Wednesday, May 03, 2017

In pursuit of what makes a difference in higher ed, and chasing rainbows....

Based on John Hattie's research into  visible learning, this post considers what guides, or should guide, what higher ed should or could be about.

The first thing to make visible:
"the minimum goal of education, when rightly expressed, should be for all students to make at least one year’s progress for one year’s input, no matter where they start"

The second follows from a meta sized meta-analysis into what has impact. Hattie argues that unless an impact passes the 0.4 level, then grounds for support are seriously dubious.
See here for a visual guide on what does or doesnt have impact at least at schools and its worth then considering what translates across to a higher ed sector.

The teacher having credibility, clarity and opportunity of discussion al score highly.
Providing feedback, and formative evaluation scores well. However, this can also be highly variable.
The size of a class, does not score highly. Class size has a 0.21 impact.
Pre term birth weight is a more reliable indicator!

Yet a common response  given negating class size is that it is what the teacher does in the space.
Notably, this is not John Hattie's argument. Assuming there is similarity with learning and teaching in a higher ed context, then anticipate that there is so much more going on; its the lecturers and the structures or wrap around services, the 'culture' of the learning environment, where learners (and teaching staff) are nourished and supported by the system as a whole.

How come then, we get so distracted by quality measures that bear little resemblance to making a difference?

And from john Hattie, this is where we might be better focussed:
Determine student outcomes, what are the student's needs?
Consider then what the lecturer needs are in relation to the student needs.
Identify the required actions or behaviours for implementing.
Evaluate the impact, and
then do it all again, continuously...

Starting from know thy impact- what is it we do, that we would want to keep doing and is there an evidence base for this in terms of desired impact on student learning?
Is it good enough, and is there evidence that this is 'good enough'?
What would progress in this area look like?