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Visible Learning: A Catharsis

Visible Learning: A Catharsis


Overall learning goal

The overall goal for this one day seminar is to deepen participants’ understanding of key concepts in Visible Learning and consider its application in schools.


In order to fulfill the Lead Data Team (LDT)’s aims of supporting the implementation of high quality, evidence-based learning and teaching and building capacity among educators, various themes and topics are chosen for each seminar. The seminars aim to further develop members’ knowledge and skill and keep abreast of developments coming out of education research.

The three themes chosen by LDT members and the facilitator for the year are school culture & resistance to change, visible learning & formative assessment.  This seminar focuses on deepening participants’ understanding and considering the application of visible learning.

Through a combination of active participation in professional learning activities, individual readings and reflections and presentations, participants will spend the day improving their knowledge of key concepts in visible learning; evaluating their familiarity with learning theories; debate assessment models; & predict how school teams will react to and take visible learning forward.

Instructional design


The facilitator introduced the day’s topic by explaining that Visible Learning (VL) has gained momentum in the English sector since some Lead Data Team (LDT) members attended John Hattie’s first North American conference in 2010. The agenda for the day includes a deeper exploration of visible learning and predictions about how school teams will react to the topic.

Activity 1 - a reflection on Visible Learning & concept mapping

Activity 1 - a reflection on Visible Learning & concept mapping: To allow time for participants to reflect on Visible Learning, to organize and structure what they have learned in a concept map, and discover new relationships between the concepts, they are asked to go through their personal journal notes and create a concept map of all the core concepts of Visible Learning they have recorded.


John Hattie quoted ‘It seems that many of those involved in our profession would struggle to name two competing learning theories, let alone defend a notion of learning (and by this we do not mean defending activities that students ‘do’ but how they learn)’.

Activity 2 - learning theories warm-up

Activity 2 - learning theories warm-up: A knowledge activation exercise, in which participants are asked to identify as many learning theories as possible in three minutes using the sheets provided. Participants then share and discuss their findings.

Many theories of learning fall under the umbrella of three or four major theories, such as Behaviourism and Constructivism, and other theories are subsets of these: Discovery Learning, Multiple Intelligences, Connectivism, etc.

Activity 3 - Analysis of Chapter Readings

Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn by John Hattie and Gregory C. R. Yates (2013).

Activity 3 - Analysis of Chapter Readings using an adaptation of the ‘three levels of text protocol’ in Protocols for Professional Learning: Three reading groups are identified, as per the chapters read, around three themes: Learning within Classrooms, Learning Foundations and Know Thyself. Each reading group shares their reading summaries, makes chapter recommendations, and identifies the main thesis of the book.

Activity 4 - Judged Debate

In Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement, Hattie claims that ‘To know thy impact means that teachers should be conscious of the effect* their strategies have on their students’ learning. Demonstrating the learning of students is not a causal exercise; rather it is a rich and complex explanation. It is telling a story’.

Most inquiry approaches that we use --Data Teams; Love’s Collaborative Inquiry and to a lesser extent Data Wise-- are causal models. So how does Hattie’s claim affect our reflection and future practice?

Activity 4 - Judged Debate: Storytelling Model vs. Causal Model: In order to actively compare and contrast the storytelling model with the causal model of assessment, Participants are allocated to one of the two debating teams supporting the models or they become judges. The advantages of both models are put forward and debated. The goal is for the group to decide whether to keep on using versions of the causal model or adopt the more rich and complex storytelling approach to explaining student success.

Activity 5 - Thinking forward prediction exercise

The field of education is moving towards Visible Learning. Let’s keep ahead of the curve. Having recapped the training received and what has been learned about Visible Learning, attention turns to the school data teams, who will hear Hattie giving a keynote address and attend four workshops: student voice; using data; metacognition strategies and feedback.

Activity 5 - Thinking forward prediction exercise: Participants are asked to predict how the school data teams will react after receiving training on Visible Learning by breaking into four groups to make their predictions, posting these on charts, and then sharing them with the large group.


It is hoped that the Visible Learning conference to be attended by teachers will validate the EBP project and stimulate support for evidence based practices in general.

Looking ahead

Looking ahead: LDT members are asked to pick a topic of interest to present at the next seminar from the following: feedback, mindsets, learning targets, SMART goals, using data to inform practice, questioning (probes), observation, feedback for teachers using data to inform practice, monitoring progress,differentiation, non-paper techniques, different types of feedback, feedback for learning, feedback tools/technology. Members will then be asked to vote for three of the topics.

There will be an online half-day meeting between now and June to look at related readings and there will be some on-site preparation.

Exit Cards

Exit Cards: Participants are asked to fill in exit cards with three points; their aha! moment about the visible learning concepts, one thing they’ll apply after today’s learning & what they would like for next time the group meets.