Hobsonville Point Secondary School (TLIF 2-049) - Making learning visible for improved student outcomes for priority learners in health and physical education Publications
Visible Learning and Teaching is well established as an effective way of improving student outcomes. A key premise is that a fundamental task of teachers is to evaluate their effect on student’s learning and achievement. Lead researcher John Hattie says that Visible Learning happens when teachers see learning through the eyes of students and help them become their own teachers.
Author(s): (Inquiry Team) Natasha Low, Tome Chan-Chui, Elizabeth Samuel and Jayne Dunbar
Date Published: May 2019
It’s one thing for us to read and talk about educational research; another to do the hard mahi of applying its messages to practice. In this action research project, a group of teachers at a large urban secondary school explored what would happen when they applied the principles of Visible Learning to their teaching of health and physical education. Unsurprisingly, the teachers found that there were challenges in making the big shifts in practice required to adopt apparently simple mantras, such as ‘Know thy learner’ and ‘Seeing learning through the eyes of learners’. It helped to work with each other and with the project’s critical friends in similar ways to those that worked for students – to take a ‘flipped’ approach so that the researchers and other experts working with the project team engaged in reciprocal, collaborative learning alongside them. With the focus group including Māori priority learners, it also helped to integrate the principles of a Kaupapa Māori approach into the action research process.
The data suggested that the priority learners liked receiving feedback in a variety of different forms, corresponding to their learning preference. Oral and visual feedback was seen as more authentic, as it allowed students to check immediately for understanding with their teacher or peer providing the feedback. The students suggested that it was important for teachers to check the clarity and understanding of the feedback with students before moving on.
Excerpt from project team reflection on mid-point data
Natasha Low was the project lead. The rest of the team comprised:
- Tome Chan-Chui
- Elizabeth Samuel
- Jayne Dunbar.
The project was also supported by its internal and external critical friends, including:
- Heemi McDonald (Ngāti Mutunga, Hobsonville Point Secondary School)
- Kate Birch (Cognition Education)
- Margot Bowes (University of Auckland)
- Anne McKay and Kylie Thompson (Unitec Institute of Technology)
The inquiry story
At the heart of this project were 18 ‘priority learners’ who were achieving well below expected curriculum levels in health and physical education, with low levels of literacy or numeracy. The project team consisted of four teachers who pursued individual inquiries, but within a collaborative context. Their inquiries were integrated with key tenets of a Kaupapa Māori research methodology, and whanaungatanga was at the centre of the action research process.
What was the focus?
The health and physical education teachers at Hobsonville Point Secondary School were familiar with the Visible Learning research. They wanted to find out what would happen when they applied its tenets to their own practice. Their central research question was, “How can we use Visible Learning in the creative spaces between curriculum, assessment, and pedagogy to improve student learning outcomes for our priority learners?”
Through their inquiry, the project team hoped to see:
- Improvement in student outcomes measured by improvement in curriculum achievement level and sub level results.
- Improvement in students’ dispositions and habits relating to being able to articulate what they are learning, their next learning steps, deeper and more authentic learning and being able to transfer the learning process to other contexts.
What did the teachers try?
The team initiated their inquiry with a pilot project that let them get a sense of current teacher practice in the health and physical education department and its impact on learners. This revealed, for example, that some teachers’ use of Visible Learning strategies was quite superficial (for example, displaying learning intentions without checking understanding) and that feedback from and to students was not always effective. An important development out of this was a Visible Learning Teacher Observation Rubric. Teachers used this tool to evaluate themselves, establish their own learning goals and success criteria, and engage in collaborative discussion about next steps for teacher and student learning. The associated observation protocols included observers interviewing students to understand how they were experiencing and responding to the observed lesson.
Three of the four teachers chose to focus on clarity – working with students to help them better understand what the intended learning looked like, how they were doing, and what their next learning steps might be. One teacher focused on developing assessment-capable learners – learners who can engage in learning dialogue with each other that enables them to improve their work with less input from the teacher.
This was not a set programme. Supported by each other and their critical friends, each teacher tried and tested Visible Learning strategies that aligned with their goals for themselves and their students. Those strategies included the following:
- Story hui: A group story telling process where learners used visual notes to evidence their learning, and their peers then interpreted and retold their stories. This was intended to provide a lens through which participants could tell their stories in a way that safeguards mana. It involves seeking to understand first the story, then the voice of the speaker as the creator of the story, and then the perspectives of third parties. Everybody involved in the project used this process.
- Good–Great–Awesome: A student self-evaluation protocol for measuring progress against success criteria at the end of a lesson.
- Cups and Tokens: Student feedback to teachers, achieved by having them identify where they were in their learning by placing a token in the appropriate cup.
- Real-time Quiz: A quiz that lets students check their understanding of the unit rubric, including the learning objective and success criteria.
- Coding student work: Teacher-coded feedback that senior students used to self- and peer-assess and then to identify the next steps and make improvements.
- Dialogue: Teachers learning to speak ‘with’ the student and not ‘at’ them.
- Scaffolded templates: Templates with spaces for students to provide evidence of their learning in relation to success criteria.
- Co-constructing learning objectives and success criteria: Teaching students the language and skills necessary for understanding and talking about learning outcomes and co-constructing success criteria.
- Explicit teaching to develop self- and peer-feedback: Explicit teaching on how to engage in self-reflection and peer-to-peer feedback. Opportunities for peer dialogue about how to improve learning.
What happened as a result of this innovation?
The teachers found the Visible Learning strategies were successful. While each teacher pursued an individual inquiry, the Teacher Observation Rubric provided coherence and the time spent in collaborative analysis, reflection and discussions meant that the shifts in teacher practice and student learning were visible to all. Specific shifts in teacher practice included their use of self- and peer-assessment and goal setting.
The teachers developed a common understanding of the use of Visible Learning pedagogy with priority learners and a shared language for exploring and discussing the creative spaces between curriculum, assessment, and pedagogy. They found that the story hui approach worked well for sharing their narratives and reflecting on their learning. The observations and discussions also revealed that the teachers had shifted their mindsets about implementing Visible Learning and its potential impact on students. The shifts in teacher practice, knowledge and understanding were associated with shifts for learners with regard to both of the project’s intended outcomes:
- Curriculum outcomes: The inquiry period saw a 40 per cent decrease in the number of priority learners achieving ‘below the expected level’. Of these, 19 per cent achieved ‘at the expected level’ and 21 per cent ‘above the expected level’.
- Student dispositions and habits: Qualitative data (for example, from student self-assessment) showed positive shifts in students’ ability to identify the next steps in their learning, use feedback to take those next steps, and transfer their learning to other contexts.
This project contributed to the development of school-wide Visible Learning strategies that align with the school’s teaching philosophy, such as the creation of rubrics that break down progress through the curriculum or the habit of prompting reflection through the questions “Where are you going?” “How are you going?” “What next?”
For the teachers, ‘what next?’ means sharing the successful strategies widely with other educators, both in the school and outside.
What did they learn?
The project showed that Visible Teaching and Learning does indeed work in raising learning outcomes for priority learners in a health and physical education context. Other learning included:
- Learning needs to be visible for teachers, as well as for students. When done well, it affects teachers’ dispositions and habits, as well as those of students.
- It is valuable to work collaboratively with students, teachers, researchers, and other critical friends to share, learn, and improve.
- Teachers need time to develop a shared understanding of what Visible Learning means to them and to develop, trial, and share Visible Learning strategies.
- Tools, processes, and strategies, such as those developed within this project, can also be shared with others within the school and beyond to spread the learning and change.
Alton-Lee, A. (2003). Quality teaching for diverse students in schooling: Best Evidence Synthesis. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
Education Review Office. (2012). Evaluation at a glance: Priority learners in New Zealand schools. Wellington: Education Review Office.
Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of 800+ meta-analyses on achievement. Abingdon: Routledge.
Hattie, J. (2016). Visible learning for teachers: Maximising impact on learning. Abingdon: Routledge.
Hattie, J., & Donoghue, G. (10 August 2016). Learning strategies: A synthesis and conceptual model. npj Science of Learning, 1(1).
Hattie, J., Masters, D., & Birch, K. (2016). Visible learning into action: International case studies of impact. New York: Routledge.
Goodyear, V., Casey, A., & Kirk, D. (2013). Physical education teachers’ use of practitioner inquiry: effective, enjoyable and relevant professional learning, Asia-Pacific Journal of Health, Sport and Physical Education, 4:1, 19–33.
Penney, D., Brooker, R., Hay, P., & Gillespie, L. (2009). Curriculum, pedagogy and assessment: three message systems of schooling and dimensions of quality physical education. Sport, Education and Society, 14:4, 421–442.
Timperley, H., Kaser, L., & Halbert, J. (2014). A framework for transforming learning in schools: Innovation and the spiral of inquiry. Centre for Strategic Education, Seminar Series Paper No. 234.
For further information
If you would like to learn more about this project, please contact the project leader, Natasha Low at email@example.com
- Note that these principles are evolving. Key elements are described here.
Where to find out more
Education Data Requests
If you have any questions about education data then please contact us at:
Email: Requests EDK
Phone: +64 4 463 8065