What Doesn't Work in Education

What Doesn't Work in Education

“There will always be a tail,

there are many gaps,

and, if the average is high,

then flatlining may be a healthy trend.”

That’s a verbatim summary (reassembled by us in a more poetic manner) offered by John Hattie about the problem with using jargon to explain education statistics that aren’t always pleasing. According to the respected education researcher and University of Melbourne professor, these buzzwords too often find their way into education policy positions, and as a result divert attention from more effective efforts to improve teaching and learning.

In his new report, “What Doesn’t Work in Education: The Politics of Distraction,” released today as part of Pearson’s Open Ideas series of papers, Hattie breaks down how some of the most popular “fixes” proposed by pundits and policymakers—including school choice, longer school days, smaller classes and using more technology—”rarely make a significant difference” in student outcomes. The paper offers a no-holds-barred, but thoughtful, critique of all the buzzwords and refrains you’ve come to love—or loathe.

Too often, Hattie notes, the education conversation focuses on differences between schools and countries, rather than differences within schools. In an accompanying report, “What Works Best in Education: The Politics of Collaborative Expertise,” he offers an eight-step framework for teachers and school leaders to rethink existing school practices. Step one: shifting the narrative from ‘fixing the teacher’ to collective responsibility, and from an an obsession with standards to a focus on student progress.

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