What are the top 10 classroom interventions?

Transforming evidence based research into realistic classroom practice.

 (Put simply, what are the best bets for improving the learning of children?)

Last week I attended a training day in London entitled “Research for Learning (RfL)”. You may well be aware of the research that the title refers to: namely the work of the Sutton Trust embodied in its Toolkit, and the work of John Hattie, a book entitled ‘Visible Learning For Teachers’. In case you are not familiar with the research, each analyses a range of classroom interventions and assesses the ‘effect size’ of over 130 interventions. The ‘effect size’ is a measurement of how a particular intervention can assist a pupil in making additional progress over and above what you would normally expect during a school year. If an intervention has an effect size of 0.5 it would be the equivalent of 6 months additional progress. In this blog you will find an outline of the top ten interventions, and over the next few weeks we will upload some practical strategies for implementing these interventions.

Why now?

 1. In 2012 Professor John Hattie published Visible Learning for Teachers. This book synthesized the results of more than fifteen years research involving millions of students and represented the biggest ever collection of evidence-based research into what actually works in schools to improve learning.

2. In July 2013 the updated Sutton Trust/EEF Toolkit was published. The Toolkit is an accessible summary of educational research, which provides guidance for teachers and schools on how to use their resources to improve the attainment of pupils. The Toolkit currently covers 33 topics, each summarised in terms of their average impact on attainment, the strength of the evidence supporting them and their cost.

3. In May 2013, the Department for Education published a review, led by Dr Ben Goldacre, looking at the role of research, analysis and data within public services. The paper, ‘Building evidence into education’, suggests that research into “which approaches work best” should be embedded as seamlessly as possible into everyday activity in education. It argues that high-quality research into what works best can improve outcomes, benefitting pupils and increasing teachers’ effectiveness.

Why RfL? (Research for Learning)

The best hope for results to improve is to improve the quality of teaching in the classroom- how do we know? Because the data is now available to support this statement.

The essential similarity between The Sutton Trust and Hattie’s work is the role of feedback in terms of what really works – in the Sutton Trust it’s top of their list of interventions and is focused on effective feedback in the traditional sense of teacher getting information on the progress of their pupils towards learning goals, whereas Hattie sees feedback in a broader context – the teacher gaining feedback on the effectiveness of their own teaching as well as ‘seeing’ what the learner has and has not learnt. The central difference between the Sutton Trust and Hattie’s work is essentially scale and audience. The Sutton Trust considers 33 interventions whilst Hattie extends his list as far as 138! The Sutton Trust is intended for a UK audience whereas the Hattie research is international.

Full list of Sutton Trust interventions:


Full list of Hattie’s interventions:


When the two pieces of research are merged they produce the top 10 classroom interventions based on their ‘effect sizes’.



 1.     FEEDBACK: (Sutton Trust and Hattie report an effect size of 0.8 and 1.13 respectively)

Of note, it is not just the feedback from teacher to student but rather more powerful is the feedback given from student to teacher. Feedback can be verbal, written, from tests, or by means of ICT. It can from a teacher, or someone taking a teaching role (e.g. peers). This was part of the rationale behind AfL.

 2.     MICROTEACHING:  (Hattie reports an effect size of 0.8)

This is the recording of a lesson with a subsequent debriefing. The lesson is reviewed in order to improve the learning and teaching experience. Invented in the 1960’s at Harvard University by Dr Dwight Allen, it is an established teacher-training procedure in many universities and schools.

 3.     LEARNING INTENTIONS: (Hattie reports and effect size of 0.52)

Clearly communicating the intentions of the lesson and the success criteria.

 4.     DIRECT INSTRUCTION: (Hattie reports and effect size of 0.59)

What we would describe as ‘teacher centred’ rather than ‘student centred’ teaching. It is traditional rather than discovery learning. “Teacher decides the learning intentions and success criteria, makes them transparent to students, demonstrates by modelling, evaluates if they understand by checking understanding, and retelling them what they have told by tying it all together with closure” (Hattie 2009).

 5.     META COGNITION AND SELF REGULATION: (Sutton Trust and Hattie both report an effect size of 0.69)

Often called ‘Learning to Learn’ strategies – usually achieved by teaching pupils specific strategies to set goals, monitor and evaluate their own leaning. Overall these strategies involve being aware of one’s own strengths and weaknesses as a learner, such as developing self-assessment skills, and being able to set and monitor goals. They also include having a repertoire of strategies to choose from or switch to during learning activities.

 6.     PEER TUTORING: (Sutton Trust and Hattie report an effect size of 0.45–0.52, and 0.54 respectively)

Using a range of approaches in which learners work in pairs or small groups to provide each other with explicit teaching support.

 7.     SECONDARY HOMEWORK: (Sutton Trust and Hattie report an effect size of 0.36–0.44, and 0.43 respectively)

Beneath these averages, there is huge variation suggesting how the homework is set is likely to be very important. Evidence suggests that the most effective homework was an integral part of learning rather than an add-on (home learning rather than home work). To optimise impact it appears to be important that students are provided with high quality feedback on their work.

8.     COLLABORATIVE LEARNING: (Sutton Trust and Hattie report an effect size of 0.36–0.44, and 0.5 respectively)

This is students working together in a group small enough for everyone to participate on a collective task that has been clearly assigned. This can be a joint task where group members do different aspects of the task but contribute to a common outcome. Or a shared task where group members work together throughout the activity.

 9.     MASTERY LEARNING: (Sutton Trust and Hattie report an effect size of 0.36–0.44, and 0.5 respectively)

Mastery learning chunks learning content into units with clear objectives, which are pursued until they are achieved. Learners work through each block, and must demonstrate ‘mastery’ (typically and 80% test result) before they progress on to new content. This approach can be contrasted with other approaches which require pupils to move through a curriculum at a pre-determined pace. Teachers seek to avoid unnecessary repetition by regularly assessing knowledge and skills. Those who do not reach the required level receive additional tuition, peer support, small group discussions or homework so they can reach the expected level.

10.  DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY: (Sutton Trust reports an effect size of 0.4. it is conspicuous by its absence on Hattie’s list – only web based learning mentioned).

Evidence suggests that technology should be used to supplement other teaching, rather than replace traditional approaches. It is unlikely that particular technologies bring about changes in learning directly, but different technology has the potential to enable changes in learning and teaching interactions, such as by providing more effective feedback, or simply my motivating learners to practice more.

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