Research: The Educational BS Repellent

Cale Birk, Connected Principals, Jan 12, 2011
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This post actually occupied my thought and browsing for longer than I might have expected. The post is a summary and review of John hattie's Visible Learning, which is "a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement" in education. Cale Birk captures the message quite effectively by considering six common claims about learning and comparing them to "what the reserach says." For example:
- The bold, loud claim I hear: "Decreasing class sizes is a key to student success!"
- What the research says: Of the 138 factors... this was ranked as number 106
- My new thought: Not the high-yield strategy that I believed.

The full list of factors appears to be unavailable on the web, unfortunately (I searched) and most of the other posts just pick and choose from them to make their own points (like this one, for example, which selects 20 of the 138 factors to make it look as though Hattie recommends direct instruction). And (such misuse aside) it seems to me that the effectiveness of such an analysis is limited to the selection of factors shown; thousands of factors can impact learning, and success itself can be defined in multiple ways, and so a comparison of 138 factors as related to factual recall is limited most of all by the imaginations of the examiners, and not by any empirical fact.
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