John Hattie recently released two reports (1) “What Doesn’t Work in Education: The Politics of Distraction” and (2) “What Works Best in Education: The Politics of Collaborative Expertise“. A short summary is found in this walk-through. Hattie lists five distractions and eight solutions for the schooling system. His repeated message is that pupils ought to receive “at least a year’s growth for a year’s input”. This in his mind should also drive teacher performance records and school policy makers.

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While I agree with many of the criticisms and suggestions he raises, I would certainly formulate things differently. The distractions I would put down are “false expectations”, “miraculous technology”, and “undecided responsibility”.

It has become popular to think school is something comparable to a circus or entertainment centre, where kids should be made happy by teachers and environment, but at the same time demanding that teachers should be seriously professional. This is only one of several false expectations, another is the perception that learning can be done by someone else or something else. This is where “miraculous” educational or gaming technology is often used in the rhetoric. Research shows that technology is a useful tool for learning but not a replacement of one’s own brain. The assumption that so-called “digital natives” have electronic genes and therefore need not learn the old way is shown badly wrong in this article. The right technology can support learning in many ways, but it is too often used as a distracting entertainment feature and the skills you acquire in a first-person shooter may not help you long term in mastering new knowledge no matter how high up on the scoreboard you are.

With regards to parents there is the perennial debate of who’s responsible for a child’s education. This bounces like a ping-pong ball between the home and the school, each blaming the other for lack of care. In my mind, this is one big distraction from what should be the common goal – educating the child. It also hampers the seriousness of the learning process and the required respect for the professionals. After all, how are children supposed to respect their teacher if the parents don’t – and I don’t mean respect in the sense of “fear”, but to honor the professional opinion. After all, pedagogic studies and generations of kids a teacher has taught should bring a better understanding of what’s needed in the job.

The problem I see with Hattie’s demand for “a year’s growth for a year’s input” is that it is easier said than done. It will not be easy to agree upon what this means for each child.

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