In July 2014, I attended an educational conference in Carlsbad. Typically, when I participate in a professional development opportunity, I know the topic or the presenter/s. In this case, I signed up on a whim, and it was definitely a great decision. The Carlsbad conference comprised about 700 educators from across the United States, and even welcomed educators from different countries. It was the Second International Visible Learning Conference (the first had been held in Australia the year before). I sat through the first day in a state of awe and confusion. What I was hearing was fascinating and I knew I needed to bring this information back to St. Michael’s School, but it was most definitely information overload, and I didn’t know where to start. Three days later, my head still spinning, I brought what I had learned back to school, and shared my newfound knowledge with a few teachers. Over the next several years we devoured books and articles on the subject, attended more conferences, and dedicated our staff meetings to deepening our understanding and implementation of these best practices.
I have shared over the past several years some information about Visible Learning, but for those of you who are new, or perhaps have forgotten, let me provide a brief summary. Visible Learning is the product of the work of John Hattie, an educational researcher, who has, over the past 30 years, conducted thousands of meta-analyses comprising more than 90,000 studies involving over 300 million students around the world. As a result of this extensive research, he has determined what strategies work best in education, as well as what qualities teachers need to achieve the best impact on student learning. According to Hattie, “Visible Learning and Teaching occurs when teachers see learning through the eyes of students and help them become their own teachers.”
By 2019, after five years of implementing VL practices in the classroom, we were making great strides and felt ready to take the next step by applying to be recognized as a Visible Learning+ School. The first task was to complete a School Capability Assessment. Unfortunately, COVID delayed us one year, but in April 2021, Dave Nagel, an international VL consultant and researcher, came on campus to interview our leadership team, observe teachers in the classroom, and listen to students describe their educational experiences at SMS. We received our School Capability Assessment in June, an extensive document that outlined our strengths and areas for growth. We then drafted a Case Study, in which we described our goals for the year and scheduled additional professional development for the entire faculty (our focus for this upcoming year is on assessment, data analysis, and feedback). The School Capability Assessment and our Case Study were sent to the national committee for preview, before being forwarded to the international review team, including John Hattie himself. Last week, we learned that we had passed with flying colors. Hattie wrote: “We would like to congratulate the entire St. Michael’s School learning community on your successful application to become a Level 3 Visible Learning+ Associate School. Your application and evidence submitted capturing your journey to date were of high quality and provided a deep insight into how you have moved from evidence to impact.”
In my 30+ years in education, Visible Learning is the most compelling pedagogical practice I have encountered, and the results we have witnessed at SMS are remarkable. St. Michael’s School joins the ranks of very few schools, nationally and internationally, that have achieved this recognition. We will continue to work hard to ensure that we are providing the very best possible education for our students.