Leading the Blind

A Critical Look at Visible Learning



neoliberalism, education reform, teaching, critical theory, learning


In 2009, John Hattie’s book Visible Learning: A Synthesis of over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement brought big data to education. In the decade and a half since Visible Learning was originally published it has been aggressively marketed and has now grown into a large suite of branded books, tools, and products. Visible Learning continues to exert influence over educational thinking, policy design, and decision making. 

This critical essay probes the foundations of Visible Learning, seeking to better understand the book’s significance. Criticism is leveled at the methodology, positionality, capitalistic motivations, and mischaracterization of science underpinning the book and the subsequent franchise that has grown from it. The essay argues that the philosophy of education represented by Visible Learning is firmly within a reductive neoliberal ideology that seeks problematic reform, demands accountability, and promotes the de-professionalization of teachers.

Author Biographies

Greg Johnson, University of Manitoba

Greg Johnson is a graduate student in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at the University of Manitoba and a practicing physics teacher. His research interests are in technology mediated education, science education, curriculum theory, and curriculum design.

Melanie Janzen, University of Manitoba

Melanie Janzen is an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at the University of Manitoba. Her research is informed by critical and feminist post-structural perspectives, with a central focus on exploring the inter-related workings of power and discourses, particularly as they relate to the identities of teachers and children.