Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Op-ed On John Hattie's Finding About Class Sizes

Op-ed On John Hattie's Finding About Class Sizes


By Laurie Loper

A small class equals better outcomes is the kind of common sense effectiveness equation that's been around now for such a long time people believe it. Eventually beliefs of this kind become policy, certainly the teacher unions have made this one a policy of theirs. Of course if there's no truth to this belief, making it a policy is obviously a fraught practice.

But what is the truth of this belief? It isn't true, but then neither are a lot of other common beliefs about learning. That's the problem with beliefs, common sense has this habit of elevating them to the status of fact, Science's more exacting scrutiny often tells us differently, revealing there are gaps in our knowledge that need to be filled. In this instance, the gaps are somewhat greater than anyone in the education sector is prepared to acknowledge, let alone try to fill. Better leave well enough alone is obviously their strategy, rocking the boat will upset too many people and disturb vested interests.

That behaviour is perfectly understandable. To accept the truth of John Hattie's research, is to put at risk a whole bunch of infrastructure that would be hard to dismantle, to say nothing of the upheaval that would result and the mess leftto clean up. Even harder would be the task of deprogramming the beliefs of the entire education sector, to say nothing, if you are the Minister of Education, of those held by the voting public, who likewise possess the same beliefs.

It just so happens John Hattie isn't alone with his finding of the low relationship of class size to better achievement outcomes. New Zealand is by no means short of world names in classroom research. The late Professor Graham Nuthall has succeeded in unraveling education's oldest conundrum, the twin mysteries of the relationship between teaching and learning and how learning works as a process in classrooms.

Ranking up there, I'd say, with Rutherford's discoveries, if the Hattie findings are giving the education sector and the public indigestion, none should be allowed to read Nuthall's findings, unless certified as not in danger of suffering a heart attack. Relevant findings supporting Hattie's class size finding included, students do the learning – teachers contribute hardly anything to it. Inexperienced teachers taking the same lesson achieve the same outcomes as very experienced ones. Classmates have much more influence over any student's understanding than teachers.

I liked John Hattie's confession that he didn't understand his own finding either. To me that means he carries in his head the same model of learning everyone else believes in. That's the one that makes teachers into such busy learning managers, they're far too preoccupied to notice what's going on. That's that very inefficient one that's causing the achievement gap. That's the one causing all the uneven outcomes we see in such things as dropouts and the unequal national exam statistics. That's also the very same one causing half the overall learning capacity of the entire student population to lie undeveloped on the classroom floor.

Adversity makes strange bedfellows but I couldn't help having a chuckle at John Morris' contribution on RadioNZ to this debate. If I heard the Auckland Grammar principal right, he said that if you have students who are both attentive and compliant, class size at the secondary level matters little. Now whatever you may think about what he said, he's highlighting an important truth, how we think learning happens very much governs what we do to promote it.

With John Hattie being the head of an institution that prepares teachers for classrooms, his class size finding puts him between the proverbial rock and a hard place. But isn't the resolution of the seeming impasse over what best promotes student learning to be found, not in class sizes nor in any of the other of John Hattie's 138 factors, but in a better understanding, both sector wide and nation wide, of how learning actually works in classrooms. As far as I'm concerned, there's only one authority here and he's not even getting a look in.

*************

Laurie Loper, Reg Psychologist, Tauranga

RELATED SCOOP ITEMS:

Ian Leckie.: Smaller Classes - Opinion Piece from NZEI
Association supports debate on teaching excellence - Press Release: NZ School Trustees Association

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Ramzy Baroud: Gaza’s Resistance Will Not Be Crushed

On the 13th day of Israel’s so-called Operation Protective Edge, stories of entire families collectively pulverized, women and children keenly targeted by Israeli soldiers saturate the media. Until now, 430 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and ... More>>

ALSO:

Ian Anderson: Rearranging The Deck Chairs On The Titanic? The Labour Party And MANA

Early in July this year, Labour Party leader David Cunliffe made headlines by apologising for being a man. Stoked by capitalist media sensation, Prime Minister John Key responded that “not all men” abuse women. More>>

Shobha Shukla: Break The Silos: Drug Use, HIV, HCV, TB, Laws And Funding

Viet Nam is one of the countries in the world that has made remarkable progress over the last decade in not only making harm reduction and HIV services available and accessible for people who use drugs but also reforming laws for supportive health ... More>>

ALSO:

Fiona Gordon: Illegal Wildlife Trading: The Global Response

At the closing session of the inaugural United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi last month, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “We need to act decisively to change humanity’s relationship with our planet.” More>>

Faisal Al-Asaad: Gaza: McCully’s Calls For Restraint On Both Sides Is Side-Taking Itself

Since June 12th, the world’s attention has been squarely focused on the events unfolding in the West Bank, Gaza and the occupied territories. The disappearance of three Israeli youths who were later found dead prompted a flurry of condemnations ... More>>

ALSO:

Tania Billingsley: Demand For Accountability On Sexual Assault

Since my assault I feel that people have been assuming that my idea of justice is to have Rizalman found guilty in a New Zealand court. While it is an important part of justice being done, my main reason for wanting this is not for my own sense of ... More>>

Leslie Bravery: Hold The Perpetrator To Account, Not The Victim!

In a 4 July 2014 statement to Scoop Independent News, on the violent deaths of four young people in the Israeli Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully made the following comments: 'The recent killing ... More>>

ALSO:

Santon Tekege: Investigative Report Into Oil Palm In Nabire Regency, Papua

Several companies’ plans to invest in the oil palm sector in Nabire have met with local opposition. People from the Yerisiam and Wate ethnic groups have staged several peaceful actions in Nabire against one of these companies, PT Nabire Baru1. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
TEDxAuckland
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news