Our understanding of the classroom has changed over the years. We're often given conflicting arguments as to which factors are the most influential in determining positive learning outcomes.

We're going to take a look at the different factors affecting student learning, keeping John Hattie's Visible Learning in mind. For the sake of clarity, neutral or 'typical' factors that have no measurable impact will be ignored. More about that here.

What impacts learning?

Three Levels of Teacher Impact

When asked what impacts learning the most, Professor John Hattie said that teachers were the primary factor influencing student achievement. Hattie expanded, arguing that student engagement is a positive result of teacher effectiveness.



Hattie's study suggested that the effectiveness of factors contributing to student learning can be classified into three groups:

  1.  Low: Very little or no impact on achievement. Typically detrimental to student learning.
  2. Typical: Average, or slight impact on achievement. Neutral effect.
  3.  High: Very high, or huge impact on achievement. Always Positive to student learning outcomes.

Low Impact

The study suggests that student-based issues, such as mental state, motivation, and personality had a low impact on student achievement, and in most instances negatively affected results. These included:

  1. Depression
  2. Surface Motivation and Approach
  3. Deafness
  4. ADHD 
  5. Sleep

Other factors include family dynamics and physical influences. Most of which were outside the teachers control. Low, and even a negative impacts on student learning were also effected by teachers:

  1. Repeating classes/ years
  2. Labeling Students
  3. Having low expectations


High Impact

The top range of factors, which greatly accelerated learning were contributed by the teacher themselves, or by teaching/instruction strategies. These included:

  1. Teacher Attribute Strategies 
  2. Emphasizing Learning Intentions and Strategies
  3. Emphasizing Feedback

The students and the school itself also played a factor in:

  1. Prior Knowledge and Background Content
  2. Beliefs, Attitudes, Dispositions of Students Leadership Programs and Initiatives 
  3. Seeking Help from Peers


Studies, such as those performed by Professor Hattie suggest that the teacher is the main source of positive influences of student achievement. According to Hattie, teachers should exhibit favorable traits such as:

  1. Passion about helping their students learn
  2. Forging strong relationships with their students 
  3. Being clear about what they want their students to learn 
  4. Adopting evidence-based teaching strategies
  5. Actively seek to improve their own teaching 

Hattie suggests that teacher effectiveness results from 8 mind frames.  More on these mind frames below:




Teachers have the potential to have the greatest influence on their students' outcomes. Reflecting on teaching strategies is one of the most powerful methods teachers can use to empower their students.

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