6 Ways Parlay Incorporates Best Practices from Visible Learning®

What is Visible Learning®?

Combining over 60,000 studies from 300 million students, John Hattie’s seminal work on Visible Learning® is the most comprehensive study ever done in education. It analyzes over 250 educational “influences” and how they affect student achievement. The influences they evaluated included everything from class sizes to household income and dozens of instructional strategies that teachers can use in the classroom.
The end result of this study was a list that ranked various factors and techniques from lowest impact to highest impact on learning outcomes. The graph below shows a summary of Visible Learning®. The measured effect on learning outcomes is on the X axis and the number of influences that fall into that effect size on the Y axis. Some influences had negative effects (red), but most influences have positive effects (yellow and green). Some influences had above-average effects on learning outcomes (green).
The results of the study are communicated through a statistical value called Cohen’s d score. In short, this number ranks the effectiveness of a particular influence by comparing the difference between two mean values: the mean value of student progress at the beginning of the year, and the mean value of student progress at the end of the year when this particular influence is accounted for.
The average score was d = 0.4 – representing one year of average progress in learning outcomes for a typical student. A score above d = 0.4 means that this particular influence produces faster than average progression and below d = 0.4 means that this particular influence produces slower than average progression. Any score that is negative means that this particular influence actually has an adverse effect on student learning outcomes. The chart below shows the number of influences in each of the scored categories.

Visible Learning® is a trademark of Corwin in the U.S. and other countries.
This is an independent post and is in no way affiliated with or endorsed by Corwin.

How has it influenced Parlay?

At Parlay, we set out to build instructional tools that deliberately incorporate a multitude of strategies from the top fifth of performing influences. Since students, teachers, and classroom contexts vary so widely, our belief is that creating learning experiences that combine top techniques acts as a force multiplier, ensuring the maximum probability that teachers’ efforts will achieve positive learning outcomes.
In this article we have included a list of influences that we incorporate into Parlay, and a specific overview of how that integration manifests itself in our technology / methodology for blended-learning.

1. Discussions (d = 0.82)

Topping our list of instructional activities from Visible Learning® are discussions. Discussions provide the opportunity to not only engage deeply with content and ideas, but also to develop transferable skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration. Furthermore, class discussions have the unique ability to instil a mental framework that champions the value of different perspectives, and the importance of compromise. This is the essence of civic-mindedness.
Parlay focuses on discussions and supports the facilitation of student-led classrooms, both online and in a face-to-face setting. Though class discussions are in the top 5% of all influences in Visible Learning®, it is notoriously challenging to ensure that all students participate in a class discussion. Our research suggests that in a typical class discussion, less than 50% of students actively contribute. Parlay’s software tools help teachers facilitate discussions that are student-driven and inclusive, increasing average participation rates to over 80%.
In addition, Parlay helps structure class discussions for more substantive participation. When students want to participate in a Live RoundTable (our face-to-face discussion activity) they “tap in”, qualifying their upcoming engagement with one of four different types of contributions: new idea, challenge, build on, and question. These help students learn to be more intentional and collaborative with their participation, increasing the quality and breadth of conversation.

2. Scaffolding (d = 0.82)

Scaffolding is a method used to introduce concepts and encourage deeper levels of student thinking incrementally. As a result, Parlay incorporates scaffolding into our blended-learning toolkit in three ways:
1. Order of Content. Through the separation of content into different RoundTables, teachers can chunk the content and control the way it is formatted to best meet the needs of the class.
2. Order of Questioning. In addition to this, Parlay’s RoundTable prompts incorporate scaffolded questions to build towards higher-order thinking in students, as described in Bloom’s Taxonomy.
3. Order of Activities. When students are invited to an Online RoundTable (Parlay’s written discussion module), their activities are scaffolded. First, they must review and respond to the prompt and then they must join the discussion, providing constructive peer feedback to their classmates.

3. Learning Goals (d = 0.68)

Visible Learning® shows that setting clear learning goals is critical to communicating clear intentions for any activity. In Parlay’s discussion prompts for Online RoundTables, targeted outcomes are explicitly outlined in the Learning Goals section. The learning goals include not only what students will learn, but also the skills they will practice throughout the discussion, thus balancing the focus on content and competencies. Learn more about Parlay’s Framework for Crafting RoundTable Discussion Prompts.

4. Feedback (d = 0.70)

Feedback is another impactful influence of student achievement. Feedback is the ongoing communicated suggestions for a student’s learning that occurs throughout the learning process. Research shows that timely feedback plays an instrumental role in student cognitive development. Research also shows that teacher participation and feedback fosters confidence in the individual and the group, leading to students being more likely to take risks and build community.
Students receive two main types of formative feedback and evaluation in Parlay.
1. Peer Feedback. Guided feedback questions are used in the Online RoundTable to scaffold substantive responses between students in the discussion. This supports the collaborative focus on improvement between peers in the classroom community. Teachers can also model good feedback in the discussion by participating in the threaded comments.
2. Teacher Feedback. Parlay provides teachers with different tools to gather data and facilitate feedback to the students in RoundTables. Teachers can see individual engagement and pull from automated data insights about student participation, and provide both qualitative and quantitative feedback. Parlay also provides suggested feedback comments based on student engagement in a discussion. Teachers can choose to automatically add these comments to their formative feedback.
Parlay discussions provide opportunities for positive acknowledgements and interactions. The ‘applause’ feature appears in both the Online and Live RoundTable, and allows students and teachers to reward comments. Also, in the Live RoundTable, teachers can privately nudge students in real time. Teachers can qualify these nudges with words of encouragement to positively reinforce individual participation.
Overall, Parlay focuses on supporting high quality of student participation and engagement over time through feedback from both teachers and peers.

5. Evaluation and Reflection (d = 0.75)

Reflection is a critical aspect of the learning process. Asking students to reflect on their learning supports metacognitive development and self-regulation of their learning. Reflection allows students to take responsibility for their own learning, and communicate that to their peers and teachers. Reflection also allows teachers to listen to students and understand their perspective on their own learning.
1. Reflective Questions. Parlay’s discussion prompts build in reflection questions encourage students to reflect on their own experiences and communicate those ideas and feelings in a safe and constructive manner. Parlay also includes build in peer feedback questions which can extend the reflective nature of a discussion.
2. Post-Discussion Reflection. Discussion summaries (in both Online and Live RoundTables) provide ample opportunity for group reflection. Teachers and students review engagement data, identify trends, and explore ways to make the conversation more balanced and productive in the future.

3. Individual Evaluation.
After a discussion, teachers provide data-driven assessment to students. Rubrics are customized to meet the specific evaluation criteria of every classroom and curriculum. Over time, teachers and individual students review and reflect on trends in engagement and evaluation.

And finally…

6. Collective Teacher Efficacy (d = 1.57)

Topping the list of influences on student achievement is collective teacher efficacy with an outstanding 1.57. John Hattie clarifies this term with the notion it involves teachers not only believing they can make a difference, but how that idea is reinforced with evidence over time.
1. Professional Development. At Parlay, we have designed an in-person Professional Development program that we integrate into the first year of using the tools. In our work with teachers, we’ve found that Professional Development focused on how the tool works and building teacher capacity for student-driven discussions is central to making meaningful use of the tool. In addition to this, ongoing Professional Development and support is available for teachers throughout the year.
2. Supporting Resources. Parlay also provides teachers with a range of resources to help reinforce these new learned strategies and techniques over time. Here are some examples:


The science of learning is imprecise, to say the least. Each individual student and teacher is unique. Some strategies work well for some, and not at all for others. Ensuring that our products are designed with the best research in mind is not a silver bullet, but a responsible way to build educational tools. With the plethora of educational technology / instructional methods available to educators, we want ours to rest-assured that we’ve done our homework and we care deeply about helping students grow in meaningful and productive ways.
If you’re interested in learning about our work with schools and districts, click the button below to learn more. We’d be happy to discuss further.