JOHN HATTIE has spent his life studying the studies to find out what works in education. His advice to teachers? Just shut up.
Professor Hattie, appointed this year as the director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, says teachers need to stop spending 80 per cent of their time in class talking and start listening.
''When teachers stop talking deep learning takes place,'' he told a conference of educators at Parramatta yesterday.
''It's our concept of ourselves as teachers that we have knowledge and we need to impart it.
''Speaking 80 per cent of the time in conversation means I'm waiting for you to stop to have the chance to talk. In counseling you have to do the opposite, you have to listen and that's what I want teachers to do.''
What happens next is less clear. Professor Hattie, who has analyzed more than 800 studies assessing education strategies for 300 million children, says the research of how long teachers should talk has not been done.
''But I know it's not 80 per cent,'' he told the conference organized by Research Australia Development and Innovation Institute.
When they did shut up, Professor Hattie said, it should not be to give the class a task and sit at their desks but to engage closely and to listen - something teachers found incredibly difficult to do.
Instead they needed to share teaching with their students, which Professor Hattie said could begin from the first school years. Children should know the intention of each lesson and how to know if they were successful.
''I think it's fascinating that we have a profession where kids come to school to watch us work,'' he said.
When teachers wondered how to improve Professor Hattie suggested they look at what is traditionally thought of as the greatest waste of adolescent time - video games.
''In a video game, the game actually knows your prior achievement. It knows what you did last time, also how to set a target sufficiently above that to entice you to beat it. And it gives you a tremendous amount of feedback in the process of beating it,'' he said.
Professor Hattie said teaching children ''how to play the game of learning'' produced dramatically higher improvements than solutions typically sought by politicians, such as smaller classes, on which he ''wouldn't spend a penny''.
''Our job is to help teachers see learning through the eyes of kids,'' he said. ''And the great thing is when they do, teachers change.''