Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Know Thy Impact

Those in education understand that new, innovative ways of doing things are popping up all the time. Especially now, as savvy educators connect on social media platforms like Pinterest, Reddit, Facebook, Blogger and Twitter, there is a superfluity of new things to try out with students.

"Try this! Now try this! Look at this new thing! How about this new graphic organizer?! What about this new thinking routine?!"

All promise to increase student achievement. But John Hattie, a researcher who has authored various publications on maximizing teachers' impact on students' learning, says in this video that, "there is hardly anything we do as teachers that harms kids." He continues that, "95%-98% of things we do to students enhances achievement. All you need to enhance achievement," he jokes, "is a pulse."

But we cannot settle for simply increasing student achievement. Since virtually everything we do to kids will undoubtedly increase their achievement, what we need to do is carefully select the interventions that have the greatest impact on students' learning. In Hattie's language, those treatments with an effect size of .4 or more are desirable. Hattie explains that an effect size of .4 is about a year's growth and he argues that in order to have a remarkable, systematic, positive impact on kids, we need to be doing things with students that will increase their achievement more than that.

So, how do we know what we're doing is working and working to the level that we need? How do we know the strategies, interventions, activities and learning engagements we're doing with kids are growing their achievement more than a year's growth? We must answer Hattie's invitation to "Know Thy Impact".

When we're working with kids, we must look for the evidence that what we're doing with our students is working. We must ask, "what are our kids doing, saying, and thinking that shows they are learning ... and learning a lot about big ideas that are timeless, abstract, universal, and transferable? How can we prove that what we're doing is actually improving their lives? 

If we can't prove that students are learning with evidence, it isn't their fault: it is ours. It is our responsibility to change what we are doing, so that they can be successful.

To learn more about Hattie and his research, start here: Hattie Ranking: Influences And Effect Sizes Related To Student Achievement & Hattie's 8 Mindframes.

The concept of impact has been on my mind a lot in the last 36 hours, ever since I heard that my dear Auntie Judy passed away unexpectedly. Judy, or Ms Higbea as she was known to literally thousands of students, was an educator for 50 years. I learned so much from my aunt; among them, the continual need to question and reflect on what is best for students.

The very ironic thing about a teacher like Judy who is continually asking, "What's my impact?" is that they will never truly understand the impact they have. It is those teachers who aren't just increasing students' achievement scores. And they're not even just increasing students' learning. They're improving the quality of the lives of students, their families, colleagues, and those in the larger community.

As news spreads of Judy's passing, those that were impacted by her are voicing their shock, heartbreak, and words of comfort and appreciation. Through Judy's formal work with the Freeport school system, Freeport Community ServicesWolfe's Neck Farm and her informal interactions, she impacted the lives of many different people in many different ways. Many are sad. Many are grateful.

Judy would probably think it obnoxious of me to be writing about her in such a way. She was quite humble - one of her many lovely qualities I didn't "inherit". But if by her example, we all can continually question, "what's my impact?" her impact on us and on our students will continue.

1 comment:

  1. This is a nice tribute and a good reminder about the importance of *effective* and *positive* teaching.