The importance of clear learning intentions and success criteria

Professor John Hattie coined the term 'Visible Learning’, which highlights the importance of making the learning process transparent to students, so that they are more able to become successful self-regulated learners. This helps them to develop the skills that they need to become independent and life long learners. 
An important part of visible learning is to make sure students are aware of what they are learning (learning intentions), and how to know when they have learnt it (success criteria). Together, learning intentions and success criteria provide a road map to students so that they can navigate the learning process. Providing students with these at the beginning of a unit or topic, and then constantly referring to them throughout, means that students can self-evaluate and track their progress as they go, and also use them as a study guide when preparing for formal assessments. They can also use them to conduct peer evaluation. 
This also has several benefits for teachers - it helps to provide clear direction for your lessons and ensures that you stay on track with the curriculum requirements. If students are clear on what they are learning and the criteria by which it will be assessed, they will be less dependent on you to answer all of their questions. It helps you to provide teaching activities and resources that closely align with the learning intentions, and it also helps you to focus on what is important when it comes to writing assessment tasks. 
Learning intentions
A learning intention is synonymous with a learning goal or objective. It outlines what the student will be learning. When writing learning intentions, here are a few points to remember: 
  • They need to reflect the curriculum requirements. 
  • They can refer to content, skills, or both. 
  • They need to be written in a way that students can understand. 
  • Try not to overwhelm students with too many learning intentions at once. One or two each lesson is usually fine. Sometimes a learning intention might go over several lessons depending on its complexity. 
  • It is NOT a description of the activity that students will be doing in the lesson. 
Success criteria
Success criteria provides the means by which the learning that has taken place can be measured or evaluated. Students and teachers can use success criteria to determine if the learning intention has been addressed successfully. When writing success criteria, try to ensure: 
  • They reflect the achievement standards as set out in your curriculum 
  • They are written in plain language that students can understand
  • They clearly indicate what students need to achieve in order to complete the intended learning. 
  • They include instructional words (eg. Identify, describe, explain, assess, evaluate) to indicate the depth of learning that is expected. 
  • Optional: they can outline different levels of achievement (this helps you to provide differentiation). For example, you could use a ‘must, should, could’ model, where you direct lower ability students to achieve the ‘must’ and higher ability students to achieve the ‘could’. Alternately, you can use rubrics that show what is to be achieved for an A grade, B grade, C grade etc. 
  • It can be a useful exercise to create success criteria with your students - have your students give suggestions as to what meeting the learning intention might look like. 
  • It can also be useful to provide work samples that show the expected achievement levels. 
For some examples and a downloadable document that you can print and have near your desk for a reminder, go to the Freebies Vault - you will find it under the 'How To's. If you are not yet a member of the Freebies Vault, you will need to sign up first. 
I also have a free success criteria rubric that you can use for assessments, including a sample template that has already been completed. You can also find that in the Freebies Vault here

Kelly :) 

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