A Grand Day Out With Hattie & Waters

Today I attended the OSIRIS ‘Outstanding Teaching Conference 2014’ in London.  I always enjoy these events, but was particularly looking forward to this one, as they had two educational heavyweights on the bill – John Hattie and Mick Waters. Neither disappointed! I’ll attempt to summarise some of the key points from each of them.  Sorry if it seems a bit bitty, but I wanted to try and stick with what they said and not fill in the gaps myself and do them a dis-service (and I was only able to remember/ scribble so much!):

mick waters




Mick Waters – Enjoying the learning adventure

  • Successful schools need great teaching, great leadership at all levels, a well thought out curriculum map and a strong disposition for learning to be embedded.  They all overlap.
  • Curriculum planning should start with a ‘fulfilment of a common goal’ i.e. what do we want the curriculum to achieve.  This then leads on to a planned curriculum, then a taught curriculum and of course finally the ‘experienced curriculum’ i.e. the curriculum that the pupils experience.  Unfortunately the ‘experienced curriculum’ doesn’t always match the ‘fulfilment of a common goal’, as values and vision get lost in translation.  This is a challenge for leaders at all levels.
  • Curriculum should focus on what students:

– Learn about

– Learn through

– Learn how to

  • It should then look at what we drip (key knowledge and skills that we need to keep coming back to); block (when we need a block of time to teach specific knowledge and skills); link (how we link aspects of the curriculum to support deep learning).
  • Focus on the big ideas.  What do students need to be successful in your subject by the end of Y11 or 13?  Then use this to plan backwards.

Curriculum Planning

1. Visions & Principles

Should be driven by school policies

2. Design and plan the curriculum

Needs to be resourced and organised.  What do children need? How will their learning be nurtured? Does it have a local, national, global perspective? Does it include the NC? Does it consider learning outside of lessons?

3. Model and influence practice

Requires CPD to embed

4. Check and performance manage

Use this to inform further improvement

5. Quality Assurance – Evaluate & prove impact

Use data and a range of evidence

Check you are still in line with No. 1 above.

Other considerations

  • Matching content to the time available is the easy part of curriculum planning.
  • Remember to include where and how testing will happen.
  • Try to balance the learning experience for students across the whole school. Who has the overview?
  • Include special events – outside of classroom teaching.
  • Predict the products you want from students and plan backwards to achieve this.
  • Obsession with ‘finishing’ work in a lesson.  Learning doesn’t work like that – so span learning over a number of lessons.
  • Reading and writing are obviously important – but is there sufficient opportunity for practical work?
  • Is there opportunity for extended and incremental practice?

john hattie





John Hattie – The science of how we learn

What is learning?

The process of developing sufficient surface knowledge to then move to conceptual, deeper understanding.  Put simply, we need to know lots of stuff to go to the next level of learning.

Show critical levels of learning

Need to consider surface and deep learning.  Bloom’s Taxonomy doesn’t really help here, as it isn’t hierarchical and so doesn’t support progression.  SOLO is and does provide a good framework for moving from surface to deep learning:

  • Level 1 – Recall & reproduction; Unistructural – have one idea.
  • Level 2 – Basic skills & concepts; Multistructural – has many ideas.
  • Level 3 – Strategies for thinking & reasoning; Relational – Relates and links ideas.
  • Level 4 – Extended thinking; Extended abstract – Extends ideas.

Level 1 and 2 represent surface learning, whereas level 3 and 4 represent deep learning.

Too often teaching strategies go straight to deep learning, without focusing on the surface learning – learning content – first.  This is a mistake.  The pivotal moment for a teacher is to know when to shift from surface to deep learning.  A study of ‘expert’ teachers in the USA, showed that 75% of the work they did with students in a lesson was deep learning, with 25% focusing on surface learning.  With less effective teachers, this ratio was reversed.

Transfer – the idea of learning in one context enhancing or undermining a related performance in another context.

Near transfer – when the assessment looks like what has just been taught.  So this just requires surface learning and recall e.g. teach the electromagnetic spectrum and then ask them to recall the different waves in the electromagnetic spectrum.

Far transfer – when the assessment is based around a different context, so deep learning is required e.g. teach about heat transfer (conduction, convection and radiation) and then ask how arctic fox ears allow them to survive in cold conditions.

Most of the assessment we do is near transfer and so is not supporting deep learning.

Thinking is not a generic skill and evidence suggests it can’t be taught as such.  It needs a context and a domain.  So any ‘Thinking Skills’ programmes that are outside of subject based context, will not be effective.

Deep learning requires us to think slow and concentrate.  This is at odds with what we praise in society ‘Oh he’s great, he’s a quick thinker!‘   We need to learn slow in order to allow ourselves to think fast.  Committing things to our long term memory, frees up the working memory.  So the art of great teaching is to slow things down and to develop students as deep learners who can ‘self regulate’ – we need to teach them to know when to slow down their thinking, so they can think fast when they need to.

Another point – the ability to transfer from surface to deep, doesn’t transfer from subject to subject.  It needs a context.

We’re not born to think

  • Thinking is slow and effortful.
  • It has uncertain outcomes.
  • Memory has a limited cognitive load.  Our preferred way is to follow paths we have already taken before, or copy others.
  • We are unlikely to invest in serious thinking time until we see a link between immediate effort and success.
  • Deliberate thinking does not guide most behaviours.
  • It isn’t natural to change how we do things!

Cognitive load

  • We can remember 7(+/-2) things.
  • Most teachers give 10-12 instructions for a task – which is virtually impossible for most people to remember.
  • We need 3 or 4 opportunities to learn something – deliberate practice over time is key. Do we provide these opportunities for students?
  • Get students to talk about how they are thinking.

The power of the worked example

  • Show students a worked example of a piece of work they are going to do.
  • Make sure it is a level above what they are probably capable of.
  • This shows them what success looks like.
  • The big advantage of this is that they don’t have to hold this in their memory – which takes a great deal of cognitive work.

From Graham Nuthall:

  • 70-80% of what happens in a lesson will be unknown to the teacher.
  • 80% of the feedback that students get is from their peers and 80% of it is wrong!

So when supporting teachers, focus on the impact of their teaching on kids.  Don’t tell teachers how to teach like you!  And be cautious with peer feedback!  Watch it like a hawk.

Executive Planning – The medicalization of learning!

Pre-labelling students e.g. they are SEN, low ability, Aspergers etc, has an effect size of -0.61 (put simply, anything with an effect size of 0.4 or higher has a significant impact on achievement.  More on effect sizes here).  So pre-labelling is not good – it allows us to say why students can’t do something

Teach students the skills of planning – how will they get through a task?

Power of Some Learning Strategies

Great study by Dunlosky et al 2013 on effective learning strategies.

Learning skills can only be taught in the context of content.

Some of the most successful strategies:

  • Background design – Success criteria
  • Deliberate practice
  • Encourage students to try multiple strategies
  • Teach self regulation
  • Encourage self talk – about their thinking.

Success criteria – Important because it gives them a sense of what success looks like.  Linked to:

  • Outlining and transforming – Let them know what they are learning and then develop/ improve their work based on this.  Flipped learning can support this as it gives them a ‘heads up’ about what they are going to be learning and introduces key terminology, ideas etc.
  • Concept mapping – most useful when done with the students, not just presented to them.
  • Mastery learning
  • Worked examples
  • Setting long term learning goals
  • Advance organisation of learning

Deliberate Practice – main strategies to support this include:

  • Practice testing
  • Frequent testing
  • Time on task
  • Teaching test taking and coaching
  • Interleaved practice i.e. coming back to stuff

Testing has a high effect size, even without feedback.

the most important message for students – Effort Counts!

Training in strategies will make a considerable difference.  For example:

  • Rehearsal and memory techniques
  • Summarisation skills
  • Underlining key points
  • Re-reading
  • Note taking
  • Mnemonics

These are all important surface learning skills that will make a difference to and enable deep learning.

Don’t categorize kids as learners by that VAK rubbish!

Teaching self regulation – what works:

  • Reciprocal teaching
  • Problem solving teaching – find new ways to solve problems if old ways didn’t work
  • Meta cognitive strategies
  • Imagery
  • Elaborate Interrogation – one of the most effective things we can do is ask students WHY?

Self talk – what works:

  • Self verbalisation and self questioning
  • Self verbalising the steps in a problem
  • Help seeking
  • Seeking explanations

Social Learning

  • Classroom discussions – the power of social interactions.
  • Peer teaching.
  • Cooperative learning.
  • The power of listening – this is the only real time we can hear the impact of our teaching.

Ask a student to tell a stuck student the right answer – it’s far more effective than a teacher telling them.

So the most powerful strategies…

  • Success criteria.
  • Deliberate practice.
  • Training in strategies.
  • Self regulation.
  • Self talk.
  • Collaborative social learning.

These are very successful in near transfer (0.51) but not so for far transfer (0.16) – so we have a way to go with this.


– The power of the other.

Most important is the feedback received, rather than the feedback given.  Students usually receive only the first 3-5 seconds of feedback – so we need to make it count.  The most important aspect of feedback is where to next?  If students can’t remember the feedback in a few lessons time, the ‘where to next’ part of it wasn’t sufficient.

Problems with feedback:

  • We seek feedback consistent with our self image.
  • Can create self fulfilling prophecies.
  • We often fail to recognise our mistakes.
  • We scrutinise negative feedback, but accept positive feedback.
  • We attribute positive feedback to self, but negative feedback to anything else.
  • We often misremember feedback.

Error management

Work on and develop the fear of failure, to embracing failure – or else it will lead to avoidance and lack of risk taking.

What do teachers do when students make mistakes?

  1. Solve the error.
  2. Redirect it to another student.
  3. Return the correction to the student who made the mistake.
  4. Ignore the error.

We need to more of no.3!

Errors are by-products of exploratory learning.  Errors should do the following:

  • Sources of information for learning.
  • Explicitly encouraged and welcomed.
  • Bread and butter of exploratory learning
  • Reduce stress and anxiety and so improve motivation to learn.
  • Used to build resilience.
  • Reduce premature automization of learning.

Some key messages

  • Teaching should be to DIE for:

– Diagnose – where are the students in their learning?

– Interventions – try a different strategy with them if it’s not working.

– Evaluate – did it work?

  • Allow for surface and deep learning.  80% of lessons are surface level only – code this from the eye of the student.  Are they being made to link ideas together and then develop them further – to support deep learning?
  • A teacher asks in excess of 300 questions a day.  Are they all quality questions?













This entry was posted in CPD Events, General Teaching and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to A Grand Day Out With Hattie & Waters

  1. So much here! I wonder if you were given any references for John Hattie’s labelling effect size? That’s dynamite information given all of the data sheets and routine practice where students are very clearly identified as SEN. It’s central to SEN practice with action plans and so on. If there is evidence that students would do even better if they were not identified and labelled, then we’ve got some serious thinking to do. I’d be interested to know more about the nature of these studies.

    • Hi Tom – he didn’t talk in depth about it, just mentioned the effect size for pre-labelling and how significant it is. As you say, a potential game-changer! Did you see my earlier post on the Pygmalion Effect?

      • Hi , yes I did. Same thing. This is clearly a crucial area. With SEN it links to findings that poor deployment of LSAs actually holds SEN students back because the teacher stops talking to them or pushing them as much as they would if the LSA wasn’t there.

  2. Pingback: ORRsome blog posts from the week that was Week 19 | high heels and high notes

  3. Pingback: Bright Spots: Friday 23rd May 2014 | Class Teaching

  4. Pingback: Curriculum Design | PGCEPhysicalEducation

  5. Pingback: 2014 – blogging best bits | Class Teaching

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s