In January, a group of Class Teachers from Primary and Secondary Schools in Midlothian were among 12 Midlothian Council delegates who had the opportunity to attend the Visible Learning World Conference in London. Along with representatives from the Educational Psychology Service and the Midlothian Education Team, we had the chance to attend Keynote Presentations and Workshops over the course of two days from John Hattie, Shirley Clarke, Andy Hargreaves, Guy Claxton, James Nottingham and more. It was a truly memorable and thought-provoking trip which has prompted lots of reflection and professional dialogue on our return. We have identified some of the key messages we took from the Conference which can be found below.
There were many themes that emerged over our two days in London; deep learning, independence and self-regulation, thinking skills, learner dispositions and metacognition, to name a few. But the overriding theme for me, was the importance of the teacher in making learning visible. Indeed John Hattie informed us that ‘collective teacher efficacy’ is now the influence with the most positive effect on learning. Hattie argued that it is the teacher, more than the curriculum, teaching, school and student that makes the difference. This view was supported, over and over, by the presenters at the conference, including in evidence from case studies. Visible learning requires a committed, well informed, evidence-based, reflexive and collaborative profession. In short, we need teachers who believe in their impact, know it and act on it.
Kat Mathers, Roslin Primary School (Nursery)
The World Visible Learning Conference offered a wonderful opportunity to learn from experts in the educational sector, and to meet and share ideas with teachers from a diverse range of school settings.
The two key messages I took from the Conference were, firstly, the importance of effective collaborative practice and, secondly, ensuring that pupils have mastery and depth of knowledge, not just surface level knowledge.
The first key message
Collective teacher efficacy is now ranked as the biggest influence on attainment: and is now thought to underpin successful learning. This highlighted the importance of creating a collective responsibility in school and ensuring that as a staff we support each other as well as the pupils. Examples cited of methods to achieve collective teacher efficacy included peer observations, professional reading groups, professional dialogue and clear goals in our vision, all of which we could strive to put into practice within our schools.
The second message
The vast majority, around 90%, of the learning that happens in classrooms is surface level. This highlighted that we should strive to provide more opportunities for challenging learning and analytical thinking, to lead to a deeper understanding. Methods which could be used in this way to develop these skills (FAIL, The Learning Pit and Solo taxonomy) were all discussed.
Jen Gardiner, Kings Park Primary School
In his opening keynote, John Hattie recognised that success is already here. It is all around us in our teachers and in our schools. How do we make sure however that what we do in schools not only works, but works brilliantly? The answer lies in collaboration. When we as teachers work together, we can accomplish so much more. By focusing on collaboration as opposed to competition, a collective efficacy is developed which enables us to continue to get better at getting better. For me, the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from Midlothian on this journey and share our learning is an experience that I know I will take with me throughout my career. Every minute of our teaching counts, so together we must ‘know thy impact’ and ensure that our learners not only achieve their full potential, but exceed their full potential.
Lynsey Binnie, Lasswade Primary School
The World Visible Learning Conference has inspired me to think differently about what is happening in my classroom and around the school. In the words of John Hattie; “It’s not what the teachers do, it’s what and how they think that makes the biggest impact”. I want to now inspire the rest of my colleagues to think the “visible” way, and to start thinking about and measuring the impact they have on the learning of their pupils. The conference also reassured me that in Midlothian, we are making great progress and much of the Visible Learning mind frames and concepts are embedded across many of the schools. The overarching belief I took away is that we should be teaching kids to become their own teachers and take responsibility for their own learning.
Georgia Jennings, St. David’s High School
The Visible Learning Conference was extremely beneficial, especially for those in the secondary school sector. It provided secondary colleagues with many different ideas about how we could further implement Visible Learning across our classrooms. The main things that I have taken away with me from the Conference include, the development of a consistent language of learning is absolutely essential in order for Visible Learning to be successful. As a result, Lasswade High School is working closely with its feeder primary schools in order to develop a consistent language of learning which will only benefit our young people. Secondly, Guy Claxton’s presentation on becoming a learning powered school was very influential. I now realise that it is important that we develop the metacognitive strategies in our young people so they ‘know what to do when they don’t know what they’re doing’. As a result, the Lasswade learning and teaching council will be working in order to develop strategies that can be used across all subject areas. Finally, tracking and monitoring of pupil progress is just as important as tracking attainment and achievement. As well as developing high achieving and attaining young people across Midlothian we also need to ensure that we, and they, recognise their progress in their learning and equip them with the learning skills that will serve them well whether in further education, higher education, training or employment. Better learners will lead to learning better!
Jack Mackay, Lasswade High School
The opportunity to attend the World Visible Learning Conference has been extremely valuable in allowing us as teachers to continue to reflect upon the Visible Learning Journeys in our classrooms, schools and in Midlothian more widely. The Midlothian Council delegates who attended the Conference continue to meet together to reflect and plan next steps. We hope that by working collaboratively we can continue to support the development of this exciting journey in Midlothian.