John Hattie on School Leadership

Show me your effect size!

Last week I transcribed a short video of a speech by Dylan Wiliam that celebrated the magnificently complex vocation that is teaching and how every teacher can improve – see here. At a similar time to watching the Dylan Wiliam video, and finding it struck a resonant chord, I read transcript of a speech given by John Hattie to school leaders in Auckland, New Zealand in 2002. John Hattie is now widely known for his seminal research undertaken for his data rich tome ‘Visible Learning‘, but this speech wasn’t known to me. When I read it, immediately key messages about leadership in schools, and the questions we should be asking about improving schools, emerged that I thought were worth sharing.

In a week when the Labour Shadow Secretary of Education, Tristam Hunt, has managed to alienate large swathes of his voting core with proposed legislation, you have to wonder about what solutions do have a chance to improve our schools. I think John Hattie’s ‘Six things School Leaders Should Know About Educational Research’ speech is closer to the mark than Hunt’s proposed teacher MOT.

The whole speech can be found here, but this summary from the document neatly condenses the key messages and pertinent questions:

1. The major difference Principals need to consider is Quality Teaching.

What success have you had on creating such a climate, and can you provide evidence of creating and valuing discussions among your teachers about their teaching?

2. We need to engage students.

How are you creating a safe psychological climate for engagement, for listening, and for developing a can-do climate for teachers and for students?

3. We need to create climates where quality teaching is the subject of conversation at all times.

Do you have high self-efficacy for managing change towards ensuring that quality teaching is the norm of discussion – How often is teaching the discussion topic in your school?

4. The school mission should be focused, exclude lots, and provide opportunities to learn challenging material.

What do you exclude so as to focus on the important and challenging?

5. You need to be an Instructional Leader – Instruct the staff, monitor their and the students progress.

What evaluation models are you constantly promoting to ask the question about whether your school is working to worthwhile goals?

6. Create positive home-school relationships.

How successful are you at making parents part of the answer not the problem of educational outcomes of your students and teachers?

Hattie poses crucial questions for school leaders here. These are questions that teachers should be asking, school leaders, middle leaders, teacher and Shadow Education Secretaries and more.

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Alex Quigley

I am Director of Learning and Research at Huntington Secondary School, York. I have taught English (including a bit of Media Studies) for over a decade. If it is tragic and gothic, laced with humour and bitter truths then I'll teach it! I am Project Lead of the RISE (Research-leads Improving Students' Education) Project. An EEF funded randomized controlled trial to evaluate if and how a Research-lead can improve outcomes for students. I am a proud member of the Institute for Effective Education (IEE) Executive Board at York University. I am also a proud member of the ResearchEd Advisory Panel. I write regularly for the TES and Teach Secondary magazine. My first book, 'Teach Now! Becoming A Great English Teacher' was released by Routledge in 2014 and my next book, entitled 'The Confident Teacher' will be out at the end of 2015.


  • Reply January 12, 2014

    Iain Hall

    Hi Alex
    I have read both the speech and your succinct summary. Excellent work and needs to be read (and implemented) by all school leaders

  • Reply January 12, 2014


    Being an instructional leader is more than just doing a few classroom walk-throughs. Without well-articulated feedback, CWTs have actually been shown to have detrimental effects on student learning.

  • Reply January 12, 2014

    Ram Gangisetty

    Great thoughts. I especially like the idea of creating culture of learning. When out discussions at school are centered around what & how to teach, results will be amazing. Thanks for the post.

    • Reply January 12, 2014

      Alex Quigley

      That is the one I am most interested in actually. So crucial, but underrated. School leaders need to make and find time for it to happen.

      • Reply February 9, 2014


        In my school, discussions about teaching and learning are virtually non existent. There is too much worry surrounding ‘dramatic conversations’ and people falling out over disagreements on pedagogy. Two other members of staff and I are extremely interested in formative assessment and doing more thinking about learning but are finding the responses we receive are things are working as they are (which is true) so why change anything?! No one considers that things could be even better.

        • Reply July 7, 2014


          Which country are u in? Within Australia AITSL standards have been developed. In order to be a lead teacher you have to be seen to be leading areas, collecting and analysing data to improve student outcomes. These scales set a high standard for even your most competent leaders/ teachers. Its about Growth Mindsets ~Carol Dweck.

          • Reply July 10, 2014

            Alex Quigley

            I teach in England Heidi. We have similar structures and our opposition party has just suggested a policy for ‘master teachers’ which covers similar ground. Dweck’s work is hugely popular over here too.

  • Reply January 12, 2014

    Bob Read

    Like you I feel I continue to learn an enormous amount from both Dylan Wiliam and John Hattie and I’m grateful to you for alerting me to the video clip. I think I may have seen the full Hattie speech at some stage but it will be great to mention your transcription and the link to the excerpt in a meeting with colleagues later this week. Both Wiliam and Hattie have some really key messages that Labour and Tory politicians really need to hear at this time. Thanks for all your work in maintaining a great blog!

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  • Reply January 23, 2014


    Leadership is actually a mix of several smaller yet extremely significant qualities. One needs to create a strong base on which the founding qualities can be laid, starting with hard work, confidence and most importantly, humility. Thanks for the great read…

  • Reply February 3, 2014

    Sara Hjelm

    Thanks a lot for that Hattie text. It was new to me too…

  • […] Full text […]

  • Reply July 7, 2014

    Shaun Killian

    A great summary of some excellent insight – thanks. I’m quite familiar with Hattie but the speech was new to me. I also appreciated the link to the full text.

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