in school (15,000 hours, or 33 percent of their waking time). This is but a small piece of their time, but it comes with the expectation that they will make significant gains or growth in their learning. Therefore, knowing and implementing what works best in teaching and learning is essential in maximizing the sliver of time we have with our learners. Having the right frame of mind about teaching and learning is the foundation to maximizing this time.
Hattie, J. (2012). Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. New York, NY: Routledge.
Hattie, J., & Zierer, K. (2018). 10 Mindframes for Visible Learning: Teaching for Success. New York, NY: Routledge.
Nuthall, G. (2007). The Hidden Lives of Learners. Wellington, New Zealand: NZCER Press.
Interested in learning more about the 10 Mindframes for Visible Learning? Join John Hattie on April 23 at 3:30pm PT/6:30pm ET for a FREE webinar. Click here to reserve your spot.