When Ali met Hattie… & Berger & Brighouse! By @ASTSupportAAli

On the 18th and 19th of November 2014 I attended the 5th annual Whole Education Conference in Kings Place, London.

The Whole Education network managed to invite some of the most inspiring educators that I can think of. I was therefore extremely fortunate to listen/speak to John Hattie, Ron Berger and Sir Tim Brighouse. I also attended a really intriguing workshop by Marcus Orluvsky.

The aim of this blog post is to share with you some of the amazing takeaways/messages from the conference. This is also my platform to reflect and refine my practice.

Please do comment and leave some feedback to create some dialogue about our beloved profession.


John Hattie:

Author of many books; most recently- Visible Learning and the Science of how we learn. (2013)

(There are lots of really informative videos on YouTube about some of Hattie’s work.) The above video talks specifically about effect sizes.

Hattie shared with us through the opening keynote and panel discussion many key ideas about learning and teaching. He spoke with a self-assurance that was pleasing. It felt certain. It was refreshing.

John Hattie- “Teachers are not researchers. They don’t have the time. They should be evaluators. They need to be able to show what they are doing and why.”
This really resonated with me. I mean, we are swamped down by all we do in education…
John Hattie- “Start with what you know? If you don’t start with evidence, then you begin with prejudice?”
Interesting message here. Does this mean, start with what IS KNOWN? Meaning, for to us as teachers to ask why we are actively pursuing a teaching method, a concept, a national framework or the latest trendy initiative. Hattie effect sizes information gives us a real insight to what works, what has no effect and what is actually detrimental to learning.
Hattie also made it clear, that the rumour that he admitted that his statistics were wrong, is not true! He explicitly said, “…you have to be careful of Twitter!”
Hattie called for all teachers to be a part of informed professionalism. I like that! I used to think it is OK to give with your gut, your instinct, with what you feel has worked. I have written a blog about What I Used To Think- here.
Immediately after Hattie spoke about teachers not being researchers, somebody tweeted this comment:
Teachers + Research = Reachers! 
I will leave you to decide what you think?
In my school, we have hired a ‘Research Champion’ (Oxford City Learning- OCL have organised this in each of their schools.) We also have several lead teachers who acts as research links to teachers. Thus, enforcing the point Hattie makes that we do not ALL have time, but we should be evaluating, without fail.These leads will carry out research, work alongside researchers and evaluate current research for us.
We do need to consider that we as teachers are all honing our skills. That there are a series of steps needed to climb up to reach our full potential. This takes time, we have many facets to develop and many areas to covers. Hattie speaks about the expectations on teachers to be excellent instantly. We need NQTs for example to be Outstanding to pass their NQT year, whereas Doctors, Dentists, Lawyers for example all have the ‘honing’ periods.
I know ResearchED and its movement, believe how important research is in Education. We, as a teaching profession are also feeling more inclined to KNOW research, to USE research and to be more INVOLVED with it.
Nevertheless, time or no time as a result of this ‘new’ found need I think most of us have made it our business of knowing about research, for example, the Education Endowment Foundation and their toolkit. Or the latest Sutton Trust- what makes great teaching.
Hattie also spoke about making parent ‘co-producers’ of school work, as opposed to simply ‘monitors of homework.’
This is a message I feel we all believe in. However, some of the most challenging students I encounter daily, have even more challenging parents. Maybe because of their experience of education?
Hattie also shared with us his proposed model of learning… His 7 stages… (He told us, there would be more information to follow!)
  1. Inputs– this is us- the teacher, internet, books…
  2. Learning– what happens in the lesson, how we are taught…
  3. The coat-hanger– the hook, or what I refer to as the Eureka moment?
  4. Surface knowledge- this begins with the initial understanding, the whistle stop element of the learning
  5. Deep learning– the ability to use higher cognitive skills?
  6. Transfer– the application of this learning to an examination? Controlled Assessment?
  7. Outcomes– where the outcome takes us? A job? Profession?

To me that model seems like, well, good teaching! However, the ‘Deep Learning’ section is the one that normally gets shunted out the way with our time constraints.

Another gem Hattie shared with us referred to the notion of assessment. He spoke about assessment being the method of us, as teachers assessing our impact. Not necessarily to judge what the students have done. Is this the way we actually see assessment?


Professor Sir Tim Brighouse:

I wrote about how lucky I have been to spend time with Sir Tim Brighouse here. He is the Head of Governors at our Multi Academy Trust Primary School. He is also the keynote speaker alongside Viv Goddard- @VicGoddard at our annual Teachmeet this December 18th. Sir Tim is an all round amazing person! Having worked in Oxford, London and Birmingham in School improvement and the author of many books such as the A-Z of School Improvement.

I had a cup of Tea with Sir Tim and we spoke briefly about setting by ability in education and about our shared dislike for it.

He then shared with me a story, which he often does, with such passion, power and belief.

Sir Tim Brighouse; “If I ask students who their best teacher is at marking and giving them feedback. They often tell me it is the teacher who tells them what they have got right and how well they are doing. However, I think it is the teacher whose students know, after having their books marked how to improve themselves.

I briefly reflected on this being our aim as teachers. We all want to get our students to know how to do better, we need to give them time to do this. DIRT time is a small element of this.

Later, at the end of the conference Sir Tim was the key note speaker during the evening meal. He spoke about getting rid of the gaps in education by creating a revolution. Instead of creeping through the gaps in the hedges, lets all simply storm the hedge down! I love this analogy. My role, Director of Inclusion and its aims really does need a revolution!


Ron Berger: Chief Academic Officer for Expeditionary Learning.

Ron was amazing to meet and speak to! Pete Jones aka @Pekabelo and I both shook his hand with a grateful appreciation for what Ron has taught us.

If you are not familiar with Ron’s work, then watch this short video clip about Critique- Austin’s Butterfly.

Ron Berger- “Amazing teaching takes place when teachers share what’s working for them and what’s not working. Struggling and supporting each other, now that, has a large effect size.

This links to Sir Tim Brighouse’s concept of what makes Outstanding Schools.

Amongst sharing the value of more than simplistic project based learning and interdisciplinary learning, Berger also stressed the message of keeping a ‘Crew‘ in your school, departments, subjects, students. He spoke passionately about keeping everyone together, being responsible for one another. Being dependent on one another. Again, this links to Sir Tim’s thoughts of the teaching profession needing to be more collegiate.

Does this contrast with this message of promoting independent learning? I believe that students need to learn independence before learning about what independent learning actually is. But, I guess that is for another blog.

Overall I was simply blown away by the passion of Ron Berger, you could easily tell he was an amazing teacher, a humble leader and a caring individual.

Ron Berger: “Going deep and caring deep; You are not sacrificing the current currency about what people measure.”

This is it for me word perfect! Berger argued that teachers may say they do not have time in their curriculum to get students to repeat and become perfect. He countered this by stating all his students, yes, ALL his students in his schools do exceptionally well. Go figure…

Berger closed his keynote with the analogy of his education being like a train journey, where he whizzed through his learning as if he was looking through the train window. He reinforced the message that learning should be deep, students should be asked to be perfect. But, to get there eventually, not be expected to be there instantly.

Click here for more information on his Train Journey talk.

What really stuck with me was his idea the fact that all students are innately the same; they can all do well. They can all succeed. The type of student we have in our school is irrelevant, it is the type of teaching and learning we provide that is crucial. Hattie confirms this through his research too. Brighouse believes this with a passion also. However, many thousands of teachers will state, but they are low ability, or that student can’t do well because of…


Hattie described himself as a metra analysist, a researcher. Brighouse is somebody who empowers others and Ron is an amazing teacher. Imagine the three of these came together in all of us..? Well, they can. Read their work, listen to their messages and apply them to your context… Simple?! 🙂


Some other take away messages from the conference…

Sitting in a workshop being led by @MarcusOluvsky he made me think, is it OK to fail? Is it OK to say the wrong thing in front of others? I mean when a question was asked, I didn’t think, oh, well I will give it a go, if I get it wrong, I will not be judged by anyone here. So why do we expect students to just give it a go? Let them fail then sail etc!

However, mistakes are so important in education. If students all come to school to reaffirm what they know, have they learnt anything? Shouldn’t students make mistakes to then learn?

He also made me think about this comment…

Marcus Oluvsky “Young people need relationships, the most disaffected join gangs to have relationships.”

Are these the students we shun away? Can’t connect with? Find it difficult to bond with? Here I have written a blog about Some Difficulties our students face.

Oluvsky also told us that children spend 7 hours a day with us, in school. They have 17 hours away from us… I don’t think we appreciate how big that gap is? I always had the feeling that we see students often more than their parents… In some cases we do. But, we need to continue their learning past our school gate. Oluvsky called for a 24 hour teacher to be available, be it virtually to answer all students questions. I would argue this is the internet? But, it is not as simple as asking Google.


I will be writing another post in collaboration with my students, linked to how my students ended this Whole Education conference with a speech about what in their opinion is an Education Worth Having- #EdWorthHaving.

They worked closely with @Humanutopia to complete this…

It was also great to meet @Pekabelo and @Dan_Brinton! And Emilio!


P.S- My name is Amjad Ali! Follow me on Twitter- @ASTSupportAAli



  1. […] L- Learning Styles- Visual? Audio? Kinaesthetic? I have included this to represent the many ‘new initiatives’ that teachers are often introduced too. However, thanks to an extensive drive to incorporated my evidence informed practice, many are now debunked. Leadership teams should be careful with whole school drives without be evaluators of research. […]

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