Learn, Lead, Serve, Blog

A blog by Dr. Brian Bullis. Committed to students through lifelong learning, leading, and serving.

John Hattie’s Top Ten Visible Learning Takeaways – Number Ten: Feedback

Much has been written in the past few years about the research of John Hattie and his impressive Visible Learning meta-analyses synthesis.  His work has given educators quantifiable insights that have no parallel in the field of education.  The weight of over 800 meta-analyses related to achievement, based on over 50,000 studies involving millions of students, certainly demands attention and respect.

visible-learning-for-teachers-by-john-hattie-book-coverThis blog series serves to highlight his most significant findings and their applications to our classrooms from Hattie’s 2012 work, Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning.  Each blog in the series will highlight a different finding that ranked in the top 10 out of 150 areas studied, in regard to effect size, from Hattie’s research.  If you are familiar with Hattie’s research, this blog may serve as a valuable reminder of the findings.  If you are not familiar with Hattie’s works, hopefully you will see these findings are worth sharing and resharing, reading and rereading, and applying and reapplying as they are recognized as best practice in our field.


Need an introduction or a crash course on the effect sizes referenced below?  An effect size of 0.40 is what Hattie refers to as a hinge-point regarding what is significantly effective or at “a level where the effects of innovation enhance achievement in such a way that we can notice real-world differences” (Hattie, 2009).  Anything between a 0.00 and 0.39 is growth, but is not considered significant growth.  Anything below a 0.00 is considered detrimental to student growth.

Number 10 – Feedback (effect size = 0.75)

Hattie states that as he learned more about feedback he realized, “The mistake I was making was seeing feedback as something teachers provided to students…It was only when I discovered that feedback was most powerful when it is from the student to the teacher that I started to understand it better” (Hattie, 2009).  He goes on to explain that feedback has the greatest impact when teachers seek out and utilize feedback from students regarding their understanding, engagement, misconceptions, etc.  In other words, going beyond whether a student got a question right or wrong and instead seeking to understand and provide feedback about why the student performed that way.

A critically important component of effective feedback is what the students do with it.  Hattie states that “many teachers claim they provide ample amounts of feedback but the issue is whether students receive and interpret the information in the feedback” (Hattie, 2009).  Said differently, are the students doing anything with the feedback the teacher provides them?  Also of importance is the ‘art’ of providing the right form of feedback which is right at, or just above, the level that the student is presently working.

Application to the Classroom

Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers (2012) cites Shute’s (2008) nine guidelines for using feedback to enhance learning.  Perhaps you will see one that you can add to your repertoire of effective feedback:

  • focus feedback on the task, not the learner;
  • provide elaborated feedback (describing the ‘what’, ‘how’, and ‘why’);
  • present elaborated feedback in manageable units (for example, avoid cognitive overload)’
  • be specific and clear with feedback messages;
  • keep feedback as simple as possible, but no simpler (based on learner needs and instructional constraints);
  • reduce uncertainty between performance and goals;
  • give unbiased, objective feedback, written or via computer (more trustworthy sources are more likely to be well-received);
  • promote a learning goal orientation via feedback (move focus from performance to the learning, welcome errors); and
  • provide feedback after learners have attempted a solution (leading to more self-regulation).

Reflect upon a recent or upcoming lesson and consider how you could incorporate even more effective feedback to maximize the lesson effectiveness and student growth.

A Random Mention

Number 12 out of 150 – Teacher-Student Relationships (effect size 0.72)

This one just missed the top ten but is number one in the hearts of so many educators.  Tstudents don't carehe value of the teacher-student relationship is powerful and cannot be understated.  

Hattie (2009) identified components of effective relationships including respect by the teacher for what the child brings to the class and allowing the experiences of the child to be recognized in the classroom.  The skills the teacher is required to possess and/or building include listening, empathy, caring, and having positive regard for others.  

Hattie (2012) cited the “essence of positive relationships is the student seeing the warmth, feeling the encouragement and the teacher’s high expectations, and knowing that the teacher understands him or her.”

A Peek at the Bottom 10

Number 150 out of 150 – Mobility (effect size -0.34)

Probably a surprise to no one, students moving from school to school has a detrimental effect on student learning and growth.  In the United States, 20% of students change residence each year.  The negative effect size can largely be attributed to peer effects and a key factor attributing to student success is if the new student can make a friend in the first month.

Hattie, J., Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement (2009)

Hattie, J. Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning (2012)

Shute, V.J., Focus on Formative Feedback (2008)

Effect size image retrieved from: http://www.learningandteaching.info/teaching/what_works.htm

Maxwell image retrieved from http://quotesgram.com/care-john-c-maxwell-quotes/#9PWYZjgpMN

1 Comment

  1. Thank you. I would like time with students – whose scripts I have marked are anonymised – to discuss the feedback I provide. The one or two who get in touch provide a learning experience for me also. This is the challenge in tertiary education. Time.

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