Visible Learning

Visible learningIn the 2017 regional Canvas Conference held in Southern Methodist University, one of Instructure’s executives mentioned the use of “visible learning” strategies in Canvas. We conducted some research on the term and find that it may help improve student learning.

What is visible learning?

Visible learning is a term originally proposed by Professor John Hattie, Director of the Melbourne Educational Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Hattie conducted an analysis of over 50,000 studies and 800 meta-studies and first published its results in Visible Learning in 2008. He found that most methods of learning implemented in schools are effective to some degree, but the more important question is which methods are the most effective and the best for learning. In his analysis, Hattie concludes that visible learning has the potential to bridge the communication gap between faculty and students by aligning the perception of success with assessment and teaching. By making mutual expectations explicit, students become teachers of their own learning, and teachers become learners of their methods of teaching, which in turn allows them to take actions to optimize teaching performances. In other words, when students know the purpose of each assignment and the relevance of the overall course content and when teachers know exactly what students expect or struggle with, there is a higher likelihood of learning.

Practical tips for increasing “visible learning”

  1. Share exemplary work with students to show what successful student work looks like;
  2. Seek student feedback early or in the middle of the semester to improve teaching.
  3. Check student data in Canvas to identify main areas of problems with which students struggle.
  4. If students are struggling with a particular issue in their learning that cannot be easily explained using text, ask them to use alternative methods (including the use of screencasts) to demonstrate the issue.
  5. Always keep a question and answer channel open in your class for students to share struggles or successes in their learning process. Many online courses at ACU have a “question and answers” forum, or “student lounge” area for this purpose.
  6. Faculty can go to “student view” in Canvas (under course settings) to see what students see in their course. Take the course to see what works and what does not work.
  7. Have students present some portions of the course once in a while to see the content area from a teacher’s perspective.


We would like to thank Grace Lim from Psychology Department for her research on visible learning.


For additional resources about visible learning, please check here.