Matching Digital Tools with Evidence-Based Strategies

Learn how to use digital tools in ways that enhance evidence-based strategies.

We are going to dig deeper into Dr. John Hattie's work. His meta-analyses are considered definitive by many on what works (and what doesn't) in classrooms today.

  1. Watch the Video

John Hattie developed a way of synthesizing various influences in different meta-analyses according to their effect size (Cohen’s d). In his ground-breaking study “Visible Learning” he ranked 138 influences that are related to learning outcomes from very positive effects to very negative effects.

Hattie found that the average effect size of all the interventions he studied was 0.40. Therefore he decided to judge the success of influences relative to this ‘hinge point’, in order to find an answer to the question “What works best in education?

2. Surface, Deep, and Transfer Learning

"What and when are equally important when it comes to instruction that has an impact on learning.

Approaches that facilitate students' surface-level learning do not work equally well for deep learning, and vice versa.

Matching the right approach with the appropriate phase of learning is the critical lesson to be learned."

- Hattie, Fisher and Frey (Visible Learning for Mathematics, 2017)

More On Surface, Deep, and Transfer Learning

Surface learning does not mean superficial learning. Rather, surface learning is a time when students initially are exposed to concepts, skills, and strategies. Surface learning is critical because it provides a foundation on which to build as students are asked to think more deeply.

We define deep learning as a period when students consolidate their understanding and apply and extend some surface learning knowledge to support deeper conceptual understanding . . . We think of this as a 'sweet spot' that will often take up more instructional time, but can be accomplished only when students have the requisite knowledge to go deeper.

Transfer learning [is] the point at which students take their consolidated knowledge and skills and apply what they know to new scenarios and different contexts. It is also a time when students are able to think metacognitively, reflecting on their own learning and understanding.

Source: Hattie, Fisher and Frey (Visible Learning for Mathematics, 2017)

3. Exploring HES Instructional Strategies

Ready to explore some high-effect size (HES) instructional strategies? Here are a few for your consideration. This section is excerpted from the blog entry on Coaching for Results, Part 4.

Core factor

These include strategies that impact all learning. Some include:

Surface Learning

At this stage, you introduce students to concepts, skills, and/or strategies. Think of it as building a strong foundation. Strategies seek to help student gain requisite knowledge needed to move forward to deep learning. Some sample strategies include:

Deep Learning

In this category, strategies assist students gain a deeper conceptual understanding. A few favorites include:

Transfer Learning

As you might imagine, students must finally apply what they know to new scenarios and contexts. Students should also be metacognitive, reflective on their learning.

Strategies that typify this include the following:

Remember to ask yourself, “What will you and your students be doing in the lesson?” This will assist you.

This strategy is defined as the idea that readers who establish more connections between a text and their prior knowledge, thereby creating a cognitive map, improve comprehension and recall.

Students who employ learning strategies or study skills that enable them to do the following gain learning benefits:

  • Acquire, record, organize, synthesize, remember information

  • Skim, identify relevant information, take notes

  • Study materials for a test

Model note-taking, outlining, and skimming information for your students. Make YOUR thinking visible to empower them to do the same. Put a system in place that students can use daily.

One Example: Cornell Note-Taking

4. Matching Strategies to Digital Tools

Action Step #1: Develop and Pre-Assess Learning Outcomes

Focusing on learning outcomes enables both teacher and coach to develop student-centered goals. What’s more, focusing on learning outcomes lets you connect to standards-based goals. Weston suggests several questions. One of the important ones is What priority standards will you focus on? If you were going to write these as “I can” statements for students, what would they look like?

Action Step #2: Select Your High-Effect Size Instructional Strategy

In this action step, you will reflect on the academic standards and skills you want students to know. Weston suggests asking questions that are quite practical. For example, which specific HES instructional strategy will you leverage to meet goals?

Remember to consider these questions:

  • Where are your learners in their learning?

  • Where are they going?

  • How will they get there?

Action Step #3: Decide on the Digital Tool(s)

For ed tech advocates, the rush to select a digital tool is strong. So many tech tools are available now, it’s tempting to use as many as possible. However, focus on only ONE digital tool to use with students. Later, you can app-smash but it has to be in service of learning.

Action Step #4: Craft Your Lesson Procedure

“Plan your lesson, every activity, thinking through what your students will do.” Words of insight from a few years ago via my colleague, Diana Benner. I was in the throes of planning out a workshop that strained complexity. Whomever your audience for lesson design, put yourself in the place of your students.

Action Step #5: Post-Assess Student Learning and Reflect

What student data will inform teacher instructional practices? For many educators, learning to analyze state assessment data as a team is familiar. Others may find they need more personalized data. For this, they may rely on a variety of assessment tools, many of which are available online. Some are tech-based, but others can be paper-and-pencil or other.

View Formative Assessment Image (Slide 16)

The goal of these assessments is to gain insight into what students know before instruction. It is also to gain insight into what they have learned after instruction. Use assessments to adjust instruction as well to meet the needs of students


Ready to explore how Kieschnick blended high-effect size instructional strategies with technology? Here are a few for your consideration: