I recalled a book by John Hattie that our superintendent had recommended to me called Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. His book is the exhaustive and comprehensive result of fifteen years of research in which Hattie, a professor and director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia, analyzed both positive and negative influences on student achievement. After studying in-depth the six areas that contribute to learning--the student, the home, the school, the curricula, the teacher, and teaching and learning approaches--Hattie developed a ranking system. The result, also known as the Hattie Ranking, is a listing of 138 influences and effect sizes across all areas related to student achievement.
What surprised me the most--and I mean absolutely caused my jaw to drop--was the very first item on the list, because it seems to be one of those things you'd never consider when discussing student success. More often than not, we look to the school, the teachers, and the curriculum as primary influential considerations. Sure, a student's active involvement and ownership of learning is essential, but again, the general consensus is that it's really up to us, the teachers.
So what's the #1 definitive factor for student achievement?
Drum roll, please...
Student self-reported grades.
Yep. It's on the kids. Hattie's research conclusively determined that self-reporting of grades comes out at the top of all other influences. According to his findings, "children are the most accurate when predicting how they will perform...Hattie explains that if he could write his book...again, he would re-name this learning strategy 'Student Expectations' to express more clearly that this strategy involves the teacher finding out what are the student’s expectations and pushing the learner to exceed these expectations. Once a student has performed at a level that is beyond their own expectations, he or she gains confidence in his or her learning ability." As an example, you might ask your class before a test to record the grade they individually expect to achieve, and then. use this information to engage the student to try to perform even better.
To take it one step further (and I am), one could argue that requiring students to keep a log of their scores also falls under this category of self-reporting. To test this theory, for one month I required my own kids to maintain a weekly report of their grades for each subject and to keep a graph of their individual quiz and test grades in each subject. (I became very unpopular in my house, as you can imagine.) Reluctant complaints aside, however, my boys will admit that IT WORKED. Once I placed the onus on them, they stepped up to the plate. They were invested. As my youngest wisely(?) observed, "When you used to check our grades and freak out at us, I did kind of blow it off, Mom. Now that you're forcing me to do it myself, I kinda have to be responsible and man up." (Except for the fact that he erroneously cited the "freaking out" on my part, I'm pretty proud of his personal growth.)
Anyway, back to the teachers who had requested data collection tools. All of the sidewinding that naturally occurs when one's surfing the web led me to discover one teacher's method of collecting data AND placing ownership squarely in her students' laps. Mrs. Anderson is a first grade teacher with a data collection idea that could be applied to all grades--and there's almost no technology involved. (Hey, sometimes low-tech is the way to go!)
Anderson has eight-pocket data folders that her students use to store data about their own growth and then share with their parents at conference time. Here's a picture:
If you'd like to learn more about these data folders and graphs here, I urge you to read and learn more about them for yourself. (Anderson also has an interesting idea about a class data board.)
Now, to those of you who asked for my advice, here it is: data folders seem like a simple yet effective option that not only assists us in tracking student data and growth, but it also places a portion of the burden of learning where it equally belongs--and that's on the learner. I don't know what John Hattie would think about Mrs. Anderson's data folders, but I'd like to imagine he'd approve.
I hope you do, too.
To learn more about Hattie and his continuing work with Visible Learning, visit his website.
image courtesy of Flickr