Sunday / May 19

Even More Learning Made Visible

In this episode of the Leaders Coaching Leaders podcast, Even More Learning Made Visible, host Peter Dewitt engages in a meaningful conversation with Professor Emeritus John Hattie from the University of Melbourne, Australia about his newest book, Visible Learning: The Sequel. An eagerly anticipated follow-up to his seminal work, this conversation offers valuable insights into implementing research-based strategies in educational settings and emphasizing the importance of designing learning experiences that ensure student success.

PETER DEWITT: John Hattie, welcome to the Leaders Coaching Leaders podcast.

JOHN HATTIE: It’s good to be back, Peter.

PETER DEWITT: It’s good to see you and good to talk to you. Thank you for coming on. I want to say, congratulations because the Visible Learning sequel has come out. So talk to us a little bit about, first, why did you decide to write a sequel after all these years?

JOHN HATTIE: Peter, it’s got nothing to do with Star Wars. It’s to do with– the pressure I had on me was to write a second edition. And in the second edition, it’s updating the 2008 book. And things have changed dramatically since 2008 for me. For example, there were 800 meta-analysis in 2008. There’s now 2,100 as of 2022. I wanted to spend a lot more time on the story, rather than on the data.

As you know, Peter, because you’ve been intrinsically involved in this, we’ve done a lot of work since 2008 in schools. 10,000 to 15,000 schools, 200,000 to 300,000 teachers. We’ve learned a lot from that. And so you can see that there’s a whole lot of things I’ve learned since [the beginning]. And I don’t want to call it a second edition because the expectation is it’ll be the old book updated. But I do want to base it on the old book. Hence, the notion of a sequel.

But Peter, you can be assured there will be no prequel. It’s OK. And so that was the main reason is to spend a lot more time on the story. There’s no references to the meta-analysis in the new book. There’s not as much data in the new book. The barometer has changed, primarily, because with 350 influencers, that’s another 108 pages. There’s another 200 pages of references.

If I put all the data in, it would be another 400 pages. It’s thick enough as it is. So all those details, critical as they are, we’ve put on the web as a free website called MetaX. So you can follow up all that detail. So the book is much more about the story. And it’s about where I am in my thinking about that story, that underlies those influences, the most successful.

The other thing, Peter, is about five years ago, we ditched the league table, the list of influences. It was too often misinterpreted. It work for a while, got attention. But then it was misinterpreted. So we’ve ditched that. And trying to spend a lot more time on that explanatory story.

PETER DEWITT: Yeah. To me, it’s always been interesting because I mean, I’ve worked with you over the years. And I remember I was presenting somewhere. And they said, well, he uses a lot of older data and stuff. And I’m like, but John’s research is probably the most current research you could ever have because it’s always being updated. And they didn’t know that.

So even though I see the sequel and we talk about the increase in the number of meta-analysis and stuff, I’ve always known you to just be updating your research all the time. I feel like you just finally had time to breathe and actually do a sequel because you’ve been doing this work all along. It’s not like 12 years later, 15 years later, you decided, hey, I’m now going to write a sequel.

I think it’s that research has always been there because you’ve always been keeping it so current. You just finally had the time to put it down on paper. Would that make-does that make sense?

JOHN HATTIE: It did. And actually, COVID helped. I retired from my university job before COVID came along. And for the first time for eons of my life, I had concentrated time that I could sit down and write. So that helped dramatically get through it. And yes, I have kept up to date on the meta-analysis. I still do every time they come out. I’ve got systems built in my computer systems to alert me to new meta-analysis. I add them to the database. MetaX, we update it once or twice a year.

We’re still doing that even though the sequel came out. I stopped July 2022. I said, that’s it. I’m going to write the book up till that date. Obviously, in the last year, there’s been another 100 odd meta-analysis came out. So research didn’t stop in 2008. I noticed one of the Twitter comments about the new book recently is, oh, has he changed his mind? And I want to go back to that person and say, do you still teach as you did 15 years ago? Yeah.

PETER DEWITT: And when I hear you say you have systems in place in this computer, all of a sudden, I just had this image of in your basement, you and Janet have this huge master computer that we should be looking at. One of the things that you said early on when we first started this conversation is the idea of you’ve learned a lot. And I think that because you talk about learning. so much and facilitate those conversations among others, I think it would be interesting for people to hear, what have you learned actually over the past 15 years?

JOHN HATTIE: Well, I think there are many major messages. There’s a new chapter in the book on learning. It seems surprising now looking back in 2008 that, that didn’t figure as much despite the title. The criticism is that you can’t see learning. It’s not visible. And my argument is that’s correct. That’s why the book’s called that because we want to try and make that learning more visible.

That learning is always about something. And that is really critical to the whole equation. And teachers actually don’t cause learning. It’s the kids that create the learning. And so trying to make that more clear, the concept of clarity, I underestimated that. And our colleagues Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey really highlighted that for me. I have moved to my feedback work. Not just looking at the feedback that’s given, but also how it’s received.

I’ve learned a lot about that. In 2008, I did struggle with the effect size of teaching methods. And I probably spent more time worrying about that since. And it wasn’t until I will spend a lot of time trying to understand some of the low effects, like the low effect of problem-based inquiry discovery. It’s very low effects. And I spent a lot of time going back through all those meta-analysis.

And in fact, it was Philip Dewey from Switzerland who brought to my attention one of their studies of problem-based learning in medical school. Effect size in first year is zero to negative. Effect size in fourth year, 0.4. And then it became pretty obvious what was going on, that if students don’t have the content before they go into problem based, it doesn’t work. It exclude it.

And so I’ve developed in the new book, this notion of intentional alignment. That we have various levels of complexity of what we want to teach. The content, the relationships between the content, and the transfer. And different teaching methods affect those outcomes. Now, here’s the bad news, Peter. By age eight, most kids learn despite what teachers say, what learning is about is knowing what. And no matter what teachers say, it comes back to that.

And the argument I’m putting in the book is OK to be greedy. We can go for all levels for knowing lots, the knowing how, the relationship between ideas, and the knowing with the transfer. The learning strategies differ, depending on the level of complexity. The teaching methods differ. And once that model was developed, suddenly, a lot of the teaching strategies made a lot of sense.

Here’s the weird thing. There are hardly any teaching methods that exist that cover all three levels of cognitive complexity. Jigsaw is the only one. Maybe, the padiham notion that comes out of North Carolina is pretty close. The other thing that I find fascinating, Peter, is that there’s virtually no research on the quality, the impact of lesson planning, of lesson plans. And there’s a massive gap, particularly given the workload that teachers put into that.

So it’s not what I’ve just learned, it’s what I’ve learned that we don’t know much about. And then coming to the heart of what you do in your day life, how do you get this message across in schools about what the story is? Every teacher who ever has been in the profession has a very strong theory of teaching. I have a theory of teaching. Mine’s not necessarily right or wrong.

And how do you actually have that conversation? So it’s not just someone listening to tips or tricks, but you’re actually getting to that deeper understanding of what happens. And in the new book, I look at not only the mind frames of teachers, and leaders, and students, and parents, and climate, and culture, but also underlying that is this notion of how we make evaluative decisions to do this rather than that.

And I like the word, evaluative, because it puts the emphasis on value. How do we make those value decisions in here, in the moment of the classroom to focus here rather than there? That’s the essence of the expertise. So that’s what a lot of the new book goes into….

🌟 Excited to share insights from the latest episode of Leaders Coaching Leaders w/ host Peter Dewitt & guest Prof. John Hattie! They discuss the eagerly awaited sequel to Visible Learning, revealing new research, the power of story over data, & evolving teaching strategies. 📚🔍 #VisibleLearning #EducationInnovation

Catch the full conversation here: Even More Learning Made Visible and explore how we can make learning more visible together!


Written by

Peter DeWitt, Ed.D. is a school leadership coach, workshop facilitator, and he writes the Finding Common Ground blog and hosts the web show A Seat at the Table, both sponsored by Education Week, and moderates the Leaders Coaching Leader podcast with Tanya Ghans for Corwin Press. He is the author of several books including Collaborative Leadership: 6 Influences That Matter Most , School Climate: Leading with Collective Efficacy , and Coach It Further: Using the Art of Coaching to Improve School Leadership. Connect with Peter on Twitter or he can be found at

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