John Hattie’s 5 Keys To Teaching With Intent

Nov 26, 2023 | Teaching

John Hattie’s 5 Keys To Teaching With Intent

by Drew Perkins, Director of ThoughtStretchers Education

Effective teaching is a tall task with plenty of moving parts so having clarity about some of the most important variables in the process is key. In Visible Learning: The Sequel, John Hattie makes the case for “teaching with intent” and  In a nutshell, this means intentionally aligning the elements of lessons and units for maximum impact. Regardless of what our intended outcome is, we must have a deep understanding of the five components pulled from chapter 11 of Hattie’s book below.

1. Curriculum, learning progressions, knowledge of what success looks like (in the time available), and learning intentions.

2. Cognitive task analysis involves successfully analyzing the steps required to complete a cognitive task. It involves knowing the surface, deep, and transfer knowledge and the learning strategies required for success at each level.

3. Where students are, where they have come from, and their trajectories of learning.

4. Provision of teaching interventions and feedback to reduce the learning gap from where the students commence to the desired success criteria.

5. An evaluation strategy (including assessment) for monitoring your implementation and impact on students during and at the end of the lessons). Feedback to teachers’ rules.

Knowing the cognitive path we want students to traverse and what it will look like when they’re successful is similar to the backward design ideas expressed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe in their Understanding by Design work. We also advocate for this in our PBL workshops and this shows up in the first of the 5 phases of PBL I’ve written about previously.

A big part of that cognitive path planning requires us to consider the cognitive complexity of the work we’re asking students to engage with and their prior academic achievement. Planning our scaffolded teaching without this information likely will leave a gap between what the learners need and what the teacher is offering. Some educational advocates claim that one approach is more effective than others but this is only true if the approach is aligned with the intended outcome.

The major reason for introducing the notion of intent to teach is to avoid these claims about one teaching method vs. another (e.g., explicit vs. unguided, DI vs. PBL). Instead, it highlights the importance of choosing a method that is intentionally aligned with the success criteria of a lesson — particularly when focused on knowing-that, knowing-how, or knowing-with outcomes. – John Hattie 

Effective teachers are constantly assessing and evaluating student thinking and learning in order to be responsive. There are many valid and useful ways to assess student learning, including formal and informal, teachers who engage in effective facilitative questioning are able to get what is in the heads of students out so they can react constructively while also helping to grow a culture of inquiry that I believe is highly valuable in our work to prepare students for the problems of the modern world.

I was fortunate to talk with John Hattie about “teaching with intent” and much more in podcast episode #335, May 10th of 2023 embedded above (this episode was published before we changed our name from ThoughtStretchers Education PD to ThoughtStretchers Education). Between my reading of the book we discussed and our conversation I am more persuaded than ever that understanding these vital principles is key to choosing the highest-effect teaching methods and strategies based on research and evidence.

Whether you’re planning a PBL experience for your learners or a more traditional lesson or unit where their learning is focused more on important surface knowledge your students will benefit from your clarity on these important components.


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