Evidence-based leadership

by John Hattie


In this 12-minute video Professor John Hattie begins by reporting on the evidence about those things that make a difference for students’ learning. He takes a provocative approach, questioning a number of the widely-held beliefs about what teachers can do to improve student learning.

We need to set the bar higher in our schools, Hattie argues. Even a poor teacher will inevitably produce some improvement in students’ learning over a year. Educational leaders need to be focusing on the things that our best teachers do which make a difference.

Best practice, he says, comes not from handing resources to people, it comes from teachers thinking differently about teaching and learning, having professional conversations about their practice, and carefully interpreting what they do.

Hattie reminds educational leaders about the dangers of labelling students (for example applying “learning styles” labels). He also suggests that students often self-limit because of the expectations they have of themselves.

He reminds us that New Zealand has the highest within-school variation in the world. The responsibility of every educational leader in our schools is to reduce within school variation.

In summing up Hattie reminds viewers of the importance of building trusting relationships in the school, both within the classroom and within the staffroom. This will help people to admit when they don’t know something, engage in professional conversations, and work proactively on any feedback that they receive.

John Hattie - evidence based leadership (2009) from UACEL on Vimeo.

Reflective questions

These reflective questions might guide you in your viewing of this video:

  • Share this video with your senior leadership team. What are some of the factors – practice, or deeply-held beliefs – that might be preventing your school from reducing within-school variance in students’ achievement?
  • Use the information you have gathered for the first question to focus your professional learning programme on building trusting relationships in the school that lead to improved teaching and learning.
  • Consider what use you can make of expert help and evidence-based research to support your focus on improving learning outcomes for all students.


Hattie, J. (2009) Evidence-based Leadership. Address to First-time Principals Programme Residential Course, October. Centre for Educational Leadership. Faculty of Education. University of Auckland.

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