"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Teachers' Collective Efficacy and Teacher Expectations

John Hattie has been collecting results from education research and performing a statistical analysis of factors that may affect learning. His list of influences related to learning now has the following in the top two spots: Teachers' Collective Efficacy and Teacher Expectations. These terms may look like "educational jargon", but we may translate these to something a lot simpler, a "Yes, we can" attitude. Previously in this blog, Hattie's work was mentioned when we compared and contrasted the two roles a teacher could play inside the classroom: activator or facilitator. In this regard, Hattie's work is actually useful since the factors are not too general and these involve specific interventions or methods.

Above copied from Hattie's Visible Learning

Even with the above limited interpretation of Hattie's work, Neil Brown at King's College, London criticizes Hattie's core approach,
"For example, on page 243, Hattie compares the average effect sizes for the “teacher as activator” techniques he has analysed against those for “teacher as facilitator”. On the basis that the former are higher, he concludes “These results show that active and guided instruction is much more effective than unguided, facilitative instruction”. He’s not necessarily wrong, but if we cannot trust the average effect sizes he gives as evidence, and cannot sensibly compare them, we cannot make that conclusion from this data. In which case, the book is not much use as an argument or a useful summary of the data, just as an impressive catalogue of the original meta-analyses."
Hattie's updated list comes as an effort to apply his Visible Learning study to higher education.

With this extension, Brown's criticism of Hattie's work ought to be taken seriously. Brown basically points out a major error that Hattie makes in his meta-analysis. Meta-analysis, as Brown points out, is a summary of research studies that share so many things in common. This is important, otherwise, both averaging and comparison are inappropriate. For this reason, Hattie's compilation is only useful with specific factors or interventions. In these cases, the summary and averaging may be appropriate since the studies on one specific intervention may indeed be comparable.

Neither "Teachers' collective efficacy" nor "Teacher expectations" are interventions. Teachers gain confidence often from previous accomplishments. Teacher expectations are often grounded on experience. Both therefore can correlate with student learning and achievement, but this is not a cause-effect relationship. "Yes we can", after all, is a state of mind, a condition, which cannot be imposed on anyone. It is not an intervention that one can easily take and apply.

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