Our Learners Know What they are learning and why

Mr Campbell's Success Criteria & Learning Intentions

Before learners undertake their main task where they will try to meet a learning intention, I often set pupils a preliminary task designed to increase their understanding of what is expected of them, and what success “looks like.” Since I have been reading more about formative assessment as part of my work with the school’s tapestry group, these preliminary tasks are embedded in my daily practice.

A good example of this involves pupils co-constructing success criteria. I do this mainly because I think it increases the likelihood that pupils will think about and understand the criteria for success. As Dylan William notes in the book that the tapestry group have been reading together, this type of task acts as ‘a mechanism whereby students can discuss and come to own the learning intentions and success criteria, making it more likely that they will be able to apply the learning intentions and success criteria in the context of their work.’ (p.64). In the book, William draws on research data which supports this view.

Another key idea that I came across is the distinction that William makes between process-focussed and product-focused success criteria. A product-focused success criterion focuses on the outcome of a task. For example, a product-focused success criterion for a piece of autobiographical writing would be: ‘You should engage the reader from the outset.’ However, a process-focused success criterion focuses on how pupils may go about achieving this aim. For example, to engage your reader you should ‘Vary your sentence structure’; ‘And use an original and appropriate simile in the opening paragraph,’ are examples of process-focused success criteria. Both have their place in classroom discussions, but I think the latter are obviously more visible and concrete; and they therefore act as more reliable steppingstones for learners. In the video you will see that I use a combination of process and product-focused success criteria, but I think more specific, process-focused criteria are more helpful, especially to less able pupils. I have always used both product-focused and process-focused success criteria in my practice, but I think being much more aware of the distinction as a result of the reading I have undertaken has made me more aware of the need for and the benefit of having nice, specific process-focused criteria.

  • Mr John Campbell, Teacher of English

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