Student Control

Effect Size d= 0.04  (Hattie's Rank=132)

Two meta-analyses were used:
1. Niemic, R., Sikorski, C., & Walberg, H., (1996). Learner-control effects. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 15(2), 157-174.

2. Patall, E., Cooper, H., & Robinson, J., (2008). The effects of choice on intrinsic motivation and related outcomes., Psychological Bulletin, 134(2), 270-300.

This low effect size seems to be at odds with much of the latest psychological research which seems to infer the opposite; that control over one's circumstances increases motivation and therefore achievement.

The Patall (2008) study used a true experimental design of breaking students up into a control and experimental group. However, the study was primarily concerned with motivation, although other factors are measured:

'we were primarily interested in the effect of choice on intrinsic motivation' (p277).

Also, the researchers adjusted for the number of students by using a weighted average. Using weighted averages can get a very different effect size, d. Most meta-analyses do not use weighted averages, which again questions the reliability of Hattie's overall results.

Hattie reports d=0.10 for this study using the outcome 'subsequent learning' (see table below) as a proxy for achievement. Note that he could have also used 'task performance' or 'perceived competence' (as used in other meta-analyses proxies for achievement). Averaging these 3 measures would give a much higher d = 0.34.


'the experimental studies included in this meta-analysis were generally brief in duration, being conducted in a single session or, at most, a few sessions across several weeks. Thus, these designs can examine only the most short-term effects of choice. It seems reasonable then to expect that if more frequent choices were provided over a more extended period of time, significant long-term effects on subsequent learning would result.

It is also important to note that some of these findings were based on small numbers of effect sizes, so it is difficult to place a great deal of confidence in the specific magnitude of the estimated effects' 


'The conclusion that can be drawn from this meta-analysis supports the assertion that when individuals are allowed to affirm their sense of autonomy through choice they experience enhanced motivation, persistence, performance, and production' (p298).

I have not been able to access the Niemic et al (1996) study as yet. However, I've found reviews of their meta-analysis:

Lunts (2002, p68) 'the research studies on LC (student control) fail to confirm or disconfirm anything'.

Von Mizener and Williams (2009) 'these reviewers focused specifically on the concept of learner control and did not broadly synthesise the research on student choices' (p110).

Hattie often cites the New Zealand government funded study authored by Alton-Lee. But this also contradicts Hattie, by promoting Student Control,

'Sustained higher achievement is possible when teachers use pedagogical approaches that enable students to take charge of their own learning' (p92).

In a recent interview by Hattie (thanks to Kelvin Smythe), of Finnish educational guru, Pasi Sahlberg - one of the key tenets of the High achieving Finish system is ironically student control (at about 7 minutes)-

Pasi seems to contradict many of Hattie's findings - Kelvin Smythe.

The Coleman Report:

The Coleman Report is widely considered the most important education study of the 20th century.

'Using data from over 600,000 students and teachers across the country, the researchers found that academic achievement was less related to the quality of a student's school, and more related to the social composition of the school, the student's sense of control of his environment and future, the verbal skills of teachers, and the student's family background.'

Professor Michael Fullan:

In Monograph 52 with the Australian Council of Educational Leaders (ACEL) Fullan concludes that some of the features of transformed leadership will include:

'the rise of students as agents' (p7).

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