Part I of a series on student achievement: What is the student’s role?

Part I of a series on student achievement: What is the student’s role?

Dr. Jeffrey L. Mitchell / Currey Ingram Academy

What if you could combine the results of 50,000 studies into one study that specifies the key factors for learning and student achievement?

Dr. Jeffrey L. Mitchell

What if you could combine the results of 50,000 studies into one study that specifies the key factors for learning and student achievement?

As I introduced last month, researcher John Hattie’s Visible Learning study did just this. It is the largest-ever collection of research into what actually works to improve learning.

It is called Visible Learning because Hattie provides visible and objective evidence to build and defend a model of teaching and learning.

Hattie found that there were 138 influences on student achievement (variables) that could be classified into six general categories that influence how well students learn. Those categories are:

  • The student
  • The home environment
  • The school environment
  • The curricula
  • The teacher
  • Teaching strategies

I focused on the role of the student last month. In this article, I will focus on the home environment.

How We Can Help From Home

Parental Involvement

There are a number of interesting findings about the impact of parents on student achievement. Results show that parent expectations seem to be the most important influence on student achievement in this category of variables. Students benefit when parents communicate consistently, through words and modeling, about how important school, learning, reading, etc., are without resorting to an authoritarian approach. In fact, these expectations can overcome other potential hurdles.

The research also shows that being purposeful and offering a variety of stimulating play and learning opportunities have a positive impact. For example, I am convinced that the many, many hours we spent playing board and card games with our two sons helped enhance their language, math and reasoning skills. I am also convinced that they benefited from the many, many, many hours we spent discussing various assignments while they were captive in a car driving to and from “away” hockey games.

So, yes, parents can help. However, the research shows that we parents must be careful. There are negative effects when parents’ involvement becomes too much like surveillance. When parents rigidly monitor homework, television time, and social time, their students’ educational aspirations can be negatively affected.

Television: Too Much Can Hurt

Thousands of studies have assessed the impact of television. The truth is that the overall impact on a student’s academic achievement is small, with some caveats. It is important to consider the amount of television students are watching. Research indicates that there were slightly positive effects on achievement if viewing is kept to a modest 10 hours per week. Not surprisingly, the more viewing increases, the more achievement suffers. While it is true that there is good television and bad television, watching a lot of television simply takes away from time that the student could be involved with other achievement-related activities, such as reading. [1]

Knowing the Language of Schooling Can Mitigate Socioeconomic Status

Socioeconomic Status (SES) has been long studied as an influential variable on achievement. The three most common SES variables are parental income, parental education, and parental occupation. These three variables are hard to turn around overnight, especially when someone is in a cycle of hardship. Yet, if any one of these is higher, it is more likely that student achievement increases.

On a bright note, the research shows that the impact of low SES can be mitigated when parents learn the language of schooling. Researchers found major benefits by giving families computers and employing former teachers as home-to-school liaison officers. These people helped parents learn how to assist their children to attend to and engage in learning, and how to speak with teachers and school personnel. Doing so introduces a language and set of cultural norms with which many parents are not familiar – a fine example of knowledge is power.

The Take-Away

Being involved (but not overbearing), offering your child a variety of learning experiences, communicating your values around education, limiting your child’s screen time, and learning the language of schooling (despite your socioeconomic status) are all research-based ways to help your children achieve more.

Next month we will discuss what research tells us about the school environment. Meanwhile, if you have any thoughts, feel free to reach out to me at

1) This megastudy did not look at the impact of video games. I this we can safely make the assumption that quality and quantity (not too much) are factors that relate to all “screen time” in today’s world.


John Hattie is Professor of Education at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. This summary refers to his book Visible Learning (2009).

Dr. Jeffrey L. Mitchell is the head of school for Currey Ingram Academy. “Extra Credit” is provided each month by Currey Ingram Academy to help parents at all schools and at all stages of the parenting journey.

Currey Ingram Academy is a private K-12 day school for bright students with learning differences and unique learning styles. For more information, click here.

Earlier Extra Credit columns:

About The Author

Kelly Gilfillan is the owner-publisher of Home Page Media Group which has been publishing hyperlocal news since 2009.

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