HIGH IMPACT LEARNING: A researched-based conclusion to how students learn best.

Published: April 18, 2023 3:21PM PDT    |   Updated: April 20, 2023 3:21PM PDT 

Published: April 18, 2023 3:21PM PDT
Updated: April 20, 2023 3:21PM PDT 

School Post-Covid

It has been three years since the onset of the pandemic, when children across the globe experienced major disruptions to their educational programmes. Teachers and families at all levels (elementary, secondary, post-secondary) are now grappling with adjusting to helping students make up for those learning losses. With many factors to consider, including core competencies, curricular content, and social learning, navigating this complex landscape is not an easy task.

How does one take this on? I like to begin with the end in mind. For us, this means considering the desired traits of an Alcuin graduate. Through workshops with members of our community, we came up with: An Alcuin graduate embodies responsibility and critical thinking.

Background: Hattie’s Research and Findings

In 2008, John Hattie’s book Visible Learning, explored what helps students learn best. Based upon thousands of studies, he found that “among six groups of factors influencing successful learning in schools – the student, home, school, teacher, curricula and teaching – teachers seemed to have the strongest in-school effect.” This has not changed, post-covid. In his soon-to-be-released follow-up book, Visible Learning: The Sequel, he analyzed results from more than 130,000 studies with the participation of more than 400 million students aged three to 25, mainly from developed countries.

“It confirms the finding that high-impact is still the most important factor when it comes to student learning. This describes teachers who focus on the impacts of their teaching and who work together with other educators to critique their ideas about impact – about what was taught well, who was taught well, and the size of the improvement.”

Hattie states in his book that “Visible teaching and learning occurs when learning is the explicit goal, when it is appropriately challenging, when the teacher and student both seek to ascertain whether and to what degree the challenging goal is attained, when there is deliberate practice aimed at attaining mastery of the goal, when there is feedback given and sought, and when there are active, passionate and engaging people participating in the act of learning.”


An ideal Alcuin graduate is a responsible young adult, who values and embodies initiative, flexibility, humility, resilience and integrity.

An Alcuin graduate

  • is empathetic, ethical and reliable
  • makes decisions thoughtfully based on values, and acts with courage, commitment and care for both self and others
  • is able to work independently as well as in a team, to listen as well as to speak
  • values respect, civility and inclusion in relationships with other people and understands that one’s responsibilities encompass the interests of the wider community as well as of the individual.

An ideal Alcuin graduate is a critical thinker, who values and embodies creativity, curiosity, knowledge, rationality, and imagination.

An Alcuin graduate

  • is confidently equipped with the critical and intellectual skills and breadth of knowledge necessary to navigate and thrive in a complex and rapidly changing world
  • reads, investigates and explores widely, evaluates information critically, forms and asserts beliefs based on evidence, and understands that rigorous inquiry demands that one be receptive to multiple and often competing perspectives.

Children join our school at various places along the continuum of traits, with different prior learning experiences. How do we move them towards these ideal goals?


High Impact Learning is our secret sauce. This approach is researched extensively by education expert John Hattie, and he confirms that teachers have one of the strongest in-school effects. At Alcuin, we focus on our teachers. In our highly personalized environment, our teachers connect with their students and are thoughtful about their impact.

At Alcuin, we believe the most important thing for teachers to do is to have high expectations for all students. Our teachers are very clear with their students about the content and goals of their learning. We believe that it is also important for teachers to work with other teachers to see different sides of their impact on students and different ways for them to succeed in their teaching. It is beneficial for teachers to consciously align their teaching methods, activities, assessments, feedback, with either the acquisition of knowledge or discovering of ideas.

This doesn’t mean every day is perfect for every student. But it does mean that we are constantly trying, together. According to Hattie, effective instruction cannot take place without proper feedback from students to teacher on the effectiveness of the instruction, and the effectiveness of teaching increases when teachers act as activator instead of as facilitator. We at Alcuin believe that what teachers think is more important than what they do, and it is important that our teachers modify and adapt, and make the school or class an inviting place to come, learn, master, and enjoy learning.

We provide students with a safe environment in which to learn and explore their boundaries. They are seen by their teachers and are supported when they make mistakes. We believe that every child is a learner, is teachable, can grow, and can be taught to love learning. Students have expectations, and the educator’s role is to help students exceed what they think is their potential. Students need to be taught to take on challenges, with safety nets when they fail.

At Alcuin, students, parents, and teachers engage in regular dialogue about learning. It is confirmed by Hattie’s research that parental expectation about learning is among the most powerful in terms of home influences. We encourage parents to talk to their children about their learning at school and home and to promote a “language and love of learning”.

Post-covid, education has been more complex than ever. We have been shown the critical importance of schools and teachers to students’ learning and to their psychosocial health and wellbeing, and we have also noticed the benefits of incorporating technology in students’ learning. At Alcuin, we believe that our emphasis on teachers will deliver High Impact Learning outcomes for our students, and for our students to be responsible young adults with excellent critical thinking skills.

Stella Ablett
Head of School

Hattie, J. (2023) Education expert John Hattie’s new book draws on more than 130,000 studies to find out what helps students learn, The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/education-expert-john-hatties-new-book-draws-on-more-than-130-000-studies-to-find-out-what-helps-students-learn-201952 .




If you have more questions, you can schedule a 15 minute call with Penny Dundas or book a School Tour to learn more about our school and find out if Alcuin is the right fit for your child.


200-1046 St Georges Avenue North Vancouver BC V7L 3H6
© 2023 by Alcuin College. All rights reserved.
© 2023 by Alcuin College. All rights reserved.