How do teachers feel about clumsy students

Main topic: It depends on the teacher

"Do not disturb!" It is written invisibly on the class doors of our schools. There are lots of closed events along the corridors - everyone does theirs here. Now an educator from Australia comes along and announces with a beaming smile: Open the doors, teachers! Look what happens in the neighboring classes. Talk to each other.

Slender, gray-blonde, casually in a green shirt, John Hattie talks about his findings in a conversational tone. In the overcrowded auditorium of the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg, teachers, educationalists and students follow his words with fascination. There is a bit of a pop star atmosphere when the vice president of the university, Gunilla Budde, introduces the guest:

"We are very proud to have Professor Hattie, probably the world's most prominent educational researcher, as a guest at the Carl von Ossietzky University."

The 62-year-old education professor at the University of Melbourne in Australia is giving his only lecture in Germany on the occasion of the publication of the German translation of his educational bestseller "Visible Learning" - making learning visible. His mission is: It depends on the teacher. That is not very original, but it is evidence-based with thousands of data, says Ulrich Steffens from the Hessian Institute for Quality Development.

"First of all, he clearly emphasized with his findings how crucial the core business is and the conditions that take place in the classroom. How well something is taught there, how well a teacher teaches there."

"We have to ask ourselves, what is the success story of teachers who achieve above-average effects? That is the litmus test: Do you want students in a class whose teachers systematically come above or stay below the average effect? ​​What I did with the study "Visible Learning" is telling the success story of the best teaching. "

The story reads dryly. It consists mainly of numbers. Hattie didn't look at lessons for that. Only studies - but lots of them. For 15 years, the New Zealander evaluated meta-analyzes of 50,000 studies in which a total of 250 million students were involved. A treasure trove of data that is truly unique worldwide, even if some of it is a bit out of date. For comparison: In the international comparative study Pisa, almost two million schoolchildren are surveyed per round.

This also impresses educational researchers in this country, says Michael Becker-Mrozeck, professor of German language and its didactics, who has been responsible for the nationwide comparative studies Vera 3 and 8 since 2010.

"In any case, it is a tremendous achievement to collect 800 studies from around the world and to create a category grid of how one can compare them with one another in order to then evaluate them statistically. That was a Herculean task that he shouldered."

The process is called complexity reduction and simply means: simplification. Hattie has presented a so-called meta-meta study. Metastudies summarize the results of several detailed studies on one topic. The New Zealander then sifted such meta-studies again according to superordinate criteria. He was guided by the question: What works best? He compared 138 influencing factors with one another. His findings clearly demonstrate the absolute priority of personal over structural influencing factors. Smaller classes, gender differentiation, homogeneous ability groups, financial resources: none of this is as important as well-structured, teacher-led lessons. A bang against decades of school system debates and passionate didactic reform projects, such as open, independent learning.

Last summer, a school experiment began in the south of Cologne: The Open School Cologne is a secondary school that wants to be there for all children. Disabled and non-disabled students learn together in mixed-age groups. Everywhere in the 100 square meter room there are triangular tables, sometimes together, sometimes as individual workstations. Worksheets and materials are on the shelves, a lot that is known from Montessori pedagogy. Little by little the students come - the beginning is also open.

In one corner, 13-year-old Carola reads out loud from a three-question-mark thriller. Four boys sit on a black leather sofa and chat. A group of three girls from the 6th and 7th grades squat over math and English and some leisure work:

"It's for free time, writing history. That's when we've finished everything, we'll write books, so to speak. I've only got three chapters, but that's quite a lot, it's double-sided."

"What makes us different? Purely from the outside: There is no bell, there is no timetable broken down by subject. That means the classic structures of every secondary school are not there for the time being. If you look at the children's daily grid, that means After entering the school with an open beginning and a joint morning session, they then have a large time window of two and a half hours to design and structure their learning time themselves. In which order they deal with content, whether they do it alone, in pairs or too third, whether you do it with the help of the teacher or largely independently, you decide for yourself. "

The big headline is personal responsibility, is how headmaster Hans Flinkerbusch explains the concept. The teacher sees himself as a learning companion and not an entertainer in constant frontal teaching.

"That is our goal, that we accompany the learning. Because this funnel model, we put something into heads, is something that we know exactly that it does not work. We know that this head can only learn for itself. It has to be." Find a way and we can accompany him. "

Age mix, project work, open teaching, teamwork, these are all well-known methods. Much of it is a further development of the ideas of reform pedagogy at the beginning of the last century. Montessori schools, Waldorf schools and Peter Petersen schools follow these reform pedagogical approaches. Since the international comparative studies in Pisa, many primary schools have also been working increasingly with methods that are intended to promote independent learning. And many a traditional grammar school is on the way to more independence in learning processes.

Are they all wrong? John Hattie's evidence suggests this. Regardless of whether state or private, whether denominational or anthroposophical, it is only the quality of teaching and thus the teacher who decides on the learning effects. And so Hattie rejects every self-learning idyll.

"I am an actor. My work is change. I consider it nonsense when teachers say that my job is that of a companion at the side of the students."

Professor Hans Brügelmann from the University of Siegen finds this reading too easy. Hattie himself sees it in a more differentiated way:

"In education it is always very attractive to work with general terms: authoritarian versus anti-authoritarian or youth support versus girls support. So the idea that you could finally solve your everyday problems with the big drawers. That is a big mistake."

If you only look at the tables in the last, summarizing chapter of "Visible Learning", you can easily fall into the big drawers. The teacher as a director receives an average value of 0.7 while the teacher as the moderator of independent student learning only achieves a value of 0.2. According to the design by John Hattie, a positive effect on learning only begins at a value between 0.3 and 0.4. But just looking at the rankings is not enough to understand what "Visible Learning" can teach us.

"I think what Hattie does himself are two different things. On the one hand, he evaluates the data very carefully on the formal level and, on the other hand, he has a personal idea of ​​what good teaching is in the school Hattie describes, is not someone who simply lectures. Rather, Hattie describes a teacher who should react very sensitively to what he perceives in the students. For him, a central point is the feedback from the students to the teacher. That is the teacher Key to the teacher being able to provide impulses for students in a meaningful way.

Hattie: "The greatest resource we have at our disposal are the teachers. Of course, it does not make the difference alone. Structures are not entirely unimportant. But what" Visible Learning "requires in the first place: The teacher must learn through the eyes of the One of the important things we found out about what makes the teacher meaningful is how he influences students' attitudes towards learning. So the teacher needs to see himself as a learner. I find it fascinating to look at how we bring more dialogue into our system by listening to the students thinking and learning. "

The teacher is listening to the student? The reverse is probably more everyday life in our classrooms. But John Hattie demands even more: the teacher should even learn from the student. With an average value of over 0.7, feedback is one of the most successful methods in teaching in conjunction with transparency in the learning objectives. Pupils should know where the material is going. Behind both is the concept of permanent mutual feedback between teachers and students about teaching and learning.

"I think that's absolutely right to say that you shouldn't run around with your prejudices, I'll do everything right. Rather, you should become self-critical, you should also let other people into the class, whether they are colleagues, whether they are parents. So have this mirror held up to you - I fully share this demand from him. But I don't think that educational research is the appropriate mirror or even can claim the authority to say, we tell you whether you are good or bad. "

The complexity of teaching cannot be forced into a statistical corset, says elementary school researcher Hans Brügelmann. Empirical educational research enables questions to be asked in practice and it can provide important information on the opportunities and risks of certain methods. However, she does not provide any godparent recipes for good teaching, and John Hattie never tires of formulating them. Lessons, he writes, are a unique occurrence.

"There may be one or the other natural talent. I've always been told that you are a born teacher and that you do it. But it's not that simple."

"I spent hours making some kind of plan, but I didn't really know where it was going. I lacked a lot of pedagogical knowledge. You have to prepare exams. And then I had the feeling that I had a Little hands are missing. Sometimes the work was too easy, then it was too difficult and finding the middle ground and building the whole thing up in a structured way was very difficult. "

Teaching is not an easy job, and this does not only apply to these two lateral entrants, who suddenly came from science and business and had to teach biology and mathematics at a high school. Professional competence is just one of many skills a teacher needs. He has to manage and structure material and class, he has to pack the content in an exciting way so that the students can and want to learn it, while he is confronted with a variety of different learning types and a whole sack of unpredictability. All of this has less to do with personality and a lot to do with attitude and technology, says Ulrich Steffens from the Hessian State Institute for Quality Development.

"There is the formula: It depends on the teacher. Hattie varies this statement and says: What Teachers do matters. And with that he moves away from the teacher personality and directs the attention to the teacher's actions. Of course there are teachers who are more skillful or more clumsy or who have better access to students. But you should always keep in mind that being a teacher can also be trained, that certain behaviors can also be learned. And that is also a task in the second phase of teacher training. "

John Hattie's study inevitably leads to strengthening teacher education and training. In recent years, however, many federal states have cut back training in particular for financial reasons. A reconstruction would have to take place here, urges Ulrich Steffens. For teacher training, the language didactic specialist Michael Becker-Mrotzek sees North Rhine-Westphalia and, in the near future, Berlin and Brandenburg, with their expansion of study-related practical phases, on the right track:

"For me that means that you have to do even more in your studies what Hattie demands of every teacher, namely to teach from the perspective of the students. So teacher training has to take practice more into account. What they have to do to motivate children read or make an effort to read. I think we have to do a lot more than just such abstract concepts. We have to operationalize it more and give it an earlier opportunity to try it out and then to reflect on why it worked and not here."

After all, it still doesn't work out too often. Despite increased efforts as a result of the international comparative studies, 20 percent of students at the end of secondary school are still unable to read according to the minimum standards. And reading promotion is also at the top of the list for successful learning with John Hattie. This also closes the circle with the critics of open forms of learning. Weak students need strong structure and leadership in learning - this is not just what the New Zealand educational researcher says.

"What has been shown in German studies that weak students, whether it is reading or writing, cannot cope with very open forms of teaching because they do not know what to do and then deal with other things and thus study time and the gap between students who are successful and who are unsuccessful is widening. "

Open teaching concepts can be productive if the students are up to the task of independent learning and the teacher prepares it thoroughly and accompanies it closely. There are also studies on this. However, Hattie's research results show that these particularly high requirements are often not implemented.

The newly founded Open School Cologne emphasizes the responsibility of children in learning. At the same time, it has set out to encourage all students - whether highly gifted or learning difficulties - in their possibilities. Headmaster Hans Flinkerbusch is sure that this is also the right way for weaker students.

"It is a path that the teachers have to go with the students. It is a path that we still have to learn. But it is not now that we are breaking into completely new territory or coming out of nowhere. What it is about goes: Reflected self-control, that is the educational goal of this school, and when we get there at some point, then we have the situation that the day is calm, relaxed, calm and focused. "

Reflected self-control - that could also be a term used by John Hattie. No other instrument achieved a higher effect in the ranking of his study than the systematic self-assessment of students. Feedback and an error-friendly culture are methodologically part of it. This, too, was a passionate message that the educational researcher brought from Melbourne to Oldenburg:

"That is the problem with our system: we ignore the experience of the students. They are good at self-assessment. If students think they can, then they can. If they think they can do the test well, they can do it Good. Your job as a teacher is to help each child exceed their expectations. How many teachers can you name who have done this for you? "

Only a few even get in touch. At the end of his lecture, one thing is clear: The opposition of open versus frontal or teacher-centered versus student-centered is none for John Hattie. With "Making Learning Visible" he presented a two-faced work that only superficially invites everyone to take their philosopher's stone. The empiricist Hattie shows what works and where dangers lurk. The educator Hattie explains how teachers can get the best effect, with only one thing in mind: the student and his or her right to good teaching.