Why Visible Learning Matters

For over 15 years, education leaders have made data-based decision-making a top priority at all levels of school organizations. And we have listened. We currently produce and discuss mountains of data charts, reports, and tables. But although there is now no shortage of data, sometimes there is a shortage of ‘high-impact’ actions resulting from those data.

The information we glean from our data shines a light on successes and challenges that simply are not evident without good data analysis. Some of the data are actionable and lead to new approaches and interventions, but often times we simply do not know how to effectively respond.

Have you ever asked these questions?

  • What actions are likely to work?
  • What should we continue to do and what should we stop doing? 
  • What investment is worthwhile?

These questions point out the need to identify and learn how to implement high impact strategies—strategies known to boost student achievement when practiced with fidelity.

So, what are these strategies and how should we use them? It turns out research can help us make those decisions. In what is arguably one of the most important contributions to the professional literature about teaching, researcher John Hattie has shown us what works— in ways that non-researchers can grasp. He helps us to understand what researchers mean by ‘effect size’ and how results from numerous large studies over time can be compared to each other and even ranked for their power to advance students. He also challenges us to think beyond randomly trying a strategy here or there, and to consider instead, what it takes to be a high-impact teacher by using data to guide us.

Here is how Hattie did it: In his book Visible Learning (2009), he reviewed and synthesized over 800 studies. The studies he looked at are called meta-analyses—studies about studies. He analyzed the meta-analysis studies and created a barometer to depict the relative ‘power’ that each researched program, approach, and strategy has shown to have on impacting student learning.

Finally! Instead of guessing, floundering, or bouncing from one fashionable approach to another, he supplied us with convincing evidence about what we should be concentrating on. It only makes sense that we invest in and stay the course on, a finite set of research-based practices that positively alter our effectiveness with the students we teach.

What are his top-rated high impact teaching practices?  What did the barometer say? Hattie’s ranking of teacher effects include the very strategies and orientations to student learning that are represented by the body of work that so many Ohio teachers have begun to embrace—formative instructional practices. This is good news because Hattie’s work tells us that we have been on the right path. 

It is clear that the core FIP components are supported by Hattie’s findings. We understand however, as does Hattie, that ‘what works’ is not just focusing on a checklist of FIP strategies, or completing a module, or sharing “I can” statements. FIP is an orientation to teaching and learning – it is a total, daily commitment to create visible learning environments. To quote John Hattie, this happens “When teacher see through the eyes of the student. When students SEE themselves as their own teachers.“ (pg. 238).

FIP prepares you to recreate yourself and your classroom. Stick with it. Go deeper. Wholly embrace FIP. Through the tools and resources offered through FIP Your School you can make teaching and learning visible through formative instructional practices. Do YOU see it?


Hattie, John. Visible Learning: A Synthesis of over 800 Meta-analyses Relating to Achievement. London: Routledge, 2009. Print.