Dimension of Classroom and School Practices: Challenging and Visible Goals Print or save as PDF

How is it defined?

The term ‘challenge’ in challenging goals is relative to a student’s current understanding and performance as well as a tasks criteria for success; however, ‘the challenge should not be so difficult that the goal is seen as unattainable’ (Hattie, 2009, p. 166). Challenging learning goals are critical for enhancing performance and are especially effective when students are both committed to and engaged by the goal. Challenging goals provide a standard of success and help direct student behaviour whereas “do your best” goals lack specificity (Hattie, 2009).

The Learning Bar’s Teacher Survey is a self-evaluation tool for teachers that is based on ‘effective schools’ research, consisting of eight of the most important variables associated with student outcomes, and coupled with the Outward Bound model of teaching and learning covered in John Hattie’s book, Visible Learning (Hattie, 2009).

Why is it important?

  • Setting challenging goals is the first activity in models of structured teaching which have strong effects on student learning (Stevens, Slavin, & Farnish, 1991).
  • Goals that are specific, challenging, competitive, self-referential and focused on self-improvement help facilitate student achievement (Martin, 2006).
  • Teachers should clearly communicate the intentions of a lesson as well as the criteria for successful learning (Hattie, 2009).
  • When teachers maintain high expectations, students tend to have higher achievement: in contrast, when teachers have low or negative expectations student achievement suffers (Rubie-Davies, Hattie, & Hamilton, 2006).

How do we measure it?

Teachers respond to 16 items, which cut across the eight constructs pertaining to school climate. Each item is responded to on a five-point scale which is scored as follows: 0 (Strongly Disagree), 1 (Disagree), 2 (Neither Agree nor Disagree), 3 (Agree), and 4 (Strongly Agree). The data are scaled on a 10-point scale and the results are reported as ‘the average score for challenging and visible goals’. These 16 items are a combination of items used to construct the eight drivers of student learning: leadership, collaboration, learning culture, data informs practice, teaching strategies, technology, inclusive school and parent involvement.



Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York: Routledge.

Martin, A. J. (2006). Personal bests (PBs): A proposed multidimensional model and empirical analysis. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 76(4), 803-825.

Rubie‐Davies, C., Hattie, J., & Hamilton, R. (2006). Expecting the best for students: Teacher expectations and academic outcomes. British Journal of Educational Psychology76(3), 429-444.

Stevens, R. J., Slavin, R. E., & Farnish, A. M. (1991). The effects of cooperative learning and direct instruction in reading comprehension strategies on main idea identification. Journal of Educational Psychology, 83(1), 8-16.