Factors that Influence Learning
October 27, 2023
John Hattie is a professor at the University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education. He is best known for his research into learning which has synthesised more than 130,000 studies involving over 400 million students worldwide. Hattie’s burden has been to identify the factors that contribute most to student learning.
According to Hattie, the number one factor is what has been called collective teacher efficacy. Collective teacher efficacy describes the practice of teachers who focus on the impacts of their teaching and who work together with other educators to critique their ideas about impact – about what was taught well, who was taught well, and the size of the improvement. When teachers fundamentally believe they can make a difference and they feed that with the evidence they are making a difference, it is dramatically powerful.
While collective teacher efficacy is vital to student learning, there are other factors cited by Hattie which make a positive difference. One is the importance of parents. Hattie believes parents must assume the posture of learners themselves if they are to impact positively on their children’s learning. If parents promote a language and love of learning in the home, they are setting their children up for success in the classroom.
One of the ways this can be worked out in the home is by parents talking to their children about their learning at school. Parents will need to be creative here. We all know the sorts of questions that draw a barely audible grunt from our children. Questions like: How was school today? or What did you do at school today? One of the reasons these questions often go nowhere is that they are not sufficiently focused on learning. A simple shift could make all the difference. We could instead ask: What was one thing you learnt at school today? or What are you struggling to understand at the moment?
Hattie believes parents will have the most success when they share with their children what they are learning or some things they are struggling to understand. It is modelling ourselves what we want to see formed in others. As I reflect on my own parenting, I see how I could have done better here. Ours was a house that clearly loved learning – the number of books we have in the house is testimony to that – but as I think back, I believe I could have talked to my children more about the sorts of things I was learning and the struggles I was having understanding new or complex concepts. I think I gave my children the impression that I had it altogether as a learner. I can appreciate how this could have been demoralising to them on those occasions when they found learning uninteresting or difficult.
The notion of life-long-learning has become a bit of a cliché. But it still contains a powerful truth. if we are to set our children up for success with their own learning, we as parents need to continue to nurture a love of learning ourselves and invite our children in to share that with us, both our breakthroughs and our blockages. If Hattie is correct, by doing this we are doing a great service to our children.