What works in education

It’s hard to know where to begin this post. Perhaps I should simply ask you to read “What works in education” by Grant Wiggins — including the comments. Wiggins discusses John Hattie’s extensive statistical studies that compare the effectiveness of many different interventions and techniques. Despite being a math teacher (or perhaps because I’m a math teacher) I am deeply skeptical of the idea of assigning a numerical “effect size” to an enormously wide range of ideas. Here’s Hattie’s list of effective techniques, as distilled by Wiggins, who has also starred the most effective ones:

  • Student self-assessment/self-grading*
  • Response to intervention*
  • Teacher credibility*
  • Providing formative assessments*
  • Classroom discussion*
  • Teacher clarity*
  • Feedback*
  • Reciprocal teaching*
  • Teacher-student relationships fostered*
  • Spaced vs. mass practice*
  • Meta-cognitive strategies taught and used
  • Acceleration
  • Classroom behavioral techniques
  • Vocabulary programs
  • Repeated reading programs
  • Creativity programs
  • Student prior achievement
  • Self-questioning by students
  • Study skills
  • Problem-solving teaching
  • Not labeling students
  • Concept mapping
  • Cooperative vs individualistic learning
  • Direct instruction
  • Tactile stimulation programs
  • Mastery learning
  • Worked examples
  • Visual-perception programs
  • Peer tutoring
  • Cooperative vs competitive learning
  • Phonics instruction
  • Student-centered teaching
  • Classroom cohesion
  • Pre-term birth weight
  • Peer influences
  • Classroom management techniques
  • Outdoor-adventure programs

The zinger is what follows the odd list. Here’s how Wiggins puts it:

Can you guess the next two items on the rank order list?

“Home environment” and “socio-economic status.”

In other words, everything on the list has a greater effect on student achievement than the student’s background — despite the endless fatalism of so many teachers on this point (especially in the upper grades).

It just doesn’t ring true to me. Does it to you?


Categories: Teaching & Learning