John Hattie: We must build on lockdown teaching success

Professor John Hattie says the pandemic has proven that new educational models and systems are possible
14th September 2020, 4:52pm

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John Hattie: We must build on lockdown teaching success

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/john-hattie-we-must-build-lockdown-teaching-success
Coronavirus & Education: Professor John Hattie Says Now Is The Time To Build On Real Teacher-led Change

The coronavirus pandemic has, for all its negatives, presented education with the first real chance to put “educator-led” changes into practice in education - and proved that a new way is possible, according to Professor John Hattie.

Speaking during the virtual Education Disrupted, Education Reimagined conference organised by WISEProfessor Hattie, best known for his Visible Learning research, said that for once, rather than being dictated to by governments, the education profession had led the change itself, with real impact.

“Since Covid, I have struggled to see a single education policy that has been agile enough to deal with these circumstances other than bickering about whether the physical school should be open for some, for all or for none,” he said.

“In the meantime, educators have engendered an educational revolution - they worked out how to best serve students online, or with blending learning, with some in class, some online...they have brought them back [pupils], sent them home, had to deal with parents in new ways, confronted many inequities and modified teaching…this has been a true education, educator-led, change.”

Coronavirus: Students engaged in online learning

He continued by noting that this work was not simply modifying the existing style of teaching to a remote set-up - lots of class talk and repetition of facts, as he referenced - but engaging in modern and forward-thinking educational styles that can serve a broader base of learners.

“Teachers have moved from talking facts and being directors to […] listening to how students are thinking, to seeing struggling as desirable, to teaching students the skills of self-regulation, so they can become their own teachers,” he said.

Professor Hattie cited, for example, one issue that teachers are familiar with: a pupil being present in the room and, therefore, by definition of traditional schooling, seemingly engaged in the idea of learning. However, the reality is they are struggling to understand something, yet refuse to ask questions in front of their peers or respond to teacher prompts.

Conversely, though, with remote teaching children are more confident in asking questions and are given more tools to carry out their own further research and learning to understand a topic, providing them with an opportunity to fill in the blanks of what they don’t know, rather than just listening to a teacher talk.

“Students who would normally be shy in class speak up and contribute more….a number of teachers and school leaders report that many more students were engaged with online learning,” he added.

Despite these positives, Professor Hattie acknowledged that the idea of remote teaching is not a panacea and that issues arising from a lack of space, a lack of internet access or home not being the supportive, safe environment that it should be cannot, of course, be overlooked or ignored.

However, he said that the positive outcomes should not be taken for granted or ignored within the wider idea of how school can create learning that is truly “fit for the 21st century”.

Leaders must control the narrative

To ensure these positive changes were carried through, he said the task now fell to school leaders across the world to do what they can to ensure that these new teaching and learning styles and methods become part of the narrative of how education is understood by all so they can be incorporated in modern curricula.

“The greatest power a school leader has is they can control the narrative of the school. And I would want that the narrative at the moment should be about professionally learning from what is working well [during the pandemic].”

Professor Hattie said this work should begin now at a time when there is a true global appreciation of teachers and their role - and added that it would help teachers to see that their huge efforts during the past few months have not just been about coping with what’s been thrown at them, but crafting new styles of learning.

“Now is the time to work overtime to capitalise on this incredible increased esteem for teachers,” he said.

You can watch the full talk from the conference below.

Dan Worth is senior editor at Tes

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