When grandchildren came along, Granddad offered excellent advice to his son about the beauties, wisdom, and fun of parenting. Son, in exasperation, said – surely Dad there is research on parenting not just your experiences and edited opinions. This led to John and Kyle searching this literature, finding 1000’s of studies (summarized in the appendix) and writing 10 Steps to Develop Great Learners. It is not an academic book, but includes messages, stories, and suggestions for parenting to develop great learners.

The major theme is it is less what you do but how you think about what you do. Children are great mimickers in the early years, so if you are silent they do not advance in developing language, if you do not answer their “Why” question they do not form views about their world and stop being curious, if you do not listen to them they are unlikely to listen to you, if you do not let them make and recover from errors they will fail to be confident learners, and if you do not let them learn how to work in peer groups they will be loners or selfish. Developing language, curiosity, listening, failure, and friends are key to learning.

Then they go to school, and the book outlines what to look for in pre-school and school, how to talk to teachers, and how to create a learning environment in the home. A major theme is that you are NOT First teachers – as this confuses the role of you and the school teachers, but you are First learners.  This involvement as first learners carries through all the child and adolescent years, as you express high expectations about engaging in learning and help them realise these expectations. It means you need to be responsive to your children by demonstrating you have listened, heard and understood what they are saying and thinking (you do not have to agree but listening is a two-way street). You need to teach them the dignity of risk and how, when, and why they should say No (as you certainly will say No), how failure can by their best learning friend, developing the confidence to take on challenges in the home, and offering feedback.

Feedback is powerful but can be most variable in its impact on your child. The key is not only to provide feedback about the good and bad things they have done, feedback about how they are going, but most critically feedback about “where to next.”  Children, like adults, like to know how to improve, and if there is no improvement messages they often are less welcoming of feedback.  Like us, they are great selective listeners, do not like to be judged, and not so keen just to receive feedback about what they did right or wrong. They desire feedback about how and where to improve.

The book is based around 10 mind frames, or ways of thinking as a parent: I have appropriately high expectations; I make reasonable demands and am highly responsive to my child; I am not alone; I develop my child’s skill, will and sense of thrill; I love learning; I know the power of feedback and success thrives on errors; I am a parent not a teacher; I expose my child to language, language, language; I appreciate that my child is not perfect, nor am I; and I am an evaluator of my impact.

Have you listened, shown your child you hear and understood what they are saying?

Have you engaged in, at least, a 10 minute conversation with your child today?

Have you asked your child, not WHAT did you do at school today, but asked about what they learned at school, what was difficult and how did you tackle it today, what feedback did your teacher give you today?

Have you talked about your challenging learning today, and the ways you had to solve problems when your first tries at solving the problems did not work?


John Hattie is one of the world’s best known and most widely read education experts. His Visible Learning series of books have been translated into 29 different languages and sold over 1 million copies. Kyle Hattie is a Year 6 teacher in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. Both have a passion for understanding how children become lifelong learners. 10 Steps to Develop Great Learners, RRP $31.99 is available in all good bookstores and online.