Further Contemplating Learning Goals And Success Criteria

This week, we had our District Review Visit. I’ve been through this process a couple of times before, and I know that it shouldn’t be a stressful time, but I do find it stressful. I know how hard the students have worked this year, and how far they’ve come, and I want the principals and superintendent to see the growth that I see. The students really do ”own” all of the work that we do in the classroom though, and they were stellar at discussing learning goals and success criteria, and how both contribute to their academic success. I couldn’t be prouder of my class!

At the end of the day, we met with some members of the Board team to discuss what they saw. Our superintendent shared with us many celebrations, but she also left us with a couple of next steps. One of these next steps, I’ve really been contemplating a lot since last night. Her question to us was, what is the impact of learning goals and success criteria other than higher levels of achievement? (Please note that I may be paraphrasing slightly here as I was trying to copy down this question quickly.)

You see the creation of learning goals and success criteria was the focus of our District Review. Yes, focusing on this area has helped students achieve. They know what’s expected of them, and as such, they’re doing better. Focusing on this area, has had more benefits though:

  • Students are better at reflecting on their own learning now because of the clear expectations that learning goals and success criteria offer. When students do reflect on their own learning they are really linking their reflections to these expectations. You can see that in this Genius Hour video clip:

  • Students can now set realistic goals for themselves because they clearly understand what’s being expected of them. These goals not only help the students meet with more academic success, but also monitor their own learning: making them more independent learners.
Students Set Goals Based On Success Criteria

Students Set Goals Based On Success Criteria

  • Students better understand, and now actively contribute, to assessment and evaluation practices. Not only do the students help create the success criteria, but they also transfer this success criteria to more formalized evaluation methods, such as rubrics. This is something that I plan on focusing on as one of my next steps. I have to thank one of our wonderful Grade 8 teachers, Jo-Ann Corbin-Harper, for showing me how she gets her students to use the success criteria and a list of qualifiers to design their own rubrics. This is something that I’ve done in more of a modelled way up until this point, but with Jo-Ann’s help, I already have plans to have students co-create our next Social Studies rubric. Thanks Jo-Ann!
  • Students better understand curriculum expectations. Learning goals and success criteria are based on curriculum expectations. This year more than any other year, I’ve had students working with the curriculum documents to group the expectations, reword the expectations, and develop the anchor charts to help support these expectations. Having students explore expectations make them more aware of what they’re learning, why they’re learning it, and how the various topics coincide. Seeing the “big picture” provides context for students that need it, and this is just another way that we can meet the needs of all students.

The last benefit that comes to mind actually came to me tonight after re-watching our Director, John Malloy’s, message to all staff. In it, he spoke again about “academic optimism.” To be honest with you, my initial concern when focusing on learning goals and success criteria was, how do I get my neediest students to understand and use these goals and expectations? I’m really glad that I asked myself this question, as looking at our school focus through this lens really helped me consider all of my students.

I can’t help but think of a comment that Em Del Sordo, a Board administrator and member of yesterday’s team, said during our debriefing session: ”I know how to teach fractions. I just don’t know how to teach fractions to kids that don’t get it.” I could have made the same comment when it came to learning goals and success criteria. This was a good thing though.

When planning with my teaching partner, we then discussed ways to ensure that all students understood these learning goals and success criteria. We looked at how to scaffold the learning. We had more small group discussions with these students. We modelled how the work that they were doing aligned with the success criteria. We even included the learning goals and success criteria on the individual assignments, so the students could access them easily in multiple ways, and see the correspondence between the expectations and the activity. It worked!

All students understood the learning goals and success criteria, and ensuring that they did, also ensured that we created an environment of academic optimism and true success for all. This is something that I want to continue to keep at the forefront of all that I do in the classroom. All students can learn. We need to ensure that all students do learn. Thank you to yesterday’s team for reminding me of this!

Now I’d be curious to know what you think the benefits of learning goals and success criteria are in addition to higher levels of achievement. For any parents reading this blog post, what impact has this school-wide focus had on you, and what impact have you noticed for your children? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!


8 thoughts on “Further Contemplating Learning Goals And Success Criteria

  1. Aviva I also thought about Krys comment. I think that getting students to really understand and think about what they are learning helps to develop their critical literacy skills. They can dissect the expectations and really determine the criteria that they need to achieve the learning goal. Think of the implications this can have for our students as they continue their journeys as life long learners. If they can become more efficient at determining the things that they need to do in order to be successful more of them will cross the finish line.

  2. Jo-Ann, that is so true and such an important point! I’m so glad that you mentioned this. When I thought about Krys’ comment, I was thinking more in terms of other things I’ve noticed in the classroom. You really looked at the long-term benefits as well, and this is so important. Thanks for the comment and for mentioning this critical literacy piece! Now you have me thinking even more. 🙂


  3. Great post Aviva! The question posed to you is an interesting one to reflect on. Learning goals and success criteria map things out for the students and allows them to really focus on the 4 areas of achievement. I have found that student thinking and application have really improved since I started using LG’s and SC. Just today my students and I were reworking on a learning goal in Social Studies. They felt as though the goal we had originally come up with needed to be tweaked. They seem to be more engaged and keep me focused on what we are working on 🙂

    • Thank you so much for the comment, R.T., and for sharing this great story! I love how your students not just helping to create these goals, but constantly thinking about them as well. This is so important. I’m thrilled to hear how engaged your students are as well. I always enjoy reading other success stories and other ideas too!


  4. Thank you for this post Aviva. I believe that learning goals and success criteria do help students own their learning especially when they co-create the success criteria!!

    When students own their learning and collaborate with each other to extend their learning we give them the opportunity to surpass our expectations and achieve in ways that will benefit them for life!!!

    • Thank you so much for the comment! I couldn’t agree with you more, and I am so honoured that you read and responded to this post of mine. This year, as we focus more on learning goals and success criteria, I have definitely seen the value of both, and I will definitely co-creating and using them with my students. I look forward to seeing the impact that success criteria has when students use this criteria to help create the rubrics for evaluation. Students are really owning their learning now, and I think this is so important!


  5. Thanks for sharing your reflection and response to Krys’ question (Superintendent). I knew that the benefits of LG and SC went well beyond just the measureable growth in student achievement, but your response and evidence really clarified my own thinking and understanding as to how this approach is changing student thinking and their own “academic optimism”. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Thanks for the comment, Paul! Thank you for also getting me to think more deeply about learning goals and success criteria this year. It’s been great for my own professional growth. Now I look forward to co-creating rubrics with my students. Always something new to learn and try … 🙂


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