Improving Education: Perspectives from an Academic and a Former Policy Maker

Teacher talking with two male students

John Hattie’s 2007 book, Visible Learning, contributed greatly to the understanding of what truly affected student learning, namely teachers. In this meta analysis, John Hattie examined tens of thousands of academic studies examining different education methods. In two new works, John has continued his research and offers new perspectives on what doesn’t work and what does. These two works are What Doesn’t Work in Education: the Politics of Distraction and What Works Best in Education: the Politics of Collaborative Expertise.

To create a conversation about these issues we have two new blog posts on our blog. In the first one, Choosing what works best over what simply works, John gives his perspective about his ongoing research. In the second, What works in education? A tough love message from John Hattie, Sir Michael Barber, Pearson’s Chief Education Advisor and former UK education policy maker, gives his perspective drawing from his years of experience and knowledge.

Here are excerpts from both:

John Hattie states, Over the past 20+ years I have been trying to figure out why almost every intervention in education seems to have supporting evidence that it makes a positive difference to student learning. How can it be that introducing new forms of classrooms, new curricula, new teaching strategies, and new types of schools all can be shown to improve learning? And how can it be that almost every teacher is able to provide evidence that how they teach improves student learning?

“To answer this question, I used a new method (well, it was new in the 1980s, but now is a fundamental method in many disciplines) called meta-analysis.”

Michael Barber says, “I agree with John wholeheartedly that we should expect more from our investments in education. And as I wrote with my colleague Peter Hill in Preparing for a Renaissance in Assessment, another recent entry to the Open Ideas catalogue, I am in complete alignment with John’s assertion that we should be leveraging the promise of technology to support teachers’ use of better, on-going, formative assessments at the point of learning. But with regard to the question of how practical action across all fields should respond to an existing evidence base, our views are not identical.”


We welcome your comments below or join the conversation on Twitter at #HattiePapers about what makes the biggest impact on student progress and what gets in the way. Read the papers and other information we have gathered at We have also created an infographic, what works best in education.