New Insights into Teaching Strategies: John Hattie's “Visible Learning: The Sequel”

John Hattie, is an education scientist at the University of Melbourne. He is well known in the education world for his 2008 book Visible Learning. The follow-up to this book, Visible Learning: The Sequel, was recently published. Below you can read a little more about Hattie's work.

Hattie's First Book: Visible Learning

The book “Visible Learning” that appeared in 2008 was based on an analysis by Hattie of more than 800 meta-analyses to map the effects of different teaching strategies. Hattie identified some of the most effective teaching strategies. Here are some recommendations based on Visible Learning:
  1. Provide formative assessment: Teachers should provide feedback to students throughout the learning process, not just at the end of the unit or semester. This helps students understand what they are doing well and what they need to improve.
  2. Use delberate practice: Purposeful practice means giving students opportunities to practice specific skills and receiving feedback to improve their performance. This can help students develop a deeper understanding of the material and improve their performance on assessments.
  3. Focus on the teacher-student relationship: Positive teacher-student relationships can have a significant impact on student learning. Teachers should take the time to get to know their students and give them the opportunity to work together.
  4. Use effective instructional strategies: Research on visible learning has identified several effective instructional strategies, such as direct instruction, feedback, and two-way teaching. Teachers should use these strategies to help students learn more effectively.
  5. Stimulate metacognition: Metacognition means that students become aware of their own thinking and learning process. Teachers should encourage students to reflect on their learning and identify strategies that work best for them.
The book had a significant impact on the educational world and has been hailed as a groundbreaking work that gave researchers, policymakers and educators valuable insights into which strategies are most effective for improving learning outcomes. Hattie emphasized the importance of developing a research-based approach to choosing the most effective teaching strategies and promoting learning. He also advocated using these strategies to achieve better alignment between teaching and learning and to maximize the potential of all learners.

Critique of Hattie's Approach

Despite the attention and influence of Hattie's work, serious criticism has also been leveled at the scientific soundness of his approach and conclusions. Several researchers, such as Rolf Schulmeister, Jörn Loviscach, Pierre-Jérôme Bergeron, Lysanne Rivard and Robert Slavin, have identified a number of problems in his approach and analysis (see for example here). Some of the criticisms raised include the use of questionable studies, including many unpublished dissertations, which makes the reliability of the results questionable. In addition, Hattie has been criticized for equating research objects that differ widely, leading to a bias in the findings. In addition, he is accused of referring to meta-analyses without having a thorough knowledge of them himself, which affects the accuracy of his conclusions.
Furthermore, there has been criticism that Hattie compares incomparable quantities, resulting in a lack of coherence in his analysis. Concerns have also been raised about the presentation of misleading statistics, where Hattie calculates averages that are meaningless and do not take into account the complexity of teaching and learning. Finally, he has been criticized for drawing up “nonsensical rankings”, which present a simplistic and possibly misleading picture of the effectiveness of various teaching strategies. These critiques point to the need to approach the findings of Visible Learning with some caution and emphasize the importance of a thorough and nuanced analysis of educational research.

New book: Visible Learning: The Sequel

I haven't had a chance to read the new book yet, but found some resources that give a sneak preview (most notably this one). In the new book, Hattie addresses a number of new findings arising from his extensive analysis. He found that student performance is negatively affected by factors such as boredom, teacher dependency (where a student relies too much on their teacher), and corporal punishment. In contrast, he also identified factors that improve student performance, such as:
  1. Computer tutoring with instant feedback, especially when artificial intelligence is used
  2. “Flipped learning”, where students get the learning content before going to class
  3. Teachers who summarize and explain the subject matter
  4. Students learning how to practice and memorize the content
  5. “Phonological awareness” – students learn to recognize and manipulate sentences and words as they learn to read
  6. “Cognitive task analysis”, where students learn to think about problem solving
  7. The “Jigsaw method”, where both individual and group learning is done to solve a problem.

The role of teachers

Hattie emphasizes the importance of high teacher expectations for all students. This means avoiding labels (such as “smart,” “struggling,” “ADHD,” or “autistic”), as this can lead to lower expectations for both teachers and students. Instead, all students should be seen as learners who can make great leaps in their learning.
It is crucial that teachers work with other teachers to see different perspectives on their impact on students and different ways to be successful in their teaching. What matters is the power of multiple interpretations of what happens in classrooms, the results of assessments, and examples of student work.

Combination of knowledge transfer and the discovery of ideas

Hattie argues that debates about curriculum and learning outcomes are often framed as either more “knowledge-rich” (teaching content) or more “problem-based discovery learning” (teaching idea discovery). But it's not a matter of either/or. We should embrace both aspects and strive for a model of “intentional alignment”, where teachers consciously tailor their teaching methods, activities, assessments and feedback to the acquisition of knowledge or the discovery of ideas.

The role of parents

Parents also play a crucial role. Hattie emphasizes that parents are not the “first teachers,” but the “first learners”—when parents learn, so do their children. Parental expectations about learning are one of the most powerful influences from home. Promoting a “language and love of learning” is essential.


Hattie also pays attention to the role of technology in education. While it has been argued for 50 years that technology is the answer to our educational problems, his analysis shows that the overall effects are still low. This is because technology is often used as a substitute, such as video instead of paper mache, word processing programs instead of pens, and online activities instead of worksheets. The power of technology is rarely fully exploited.
From the vast amount of studies on technology, Hattie draws some important messages, including the importance of students learning from each other through technology and the value of technology in providing multiple learning opportunities. Social media is also an important channel for teachers to hear how students think. Many students will talk about their thought processes on social media, where they struggle and ask questions about their work, when they may not do so verbally, even if their teacher or fellow students are right next to them.

What teachers think is even more important than what they do

One of the most important insights Hattie gained while writing this second book is that what teachers think is more important than what they do. It is not about using any particular method of teaching, but about their skills to evaluate, adapt and modify the impact on their students, and to make the school or classroom an inviting place to learn, gain mastery and to enjoy learning.
Every child is a learner, can learn, can grow and can be taught to love learning. Students have expectations and the role of the educator is to help students exceed their potential. Students should be taught to face challenges, with safety nets when they fail.


Hattie's work offers interesting insights into effective teaching strategies and emphasizes the importance of high expectations, teacher collaboration and parental involvement in the learning process. This contributes to a deeper understanding of how we can strive for better education. His emphasis on the importance of research is, in my opinion, very justified.
To what extent he has taken the criticism of his earlier work to heart in this new book I cannot properly estimate. He seems to dispense with rankings of effective methods this time and talk nuanced about effective teaching. I think it's a good idea to be careful with interpretation. The subtitle of his new book is: A Synthesis of Over 2,100 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. This sounds a bit like marketing to me and impressing with big numbers. I'd rather have one high-quality meta-analysis than a large mountain of meta-analyses of very variable quality. And: how do you arrive at a thorough synthesis of 2100 meta-analyses?
One last point: the label Visible learning does not really appeal to me. I understand that you need some kind of label to summarize your work, but it is not entirely clear to me why this would be the best label.


Rodney said…
I think a link is missing from this sentence

"I haven't had a chance to read the new book yet, but found some resources that give a sneak preview (most notably this one )."

Coert Visser said…
Thank you. I have added the link, now