Peers more credible than leaders
Source: Slide 21 Edleman Trust Barometer

Every Voice Matters
Source: Slide 46 Edleman Trust Barometer

It looks like when we view online information we trust our friends, family or people like ourselves as much or more than we are willing to trust an academic expert or anyone else. As an academic expert I am not concerned with this data, but am rather excited to have data to support what I have been watching develop over the past twenty years in the online classes that I have been facilitating. I have observed that my students are very quick to trust each other’s input and perspectives as much or even more than my own. Students still do view my voice as the final voice of authority because I am the one who determines their grade–but do they trust me as much as they trust their peers? I wonder…?

This confirms the importance of collaboration in online courses. Students do trust each other enough to really learn from each other. Yes, I am making a generalization from the Eldemen data that looks at the trust level of authors on social networking, content sharing and online-only information sources but this does describe a significant component of the online learning environment that I have created for my students. Online educators have been measuring the importance of online collaboration for student achievement for many years and there is a fair amount of data to support the fact that well structured online collaboration helps students to achieve their course learning outcomes as well as or better then in traditional face2face settings (Hiltz, Coppola, Rotter, Turoff, & Benbunan-Fich, 2000; Su, Bonk, Magjuka, Liu, & Lee, 2005).

The evidence is clear; if you want to learn more effectively online you need to collaborate with your classmates. The evidence also suggest that most people are willing to trust their classmates as much or more than the professor so online students should take advantage of this fact and learn from and with their peers.


Edleman Trust Barometer. (2016). [Slideshare]. Retrieved July 14, 2016 from

Hiltz, S. R., Coppola, N., Rotter, N., Turoff, M., & Benbunan-Fich, R. (2000). Measuring the importance of collaborative learning for the effectiveness of ALN: A multi-measure, multi-method approach. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 4(2), 103-125.

Su, B., Bonk, C. J., Magjuka, R. J., Liu, X., & Lee, S. H. (2005). The importance of interaction in web-based education: A program-level case study of online MBA courses. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 4(1), 1-19.

How many times should you try?

When you listen to Sir Ken Robinson talk about starting a learning revolution and listen to many other educational reform speakers all encouraging teachers to improve our educational system the excitement will only last as long as you can then address the question of how. Educational researcher John Hattie who is also the Director of the Melbourne Educational Research Institute at the University of Melbourne has conducted a synthesis of more than 50,000 studies covering more than 80 million students to determine what factors contribute to most to improving student achievement. The results of this research and the answer to the how question are found in Hattie’s book Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement.

Hattie points out in his Visible Learning books and in many of his talks that just as long as you aren’t doing anything to physically or mentally harm your students almost anything that you do will contribute to student achievement (2008, 2012). The key is to do the things the impact student achievement the most. What are those things?

In the following video Hattie addresses what the most important factors a teacher can address to improve student achievement:

Hattie argues examining, thinking and talking with other teachers about the learning environments that we have created and are creating and the impact that we can have on learners is the most important thing we can do to improve our learners achievement. I have always argued that if I can get educators to talk to other educators and consider what they are doing in their learning environment then the learner wins. Hattie and I are in good company with our recommendations that teachers start collaborating on how to improve the learning environment.

Theodore Sizer, the former Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean and Educational Reformer, argues in his book, The Red Pencil, that little has changed in education since his experiences in the information and test based classroom he endured in 1946. Sizer argues that teachers embrace a code of silence because they are continually subjected to the demands of politicians, administrators, academia, and parents who all claim to have the answer to education reform. Sizer explains that because everyone is a proclaimed expert and is telling teachers what to do when teachers go to their classroom they close the door and they do what they can and what they need to do in order to help students learn. Unfortunately, when they close the door they also agree to not add to the noise and enter into a code of silence where they won’t question or tell their teaching colleagues what to do as long as their colleagues won’t question or won’t tell them what to do. Sizer suggests that this code of silence is one of the main factors that explains why little has changed.

In addition to teachers working together to evaluate their impact as one of most significant factors in improving student achievement Hattie points to these other factors:

  • Moving from what students know towards explicit success criteria.
  • Errors an trust are welcomed as opportunities to learn.
  • Maximize feedback to teachers about their impact.
  • Getting the proportions of surface to deep correct.
  • The Goldilocks principle of challenge, and deliberate practice to attain these challenges.

By breaking the code of silence educators can start to work together to evaluate their impact and consider how the learning environments they create can improve their learners achievement.

Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.
Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. Routledge.
Hattie, J. (2013) Why are so many of our teachers and schools so successful? (John Hattie at TEDxNorrkoping). Retrieved from
Sizer, T. R. (2005). The red pencil: Convictions from experience in education. Yale University Press.

It is always interesting to hear Chomsaky’s perspective on current events.