The Gold Papers

Gold Papers

Searching for educational gold

How do we know that what we do really works? In this collection of Gold Papers, John Hattie and Arran Hamilton discuss the critical questions and critiques of the Visible Learning™ research and provide a compass for finding “education gold” in student learning.

Read each of the Gold Papers to:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of the research methodology behind the mindset and movement of Visible Learning
  • Hear from thought leaders about best practices for measuring your impact on student learning
  • Reflect on your own strategies and tools to learn how to get closer to the gold of what works best in education



As Good as Gold Real Gold vs. Fool's Gold Getting to GOLD Not All That Glitters


As Good as Gold?

Why We Focus on the Wrong Drivers in Education


Real Gold vs. Fool's Gold

The Visible Learning Methodology for
Finding What Works Best in Education


Getting to G.O.L.D.

The Visible Learning Approach to
Unleashing Education Improvement


Not All That Glitters Is Gold

Can Education Technology Finally Deliver?

Is what you're currently doing going to lead you to gold? If you’re making decisions about teacher strategy and technology, find out if they are the right decisions in the first of the Gold Papers.


Understanding the methodologies behind the Visible Learning research can be tricky. In this Gold Paper, the criticisms are unpacked and explored, shedding light on the methods so that teachers, leaders, and policymakers understand the how and why of the research and what inferences can be made from it. (Includes Appendix)

This paper provides a system to help educators identify and focus on the challenges worth pursuing, develop interventions that will actually work, and implement them with fidelity. The G.O.L.D process is a straight-forward tool to move schools toward improvement.


Technology has long promised to revitalize education, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is even higher expectation for technology to transform learning for the 2020s. But the Visible Learning evidence suggests that we still haven’t figured out the best way to use technology to fulfill that promise. In this paper, Hamilton and Hattie discuss their ideas for unlocking learning with technology.



Praise from thought leaders

"John Hattie and Arran Hamilton are about to create another Gold Rush! Using a unique and exciting entry into the complex domain of Visible Learning, Hattie and Hamilton have created a series of short forays to find and clarify the ‘veins’ of gold that can enrich learning and its impact. The first two entries in the series are fantastic. The first one—“As Good As Gold”—shows us how we can find and leverage the best ideas for impacting learning—how to avoid false hopes and fruitless forays in favor of actions that matter for student learning. The second—“Real Gold vs. Fool’s Gold”—shows that we don’t have to take the gold prospector’s word. There are other ways of verifying if “there’s gold in them there hills’; Hattie and Hamilton get inside the critiques and enable the reader to traverse complex pathways and where they might lead."

Michael Fullan, Professor Emeritus, OISE/Univeristy of Toronto

"As Good as Gold: “Strategic investment in the limited funds (estimated at 4%) available for products, resources, and in-service teacher professional learning is critical if schools are going to ensure learning for all students. Too often, educators use their instincts and personal experiences to make these decisions.  To overcome this, educators would be wise to carefully consider what works best to accelerate learning. As Hattie and Hamilton note, there is “educational gold” out there, it’s just not in the form that many expect it. Rather, it can be found in the large-scale reviews of educational research, meta-analyses, that can point to influences that are more likely to ensure that teachers and schools achieve their aims. Imagine the possibilities for students when those making decisions actually consider evidence rather than their own cognitive biases.” 

Real Gold Versus Fool’s Gold: “Thankfully (or finally?) we have answers to the concerns that have been raised about the Visible Learning evidence base and methodology. Importantly, the story still stands. Simply said, there are some things that are more likely to accelerate learning than others.  The list, with information aggregated from over 300 million students and 90,000+ studies, is gold. It’s precious and valuable for educators who want to make informed decisions.  VL does not tell us what to decide but provides information useful for making wise decisions. And that’s what our students need from us.”

Douglas Fisher & Nancy Frey, Professors of Educational Leadership, San Diego State University

"Without question John Hattie is one of the most important researchers in the world today.  His work is bringing into focus exactly what it takes for to increase student achievement. Everyone who is interested in student learning should be paying attention to his work."

Jim Knight, Author, Unmistakeable Impact and High-Impact Instruction

"All educators—every one—should read this material. I plan to make it required reading in my courses, which include graduate courses in school psychology, educational psychology, and special education."

Jim Tucker, Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

"I've read many books and articles on change and systems change, but these are different. They offer a simple yet research-based approach to thinking through the change process, which has a wide range of applications."

Debbie Arakaki, Curriculum Systems Coordinator, Honolulu, HI

"The first two of four ‘Gold Papers’ by John Hattie and Arran Hamilton tackle burning issues head on: ‘As Good as Gold’ discusses how to best invest the billions (yet only 4% of the total education budget) currently reserved for professional development and teaching resources. We are shown how to become more discerning, to beware of attractive yet flawed bandwagons or research and to focus on evidence of impact to make wise choices for our children’s learning. ‘Real Gold v Fools’ Gold’ is a welcome rigorous and comprehensive response to the various criticisms of ‘Visible Learning’. As the authors point out, it is regrettable that there has been a focus on the methodology of the work rather than the conclusions it reaches. The messages of Visible Learning have never been more clearly spelled out, and every new meta-analysis adds more weight and nuance."

Shirley Clarke, Author, Visible Learning: Feedback

"One of the many things I appreciate about John Hattie is that he not only takes on his critics, but takes time to consider their feedback too. These papers by Hattie and Hamilton explore the history behind the Visible Learning research, take time to consider the feedback by others, and addresses the criticisms of the work. If you are a proponent of education, have a deep understanding of research, or just have a love for learning about what works in teaching and learning, these Gold papers are worthy of your time and consideration."

Peter DeWitt, Ed.D., Consultant/Author/Blogger

"Through their comprehensive series of Gold Papers, John Hattie & Arran Hamilton offer us a clarification and reinforcement of the value of the Visible Learning research. Since 2009 with the publication of Visible Learning, Hattie has served as a prospector for all educators—inspecting the landscape for the best and most viable sources of educator gold: what works best for our students. In pursuit of this, he continues to mine and pan, sifting through the new research to distinguish between the pyrite “fools gold” and the real thing, identifying those practices he expects can be replicated again and again with high levels of impact on our students’ achievement. In his series, he reminds us that it is up to us to use the prospector’s valuable discoveries and extract and refine those in the context of our own school communities with our own learners."

Amy Tepper & Patrick Flynn, Authors of Feedback to Feed Forward: 31 Strategies to Lead Learning and Learner-Focused Feedback: 19 Strategies to Observe for Impact (2020)

“In a world where educators are regularly tempted to implement a wide range of practices, programs, and interventions purported to be valuable tools that promote achievement, Visible Learning remains the most comprehensive, user-friendly resource available to assist educators in making critical instructional decisions. The value of Visible Learning is reinforced through the Gold Papers, in which John Hattie and Arran Hamilton compellingly and conscientiously respond to some critiques of Visible Learning. At the end of the day, the message of Visible Learning remains crystal clear – the Visible Learning research provides extraordinarily consistent and meaningful evidence that can be utilized by educators to ensure that all students are learning and achieving at high levels.”

Eric M. Anderman, Co-author of The Visible Learning Guide to Student Achievement, and Professor of Educational Psychology at The Ohio State University

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