Is it possible to make learning visible?

16 May, 2019


Corwin logo- visible learning

Learning is too often thought of as an individual experience. Most testing and assessment is designed around this notion. When Graham Nutall wired up classrooms and investigated the experience he found most, 80%+, of feedback was peer to peer and most of it was ‘wrong.’ It became clear to him that the learning process was incredibly difficult to decipher.

When learning is individualised, what we have is a complex undertaking with back steps, loops and leaps that iterate towards a greater understanding and clarity. Some of this may be retained (taken into long-term memory). Less will be easy to recall when required. We know that over-learning and deliberate practice, alongside interleaving, pre-testing, chunking and memory techniques seem to aid this process, particularly if we test for the learning in a format such as an examination.

We know less about the long term use of learning in this format. We also know that whilst Cognition is useful, tacit learning also has a place. It may seemingly be a less efficient process, but it may have longer term benefits that outweigh that of sharpened intellect. We don’t yet know. We can be fairly certain that this deepening process requires different techniques to surface knowledge acquisition.

The holy grail of learning seems to be around transfer. It’s one thing to get learning, a second to have it retained, a third to be able to interrelate and manipulate it within known contexts but it’s quite another to take it from one context to another and see patterns and forge new insights.

What if by making learning a collective experience, this was more possible? What if it was the human interactions that caused the learning to develop in specificity? That nuances became more profound? That acquisition of knowledge and facts were seen as hypotheses rather than foreclosure?

We already know that dialogue is valuable in the learning process. Yet this is just one dimension in a collective experience.

In Visible Learning, Professor John Hattie attempts to make sense of the learning process. The accompanying animation demonstrates how this process works across a large organisation. How we learn tomorrow may be very different from how we learn today.

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