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The view from the research mountain
on 3 May 2009
Few books on education persuade us to see more truthfully and anew, or show us the way to do better for our students. This one does both.
Hattie has spent decades collecting data and conclusions from over 800 authoritative summaries of research, to compute average `effect sizes' which measure the impact of a host of influences on student/pupil attainment.
Class size, discovery learning, gender - almost every conceivable influence, strategy, or factor is here, including I'm afraid, your personal bandwagons and bêtes noires. Hattie then compares these factors by putting them on the same scale to find those that have the greatest impact on student achievement.
Having climbed to the top of this mountain of educational research he can see a very long way, and there are many surprises, each verified by repeated research. Did you know that students learn almost twice as well if they share a computer than if they have one each? Do you know why? Do you know that certain types of structured active learning with strong teacher control work miles better than discovery learning or problem-based learning?
He looks at factors and strategies associated with students, home, curricula, and schools, but finds that if we want to improve learning, we must concentrate on what teachers do - and how they conceptualise the teaching process.
What emerges from this book is far more than a monumental data-set showing what works best and why, vital though that is. He develops a model urging us to change our perceptions so that students see themselves as their own teachers - and teachers see learning through the eyes of their students. You won't find the detail in this massive overview, but Hattie does indicate where to go to get it.
This book is the most objective, wide ranging and authoritative summary of education research we are likely to see this decade. There is little comfort here for governments, or for the educational establishment, but there is illumination for both. To ignore this book is to remain wilfully blind to what really matters in education. (The reviewer, Geoff Petty is author of Teaching Today and Evidence Based Teaching: A Practical Approach)