Visible learning: How to keep the learning going at home

Visible learning is a concept coined by Melbourne-based educational researcher John Hattie, and in a nutshell, it’s about helping students take responsibility for their learning. Teachers are transparent with them about why they’re learning what they’re learning, they help students set goals for themselves, and encourage them to see areas that are strengths for them, and areas they feel they need to work on more, all the while encouraging children to actively seek feedback on their work. The idea is that if kids can see what they’re doing and why, it’s going to be of more value to them and can help them achieve.

In the classroom this can look like big bright posters, showing each student’s progression, there can be questions stuck up along the wall with funny acronyms, there can be catchphrases and ideas that your child might come home with or sticker charts documenting what they’re up to.

While it’s mainly a teaching tool implemented at school, it’s useful for us to understand at home, so that we can support our kids as they develop new learning skills. There are also some neat ideas we can adopt at home to help our kids become confident and independent. And hey, if it can get them doing more things around the house, then it’s a win all around!

So how can we support our kids at home with this Visible Learning stuff?

Help our children to understand what they’re doing and why

We don’t have to get all up in Visible Learning’s grills at home, but even when doing things around the house, asking kids to explain why they need to tidy their room, or what it is about a bath that’s important, helps them to get into the mindset of understanding the intention behind an action and what they get out of it. If they’re anything like my kids, once they understand, and articulate themselves, that baths are actually good for cleaning dirt off their stinky bodies, there’s a much better chance that they’ll hop in without requiring a military escort.

Let our children know this all about them – not their classmates!

Some kids might find it a bit confronting, or find themselves comparing their progress to others. That is NOT what visible learning is meant to be about. I’ve seen parents though my role who have become upset, as their child has come home anxious, thinking others are better than them and getting ‘more stickers’ on the class chart. It’s not about what little Jenny can do, or what little Jimmy hasn’t done, or even where they are in class, in relation to their friends. It’s just about focusing on them; what goals they want to achieve, and what they’re learning right here, right now. We all learn at different rates and that’s OK.

We focus on effort, not outcome

At home, we can model this to our children by looking at the effort we put in as being the bigger part of success. The outcome doesn’t have to be perfect every time, because we’re learning. We’re always learning. And what we don’t do so well now, we can build on next time. When our children are faced with visible learning at school, they can look for the effort they’ve put in, and even if the goal hasn’t been entirely achieved, they can feel good knowing they’ve worked hard, and see where they might need some additional support to achieve their goals. Research shows us when we focus on effort and not results, we have greater growth and success overall. Fist pump.

Encourage feedback

A big part of Visible Learning is seeking feedback. So, a child seeks out feedback from the teacher as they complete activities, while also actively identifying what they did well, as well as the areas they may need some additional support. At home, we can have our kids try a new task or chore, and then come to us to seek feedback when they’re done. We can ask them how they think they went, and what they feel they could try next time if it didn’t quite go to plan. We can also make it a bit interactive and ask our kids to provide feedback on something we’ve tried. But not when it comes to dinner. Ain’t nobody got time for children’s feedback on stir fry or mashed potato!

In essence, Visible Learning leads our kids to learn very important lessons; taking responsibility for their own learning and setting goals for their development. Those are the sorts of skills we hope to see in all aspects of life, not just schooling. So it makes sense to use some of the same language at home and to follow the same kinds of ideas. Learning is a continuous journey, and not about reaching some designated destination. Being on the same page as our children’s schools will help everyone involved.