Teaching, learning and leading


This issue of In Conversation - Know Thy Impact: Teaching, Learning and Leading (2013) from the Ontario Ministry of Education presents a thought-provoking interview with Professor John Hattie.

In this rich, substantial and extremely readable article, Professor Hattie sets out his eight mind frames for leaders and teachers from his research and book on ‘visible learning’. He gives details and discusses their importance to learning and leading in a school.

It is relevant for both primary and secondary teachers and, taking each mind frame in turn as a focus for discussion, would be a useful professional reading for individuals and groups who are exploring the links between leadership, teaching and learning.

Mind Frame 1:

Teachers/leaders believe that their fundamental task is to evaluate the effect of their teaching on students’ learning and achievement.

Hattie used to think that success is about who teaches where and how, and what teachers know and do. Of course those things are important. But it is rather about what teachers think. For example, they need to have high expectations of their students and of themselves and what they can do next. Teaching requires problem-solving, improvisation and flexibility. It must include the notion of passion and caring about what students are saying.

Mind Frame 2:

Teachers/leaders believe that success and failure in student learning are about what they as teachers or leaders did or did not do.

We are change agents, says Hattie. The teacher’s role is to effect change, and to enhance student learning. Teaching requires knowledge of what students bring to the classroom. It needs a deliberate intent on the part of teachers to know a tremendous amount about their students.

Mind Frame 3:

Teachers/leaders want to talk more about learning than about teaching.

This means that teachers diagnose what students are doing, analyse their learning, figure out where they’re at, where they have come from, get involved in multiple ways and evaluate the intervention. Hattie argues the focus is entirely on the process of learning.

Mind Frame 4:

Teachers/leaders see assessment as feedback about their impact.

The fundamental reason for assessment is to find out what you as a teacher did well – who you taught well, or not, what you taught well or not. Hattie says when you give teachers information about what they did well with they are very good at adapting what they do after that.

Mind Frame 5:

Teachers/leaders engage in dialogue not monologue.

Teachers often think that their time is better spent by talking. This mind frame is about reversing that model of getting there through monologue. If students are going to relate what they know to other ideas, if they are going to synthesise or analyse that requires them to do something. This Hattie sees as a critical problem.

Mind Frame 6:

Teachers/leaders enjoy challenge and never retreat to ‘doing their best’.

Hattie wants teachers to reflect on how to get students to the point where they feel challenged to be better than their best. This requires reconciling what the student knows with what the student needs to know.

Mind Frame 7:

Teachers/leaders believe that is their role to develop positive relationships.

Hattie argues that we are in teaching to find out what students don’t know and help them learn it. There has to be a high level of trust in classrooms (or staffrooms) for that to happen. Students can be passive and rule-governed in the classroom so building an environment of trust where students (and colleagues) feel confident to say when they don’t understand something is critical.

Mind Frame 8:

Teachers/leaders inform all about the language of learning.

It is about students and parents and teachers understanding what learning looks like. That way they can figure out what to do next in their learning. Hattie would argue that is how we become more involved.

Reflective questions

These reflective questions might guide you in your reading of this article:

  • Consider relating Hattie’s position on leading, teaching and learning to the key findings in the school leadership and teacher professional learning and development Best Evidence Syntheses. In terms of working with teachers what do they have in common? What key messages from each could help staff to improve the learning in your school?
  • Look at the “School ‘Health Check’ for Visible Learning” in the way suggested on p18 of the article. How can this check help you to realise your school goals for student learning or staff PLD?
  • How do you address the issue which Hattie challenges us all with about improving the understanding of what learning looks like for the whole school community – students, teachers, parents and leaders? Think about what you do at the moment, and how you could develop it.
  • In this article John Hattie challenges teacher educators, school leaders and teachers, and deliverers of PLD. What changes do they/you all need to make to their programmes to improve the learning that is happening in schools? Reflect on how can you contribute to achieving that – in the short term, and the long term.


Know Thy Impact; Teaching, Learning and Leading. In Conversation. Spring 2013 – Volume 1, Issue 2. ISSN 1922-2394. Ontario Ministry of Education.

Further reading

Bevacqua, B. (2013). Cutting through the fog of student achievement. Connected Principals (online magazine).

Hattie, J. (2013). Understanding Learning: Lessons for Learning, Teaching and Research. Presentation at ACER Research Conference 2013

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