Skip to content

#DigiLit Sunday Part 2 The Numbers

Beginnings, Part 2


Over thirty-one years of teaching, I didn’t have any “numbers” to support the strategies I chose, but I did continuously reflect on the impact my choices in tasks, groupings, and follow through had on student learning and behavior. I built a toolbox of strategies and activities that frequently worked for students from my own experience and through researched strategies in National Council of Teachers of English [NCTE], International Reading Association [now the International Literacy Association], ASCD [formerly Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development], and others according to the content areas I was teaching. I’ve built an extended professional learning network on Google Plus and on Twitter to share and discuss the issues and goals in order to be better for my students.

And why did I do this?  I want to be the best for my students and myself, and the professors in my courses in teaching at Eastern Washington University expected active learners and researchers who found real students to work with and reflect on that work, searching in the professional organization journals for solutions to student dilemmas. I had practiced reflective teaching before I was awarded my teacher credentials. I’m not sure all teachers had that experience.

reciprocal teaching dylan william hattie.002
Poster by Sheri Edwards; Images public domain from

Always though, the focus is on the learning of the person — not the standards or covering the curriculum — the focus is who we are and how we help each other as learners by building a learning community with positive relationships with each other.

One of the key lessons of Visible Learning by John Hattie (2009) is that those strategies that make learning visible provide teachers a repertoire of choices to enable students to become their own teachers  in the classroom and throughout their lives. One trait of excellent teachers is that they intervene with just the right strategy or task at just the right time for just the right student based on the impact of their previous teaching with feedback for how to stay moving on the student’s learning goal. With a wealth of strategies for instruction, teachers extend that imperative of being on the learning path to release the student as his/her own teacher to learn and improve as engaged learners in their own passions or interests wherever they are. The goal is lifelong learners, not test-takers or re-tellers of information.

In Visible Learning for Literacy by Fisher, Frey, Hattie, (2016), the authors suggest that, since the goal of our instruction is for students to become their own teachers, then teachers must “become learners of their own teaching,” (page 4, Kindle). We must reflect on the impact of our teaching on the learning. A reflective teacher asks and gathers information on these questions:

  • How effective was today’s lesson?
  • What was learned?
  • Who learned it?
  • Who did not learn it?
  • Who missed something?
  • Who learned something else, and why?

And students want to know: What? So What? Now What?


Over one hundred years ago, John Dewey, a founding philosopher of education, grounded us in this truth: that learning is doing. Today, educators access a wealth of research that guides them in answering the reflective questions that result in the feedback and interventions to guide the learners in their care.

And students want to be doing, not watch the teacher do.

Michael Toth, CEO of Learning Sciences International, says that “It takes the concept of deliberate practice if you want to be the best in the field,” to which Robert Marzano, Executive Director of LSI adds, “Even small improvements in teacher effectiveness can have a positive impact on student achievement. (Becoming a Reflective Teacher webinar).

Indeed, it is the small  things we do as teachers every minute of every class that does impact student learning. It is this knowledge and reflective thinking — to be a “learner of my teaching” — to make  small improvements that guides me in better instruction, and in really knowing my students.

In Beginnings, Part 1, I shared a series of lesson actions to explain the flow and purpose of the beginning of my school year. As I read the books by Hattie and others, I can now add the research numbers behind the instruction. View the numbers here [I chose the Learning for Teachers in green since I am a teacher].  I’m not much of a numbers person — I lean to the “doing,” but it is my “doing” those numbers seem to support. It’s important, though, to also read the information about the strategies, to understand the “why” of the data numbers.  Take problem based learning at 0.21, a very low impact. However, in digging into the data Hattie explains that most of those studies about problem/project based learning dove right into critical thinking, instead of first building a knowledge base with students from which problems can be understood. Good problem/project based learning includes that, and Hattie suggests that would then have a higher success factor (Fisher, Frey, Hattie, 2016, p. 37).

So, let’s examine the “doing.”


  • Determine and practice expectations of a learning community

  • Discuss and learn protocols for entering, leaving, independent work, group work, discussions, turning in work, computer use, agreements, disagreements

  • Accomplish and celebrate learning / work together

Reaching towards a target goal has an effect size of 0.50 — I have them in mind and the students have theirs: Collaborative Grouping / Working together / Learning Community guidelines. More on this later.

This building of relationships according to Hattie’s research has a .72 effect size — an effect size means it has the potential to have a great effect on student learning; the closer to “1,” the greater the effect. And guess what? In building that relationship, in being fair, trustworthy, and caring, teachers build their credibility with students and that effect size is .90.

  • Invitational greeting at the door from teacher

  • Setting the first goal: a collaborative activity on screen [idea from Joy Kirr and Sandy Merz]

  • Students collaborate on seating from the directions

    • I observe, waiting until absolutely necessary to intervene

    • I may ask a question about the prompt to a student

    • I may encourage a student to speak up, or others to listen

So, to start the year greeting the young people who smile [or not] as they enter the room is an important first thoughtful beginning. And the choices made over the minutes in class each of the first days determine teacher credibility and student tone and attitude for the rest of the year.

Did you know that cooperative vs competitive learning has an effect size of 0.54, and that cooperative vs individual learning has an effect size of 0.59? So building a collaborative learning community, where students are helping each other learn in conversation, debate, dialogue, and products pushes forward any goals we have! It is most useful for deeper learning. During this activity, students are moving from learning about collaboration to doing collaboration in a safe and easy activity using ideas they already can talk about. And peer tutoring has an effect size of 0.55, so if someone doesn’t know a topic about which they are sorting themselves, a peer will explain so they meet the criteria. That’s the beauty of these introductory activities: the surface knowledge is already within their understanding – or one of their peer’s understanding, so that success is achievable and the thinking about HOW they solved the seating activity can also be discovered in reflection and conversation with their group.

I’m always standing, wandering, listening, encouraging during any lessons. I look for the confusion, the struggle, and the successes. When students can’t solve their own confusion, I figure out the best way to intervene: a question to them so they can clarify, another strategy, organizer, or review to set the students in just the right place to move on; or, if needed, stopping the whole class for questions or a quick tip.  That’s scaffolding instruction for two things: 1) so the student knows they will receive help [not answers or solutions] so they can succeed, and 2) to provide the vehicle for success.  Scaffolding has an effect size of 0.53.

  • Celebrate in class discussion

    • Refer to the goal: form groups

    • Acknowledge  and accept the events of participation – confusion, perseverance, and success

  • Give students a scrap of paper —

    • ask each to think of one event that started the success or ended a confusion

    • Ask them to write what worked and what didn’t

  • Ask them to share in their groups and to create lists on poster paper of What Worked to Succeed and What Did Not Work

In this sequence, I’m asking students to think about what they’ve done — think about their doing and thinking and reflect on what worked and what didn’t work. We’re reviewing our goal, and focusing on how to achieve it. We’re setting the guidelines for what we would expect if we expect success.  This metacognition has an effect size of 0.69. Notice I ask them to write about what worked or not as individuals first, then to discuss with the group, during which time students begin to learn to listen to opposing ideas and to agree or not in positive ways. Writing focuses one’s thinking, pulling the ideas together, both for individuals and as groups. These are key to both metacognition and to literacy learning  (Fisher, Frey, Hattie, 2016, p. 76). And because we are building guidelines, we move towards class cohesion, with an effect size of 0.53. I’m also guiding them in a problem to solve — what works for success in our group tasks. Problem-solving is 0.61. They need this guided activity more than once [which will occur over the next few days] in order to learn the techniques they need for self-generated problems  (Fisher, Frey, Hattie, 2016, p. 26). I’m not telling them how to behave, we’re figuring it out together based on the activities – what we will expect- back to goals for ourselves as learners.

  • Pull the class together and ask for a few quick responses from each list, without repeating

  • Listen for the key point and ask a clarifying question each time, to get at a specific example from their perspective; it’s my chance to be truly interested in their ideas

  • Ask students to go back and revise their lists to be more specific

  • Hang up the posters and give students dots to place by the most important “What Worked” strategies

  • Ask students to get or go to a computer to the class home page to link to a document “Learning Community Guidelines” with a table for “Our Guidelines”  Ask students to add things that we all should do based on the posters and experience to be successful at projects [students choose a row to add as many guidelines as they can]. If using paper, students each write their own but by discussing in groups to create their paper versions in their own notebook.

This is one of the most important parts of the lesson. It’s focused on the goals and also on the people, our community. Relationships develop when people know you care. I’m a pretty strict teacher in the sense that I’m diligent, and I expect the students to be diligent as well, and some kids don’t like to work that hard. But I know my students listen because days later, they’ll repeat or suggest some expectation or strategy I had mentioned as an alternative, in case the one I’m teaching doesn’t work for them. And they know that no matter what occurs — if there’s a bad day for either of us — they know I care that they succeed so the next day is good again. So this truly listening to their perspective and idea, and asking them to build on it is a key part of building that trust. And it serves literacy because we need that evidence and elaboration to prove our points. Here the expectation is set listen, to elaborate, to revise, to agree, speak up, disagree agreeably, and to help each other. We are learning and modeling and practicing the protocols that will guide us through the year together. This is also a formative assessment; I’m listening and acknowledging the ideas and providing feedback in the form of a question so the student can build their idea. I am communicating my expectation for elaboration, example, and details. Feedback’s effect size is .075. Feedback is specific, not praise – it’s a key strategy for improved learning (Fisher, Frey, Hattie, 2016, p. 17).

Another important aspect of this activity is the concept map created first by individuals and then as groups and finally as a class — What Works / What doesn’t. Students are analyzing and sorting ideas, a thinking strategy needed for deeper understanding. But it’s not the organizer that makes the thinking deeper — it’s what students do with the organizer that deepens learning. In this case, students discuss with the notes, elaborate and revise the notes, choose the most important, and then write from them.  This activity introduces them to a simple T-chart, one of many organizers that help think through complex ideas. Again, it sets the stage for what’s ahead. And it’s the using the notes that brings the deeper thinking  and deeper learning. The effect size for this use of concept maps is 0.60 (Fisher, Frey, Hattie, 2016, p. 80).

Another important point about class and group discussions is to encourage student to student conversations to clarify and carry the ideas further without the teacher as arbitrator of the conversation. At any time I can begin that journey by directing students to share together on a point, so we have just increased the impact on student learning. True classroom discussions like that has an effect size of 0.82! So step back whenever possible.

Students now have the knowledge to begin writing the guidelines for the community.

  • If guidelines are on the computer, randomly pick one group to edit to take out the duplicates; If guidelines are on paper, ask one student to type up each group’s list, editing for duplicates. The rest move on to the next task. For this task, choose a fast typer 🙂

  • Ask each student to make two lists of what we’ve done in the classroom so far:

    • A list of what the students did

    • A list of what the teacher did

  • Ask student groups to share make a list on poster paper of what we’ve done so far in the classroom

    • A list of what students did

    • A list of what teacher did

  • Put the edited learning community guidelines up and ask students if they are complete [teacher may add too]

  • Are they agreeable? Ask the students to type their name below the guidelines

  • Hang up  the  “What We Did” posters

  • Review the Community Guidelines with students but in the context of expectations for classroom protocol, which may include [we’ll review this over the week, so it doesn’t need to take long or be this complete on this day]:

    • Enter the room [tomorrow students will have their own copy of the Guidelines and a notebook to store in the room — which they need daily as part of entry]

      • Student

        • Be prepared — pens, pencils, papers, class notebooks, library books, all ready to go

        • Look for and complete entry task

        • If no entry task, read or write [on projects]

      • Teacher

        • Entry task ready

        • Reading  / Writing ready

        • Greets students / reviews work

    • Individual Work [student and teacher]

      • Quiet

      • On own

      • In own area

      • Distraction free

      • Teacher conferences

    • Group Work

      • Student

        • All participate

        • Listen

        • Discuss

        • Positive voices

        • Agree to disagree

        • Support with evidence

        • Invite all to participate

        • Roles [to be expanded on later [leader, timekeeper, statistician, recorder, morale officer]

      • Teacher

        • Monitors groups

        • Confers with groups

        • Feedback

      • Closing

          • Ask students what we will probably need to do to close our class:

            • Exit Thoughts

            • Clean areas

            • Computer protocol

            • Turn in

            • Class work away in own area

            • My rule: Stand by desks for dismissal

            • Last class: Stacks chairs and stands by desk

In this activity, we learn that the whole class will not always be working on the same activity — here we have two activities occurring that will help complete the project. And we review another organizer [teacher and student participation] based on the concept of classroom protocol expectations for both teacher and students. This will be another continuous conversation as different aspects of class needs occur [fire drills, phone calls, visitors, online safety, computer use, etc.]. It doesn’t happen in one day. We learn that we are flexible, and always learning — and that is an important understanding of a learning community. Because we learn these and add to the charts over several days, we begin to refer to them, revise them, and make them ours over time. Did you know that spaced practice as opposed to mass practice has an effect size of 0.71? That’s why we practice, not all at once, not in one day.

  • Exit Thoughts: What confuses you? What’s the most important thing you learned about being successful in this class? This can be on paper or in a Share Out document.  Students practice closing protocol.

Finally, the exit ticket, the formative assessment that tells me what the students know or not, another model for what we’ll be doing throughout the year, and most important, not for the students, but for me, the teacher. I will know the true impact of this day’s lessons, and know what to do tomorrow to make sure that for each student, I’m leading him or her on the path towards a successful year of learning. Formative assessment has an effect size of 0.90, but only if I use this information to inform my instruction. Of course, throughout the day, I’ve been conducting formative assessments while presenting information and getting feedback, while listening to groups, while managing discussions, and while interacting with individuals. I’ve been adapting the timing, the process, and the product of each step on the spot based on what students need. Perhaps a role-play was added to show how to have a discussion in groups or how to point out an error politely. Perhaps paper over computers, or vice versa. But the goal and the flow move forward to live these questions:

  • How do researchers investigate successfully?

  • What strategies and processes do collaborators need for success?

  • How do readers and writers determine and develop relevant, accurate, and complete topics?

  • How do publishers design and organize content for their audience and purpose?

  • Why and how do editors and speakers use and edit with the rules for standard English grammar and language ?

I’m in a dance with students, listening to their beat, and adjusting the learning path for their success. It’s a dance, not numbers, because it is what we do that matters; it is our community of learners that makes a difference in life. It’s a dance along a string I lay out, so students may discover their own steps and beat along it.

So, keep dancing and laying out that string — and think about how your strategies “by the numbers” and by your experience provide a pace that fits each student because you too know what works for your kids! And all the while, both you and your students grow and learn and improve together.

reciprocal teaching chomsky

Choose 2 Matter



Chomsky, Noam Review of The Young Socratics. Retrieved from Website, August, 2016.

Chomsky, Noam (1995). Excerpted from Class Warfare, 1995, pp. 19-23, 27-31 retrieved from website August, 2016.

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. New York: Macmillan, p181

Fisher, Douglas, Nancy Frey, and John Hattie. Visible Learning for Literacy, Grades K-12: Implementing the Practices That Work Best to Accelerate Student Learning.2016. Kindle

Marzano, R. and Toth, Michael. “Becoming a Reflective Teacher” Learning Sciences International Webinar, Retrieved 8.24.16

Hattie, J. Corrections in VL2.pdf. Ingham Intermediate School District Wiki Web, retrieved 8.24.16
Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning. New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group. Kindle

Hattie, John. Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. London: Routledge, 2012. Kindle

Cross-post here

This post is part of Margaret Simon’s blogging challenge.

Read more here.

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Sheri Edwards View All

Geeky Gramma ~~
Retired Middle School Language Arts/Media Teacher ~~
Writer and Thinker~~
Art from the Heart

2 thoughts on “#DigiLit Sunday Part 2 The Numbers Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: