Being a rugby fan I am obviously enjoying the World Cup and despite the exit of the Welsh side yesterday, I felt extremely proud of the efforts of every single player. Did they succeed? Well, they didn’t win the World Cup therefore as a whole we would have to say partly but not fully met the success criteria. I imagine that part 1 of the Criteria would have been to escape the Pool of Death, part 2 would involve victory in the quarter finals and then to win the Cup. As a measure of success does this truly reflect the efforts of each individual, does this truly reflect the impact of all the injuries on the team?
The point that I’m trying to reach within the realms of rugby is that a success criteria has to also be broken down into individual goals. If a player can make more than 10 tackles in a game and this was his set goal, then he has achieved! If a player runs over 50m a game and his target was 80m, does this mean he has failed? Sport is very black and white when it comes to the success of the team and the individual goals for each person within a team. Is this true of a classroom?
Shirley Clark has been at the forefront of thinking in developing an effective ‘Assessment for Learning’ strategy for Schools. A lesson often begins with a shared learning objective. This start point is often the beginning of an excellent or okay lesson. If the learning objective is correct, the success criteria should be easy to follow. For a sports team the lesson objective in terms of a game is often, win! Life isn’t as simple in the classroom and too often a learning objective is simply a means of stating the task especially when taught by teachers that lack confidence. To write a creative story is a task, the learning objective in this context could relate to developing a narrative. It can be difficult sometimes to set the correct objective and isn’t it true to say that the aim of the task is to write a story but how will this be achieved? How will pupils become aware of your expectations?
In terms of the set task and creating an effective learning objective, the success criteria is all important! Pupils need an understanding of how to achieve and perhaps this message from Twitter explains it better than most,
Copyright: I live know Rachel Twitter account
Our success criteria needs to direct the way, to make them stepping stones to success rather than stumbling blocks to failure! It is essential that the teacher is fully aware of what she or he would like the pupils to achieve. Perhaps, prior to writing a story, they have had the opportunity to look at the use of dialogue. Dialogue can make or break a good story. It is my experience that when this is initially introduced to students, the story becomes a long dialogue between two characters. Hopefully, a teacher will have avoided this stumbling block by providing enough examples and literacy tasks in order to help the pupils to succeed on to the next step. Each aspect of the success criteria, to repeat myself, is dependent on what results are required. Another stumbling block is the use of paragraphs. Again, you would hope that this has been prepared prior to writing a story. I have always found the best means of teaching paragraphs is reading.
As we move forward with the success criteria it becomes clear that some pupils are nervous about taking the next step and it is at this point that a good teacher becomes an excellent teacher. They recognise that within a set criteria for a group of pupils, many children will require their own individual goals. It is a good teacher that can make the difference,
It doesn’t need to be a gigantic individual goal in order to succeed but rather a stepping stone to success and sometime the steps have to be very small in order to achieve their aim. The key to unlocking success for pupils is to provide a lock that might stick on occasions, might require you to learn from mistakes but a lock that ultimately can be opened if the correct tools are provided. In this context the correct tools are a learning objective that doesn’t simply describe a task, a success criteria that has stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks and within the Criteria, a pupil requires an individual goal, something specific to themselves. On a very simple level this could involve the correct use of an apostrophe or spelling a word that they usually get wrong. It is important that we encourage every pupil to make the step. The best individual goals are those that involve the pupil. They need to take ownership of their goals. If a rugby player misses three tackles, their personal goal for the next game will presumably be not to miss any tackles but if this is a target for the whole group, how can the player that has never missed a tackle improve? Taking ownership of the success criteria can make it a very powerful tool!
How does all of this help teacher workload? Quite simply, the better a task is planned the more effective the outcomes are for the majority of pupils. However, the success criteria is also the key for effective feedback from the teacher. In response to the stepping stones, we will be able to acknowledge those that have been achieved and the one that perhaps requires further attention becomes the way forward or the wish, depending on your marking schemes. By doing this, the dialogue between a pupil and a teacher becomes an effective tool for Improvement.
I doubt that this post holds anything new for many readers and perhaps it is my own way of overcoming the Welsh result but I do have a request, the most creative minds do not always conform to the stepping stones as set out by yourself. They might have an imagination that sets them free from all stumbling blocks in terms of writing an exciting, thrilling story. Sometimes we must acknowledge that certain pupils have a creative X-Factor. They might not spell the majority of words correctly, they might not use an apostrophe but they can write with a freedom that is both natural and talented. For those pupils, we still need to support them with the stepping stones, they still need a success criteria in order to achieve results that truly reflects their talent but more than anything we need to praise them for their imagination. A sentence in the feedback acknowledging the quality of the creative content can make the world of difference to a child.
It could be that the right sentence from a teacher might inspire the pupil to become an author!
I hope that this post helps you on your journey in the classroom. I would like to finish by saying I’m immensely proud of the Welsh rugby team and I hope that they focus on what they have achieved rather than the mistakes that might have happened. We do learn from mistakes but sometimes it is about praising the effort!