Survey Says: These Factors Most Positively Affect Student Achievement

We all know there’s no handbook for this parenting gig, and that lack of official guidance is one reason we’re all looking for tips and ideas to do it better.

I often think about writing a chapter in that nonexistent parenting handbook: not because I have answers (puh-lease. Are there really any answers?), but because I have access to information that I think parents want. Information that can inform how we support our kids as they learn and grow.

These factors most positively influence student achievement

Every day my office building is teeming with teachers and school administrators.

See, when they’re not teaching our children, teachers are often attending workshops and seminars so they can continually learn how to improve their craft for the benefit of your child and mine. I get to attend many of these training sessions and I’ll tell you, today’s teachers are armed with more data and information than you can imagine.

One of the training sessions in particular caught my attention. Internationally renowned author and University of Melbourne’s Professor John Hattie isn’t a name most parents know, but he’s to education what Michael Jordan is to basketball. Hattie has authored the largest-ever study to measure how different factors impact educational outcomes for students. He’s a big deal and he’ll draw a crowd of several hundred teachers when he comes to Cedar Rapids this fall.

Hattie’s research has helped pinpoint factors most positively influence student achievement.

That’s powerful, right? When I think about that nonexistent parenting handbook, highlights from his research would be the section most dog-eared and highlighted (well, after the one on how to get more sleep!)

So, according to Hattie, what has the greatest influence on your child’s achievement?

Quality Teaching.

Research by Hattie has found the quality of teaching makes the most difference in student achievement. Nothing replaces a quality teacher for your child, whether it be in a traditional classroom or another setting that you select as a parent. (He also has lots of insight into how teachers can improve their instruction that’s a bit beyond my layperson grasp, to be honest.) But in a time when teachers are getting thwarted for their best efforts and repeatedly dogged with criticism, I think this is an important factor to recognize. Our kids succeed in large part due to their teachers.


And no, this doesn’t mean every kid gets a trophy. Hattie’s research does point to the effectiveness of positive reinforcement, but also suggests that kids also need a little corrective guidance. Most importantly, parents need to establish clear goals to help a child know what success looks like. His research notes that it’s not very helpful to your kiddo by saying, “Good job! You’re really good at math,” but instead it’s better to praise the process they used to work through their math. Like saying, “You did a great job thinking through different ways to add up the numbers!””

Parent Engagement.

Parental engagement is a big deal. Hattie calls it the “parent engagement effect” and he tested and measured the impact of parental encouragement and high expectations on students. Now, I’m not shocked that research shows a correlation between positive student achievement and those who have engaged parents. But what is more powerful is understanding HOW parents can best support their kiddos.

Parental engagement–reading together, setting goals together, and promoting excitement around learning new things– helps students perform better. These parent-kiddo collaborations helped students produce better grades, complete more tasks and homework, and improved the student’s attendance.  

And so much more.

Class size? Private versus public schools? The value of homework? Hattie dug into all of those areas in his research, too.

Now I also have heard from some educators who aren’t fans of Prof. Hattie. They question meta-analysis as his measure of choice, and disagree with his outcomes.  And that’s okay, too. I’m not statistician, and I’m certainly not an educator. But I am a mom.  As parents, I think it’s important that we have access to data and information. Regardless of if you fall into one school of thought or another, we all are united in our quest to raise well-adjusted, healthy and capable humans.

I think we all can agree that there’s benefit any time we can learn a little to inform how we help support our children’s learning.

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