Effect size – the impact that a particular strategy, technique, circumstance or issue has on student learning.
Effect size (in terms of teaching strategies) refers to the impact that a particular strategy, technique, circumstance or issue has on student learning (or other factor under measurement). When something has an impact on learning, the effect can be measured and expressed as a number. Simplistically speaking, this allows 2 separate effects to be compared in a way that makes sense to the average person with no statistical training. The measurement number is usually between 0 and 1 but it can also be as high as 2 or even be negative. A common rule of thumb is that an effect of 0.2 or higher is small (but still an effect nonetheless), 0.5 or higher is a medium effect and 0.8 and higher a very strong effect.i
When something has an impact on learning, the effect can be measured and expressed as a number.
It should be noted that due to the way effect size is calculated, comparing 2 effects in terms of the actual measurable improvements in the classroom is not as simple as comparing the 2 numbers. For example, an effect of 0.4 is not double the effect of 0.2 (in percentage terms, the actual difference is about 5% when calculated by the common language effects method, or CLE). There are also issues with comparing effect sizes that are calculated based on very different studies and contexts (for example, comparing the effect of a 20 year old study of 5 participants from New Zealand with a recent study of 100,000 schools in the US is not a fair or valid comparison).
Another point to note is that a low effect size does not mean that a strategy is worthless or any less effective than a strategy with a higher effect size. For example, individualised instruction has a relatively low effect size of 0.29 in the table below, but that does not mean schools should simply abolish individualised instruction. What effect size does tell us is that strategies and influences with a known higher effect size should be regularly considered for implementation (when appropriate and relevant). It is very likely that these identified strategies will have a positive impact on learning. Effect size is a powerful tool for understanding what strategies are likely to have the biggest impact on the learning process and student achievement.
John Hattie is by far the most prominent and well-known academic in terms of effect-size work. Hattie collated hundreds of studies and has formulated a list of over 250 effect sizes. The table below shows a snapshot of some of the influences collected and synthesised by Hattie and how they relate to the strategies and skills found in this book. The selected influences are in descending order in terms of their effect size. While there are criticisms of Hattie’s work, this list provides a simple reference to remind us of what high quality teaching looks like.ii
|Teacher estimates of achievement||Setting goals, backwards design and designing down|
|Response to intervention||Intervention, remedial instruction, one-on-one instruction|
|Self-efficacy||Coping, motivation, metacognitive skills|
|Classroom discussion||Discussions, pair and group work, debates|
|Scaffolding||Scaffolding, zone of proximal development, guided and shared learning|
|Deliberate practice||Deliberate practice, spaced learning, overlearning|
|Summarisation||Summarise and synthesise, compare and contrast|
|Effort||Motivation, metacognitive skills, active reading|
|Planning and prediction||Prediction, using cues|
|Repeated reading programs||Repeated reading, active reading|
|Teacher clarity||Explicit instruction, questioning techniques, rapport building|
|Reciprocal teaching||Learning by teaching, peer modelling, peer tutoring|
|Rehearsal and memorisation||Rehearsals, spaced learning, deliberate practice|
|Instructional programs||Explicit instruction, repeated reading|
|Feedback||Feedback techniques, rapport building, formative assessment|
|Deep motivation and approach||Motivation, rapport building, setting goals|
|Concept mapping||Graphic organisers, prediction, metacognitive skills|
|Metacognitive strategies||Metacognitive skills, setting goals, transferable skills|
|Spaced vs. mass practise||Spaced learning, massed practice, deliberate practice|
|Direct instruction||Explicit instruction, repeated reading|
|Mastery learning||Mastery learning, overlearning|
|Explicit teaching strategies||Explicit instruction, metacognitive skills, formative assessment|
|Self-verbalisation and self-questioning||Self-questioning, mental scripting, metacognitive skills|
|Peer tutoring||Peer tutoring, peer questioning, peer modelling|
|Teacher-student relationships||Rapport building, formative assessment, feedback techniques|
|Self-regulation strategies||Metacognitive skills, coping|
|Parental involvement||Homework, flipped learning|
|Clear goal intentions||Setting goals, backwards design and designing down|
|Formative evaluation||Formative assessment, feedback techniques, rapport building|
|Questioning||Questioning techniques, explicit instruction, feedback techniques|
|Comprehension programs||Active reading, prediction|
|Integrated curricula programs||Cross-curriculum learning, team teaching|
|Small group learning||Pair and group work, peer tutoring|
|Study skills||Metacognitive skills, coping|
|Writing programs||Remedial instruction, intervention, writing to learn|
|Imagery||Visualisation, using cues, prediction, active reading|
|Worked examples||Explicit instruction, scaffolding, guided and shared learning|
|Student-centred teaching||Pair and group work, peer tutoring|
|Matching style of learning||Learning styles, multiple intelligences|
|Online and digital tools||Online learning, blended learning, technology learning|
|Homework||Homework, flipped learning|
|Problem-based learning||Problem-based learning|
|Grit/incremental vs. entity thinking||Metacognitive skills, setting goals|
|Individualised instruction||One-on-one instruction, intervention|
|Co-(or team) teaching||Team teaching|
Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and an author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of Fast Track Training Australia, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.
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