Visible Learning Feedback

Page No.: 
Book Writer & Publisher: 
John Hattie and Shirley Clarke. London: Routledge
Tim Murphey, Kanda University of International Studies

[John Hattie and Shirley Clarke. London: Routledge, 2019. pp. vii + 134. ¥3,383. ISBN: 978-1-138-59989-5.]

Reviewed by Tim Murphey, Kanda University of International Studies

Visible Learning: Feedback is quickly becoming a favorite. I teach university level courses and grad school teachers-in-training (MA and PHD students). I find that they need to be convinced that feedback from students can be one of the most powerful tools to show “Where to next (p. 1), (a phrase repeated many times in Visible Learning: Feedback which refers to the importance of using student feedback in order for the teacher to develop future class materials, design activities, and meet the needs of the students in the next class). The approximately 50 diagrams, charts, student-samples, and so forth also go a long way to helping readers grasp the importance of feedback.

When we teach classes, we often do not know exactly what students understand. Thus, if we can ask them the last 5 minutes of class to write what they think they learned today, what they did not understand, what they liked, and suggestions to the teacher, then we will get feedback that will tell us Where to next! I have long been using action logging myself (Murphey, 1993; Miyake-Warkentin, Hooper, & Murphey, 2020) and cannot imagine teaching without students guiding somewhat where to next!

Hattie’s (2008; 2012) Visible Learning book series is based firmly on his longtime evaluation methods of measuring effect sizes of a variety of learning activities and components as reported on by meta-analyses of scholarly articles. In 2008, he published Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement and in his 2012 book Visible Learning for Teachers, he ranked feedback at number 10 out of 150 influences on achievement (p. 266). Because his research is ongoing, the list changes from time to time as the field changes foci, and Hattie updates his data and meta-analyses. His latest book is on feedback, which was written in collaboration with another expert researcher in feedback (Shirley Clarke), speaks loudly and coherently for the importance of teachers getting feedback.

But let us be clear here, it is not so important that teachers need to give good feedback to students; it is the feedback that students give to teachers that is important. Hattie and Clarke (2019, p. 4) cite Hattie (2012) stating:

…The mistake I was making was seeing feedback as something teachers provided to students. I discovered that feedback is most powerful when it is from the student to the teacher.

The authors do a good job of covering the territory. They discuss clearly in Chapter 1 what is valuable feedback. They cite lots of research that shows that simply giving grades can keep students from learning. To students a good or bad grade means, “I’m done.” Encouragement for “next steps” (Where to next!) is valued and gets acted upon. Both positive and negative comments can be useful, but mostly teachers need to perceive what students need next. And the only way to do that is to get a lot of feedback from students as to what and how they are learning. For example, Hattie and Clark use a graphic (p. 6) to illustrate the feedback cycle and how effective feedback: 1) sparks learning; 2) flourishes in the right environment; 3) clarifies for students where they are going; 4) informs students how they are going; 5) highlights the next steps for improvement; 6) matches the needs of the learner; 7) promotes student self-regulation; and 8) flows bi-directionally between learners and teachers.

Chapter 2 covers how we can create feedback cultures in our classes and schools by putting principles into practice through formative assessment and attention to Dweck’s concept of growth mindset. Chapter 3 looks at Teaching and learning frameworks, such as the helpful quick review at the beginning of classes to bring everyone up to date and connect the past with the present and future. When teachers let their students know what they are going to teach and what they want them to learn, it’s a feed forward that helps them better understand where to next.

Chapter 4 covers when verbal feedback is useful and not. They note that “giving is not receiving” (p. 89) and that many students are just unable to grasp everything that the teacher says. Students letting a teacher know what is not understood should be complimented and encouraged. Chapter 5 covers Post-lesson feedback and recommends using exit cards that students fill out and give to the teacher just before leaving the class, similar to action-logging.

In summary, Visible Learning: Feedback has the potential to help teachers create valuable feedback loops that can greatly improve ourselves as teachers and allow students to tell us where to next?


Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Oxford: Routledge.

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on achievement. Oxford: Routledge.

Miyake-Warkentin, K., Hooper, D., & Murphey, T. (2020). Student action logging creates teacher efficacy. JALT 2019 Proceedings.      

Murphey, T. (1993). Why don’t teachers learn what learners learn? Taking the guesswork out with action logging. English Teaching Forum, 31(1) 6-10.