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Using Success Criteria to Prevent and Plan for Interventions.

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Nov. 11, 2020, 11:07 a.m.

By Kelly Harmon

Impactful instruction is very intentional. From planning the learning targets to planning how students will practice and demonstrate learning, we work to provide clarity for our students. Success criteria brings everything into focus for the learner.


Dr. John Hattie defines success criteria as:

Success criteria are the standards by which the project or performance will be judged at the end to decide whether or not it has been successful. They are often brief, co-constructed with students, aim to remind students those aspects on which they need to focus, and can relate to the surface (content, ideas) and deep (relations, transfer) successes from the lesson(s). 


The effect size of using success criteria is a .88-over 2 years of growth in one year!


Here are 3 ways success criteria helps learners grow:


Success criteria gives learners a guide to thinking through the daily learning.

When students are given the steps in a procedure or a description of how to think about a concept, they can use them to guide and evaluate their work as they do it. They also have explicit information about what it means to learn the daily learning target. As you look at the following pictures, ask yourself how student learning is impacted when success criteria is present.


Success Criteria Drives the Teaching

When planning lessons, the teaching points come from the success criteria. This helps us to provide clear demonstrations and explanations.


Success Criteria Tells Us Where to Intervene

Using the success criteria can help us determine misunderstandings and misconceptions. We can pinpoint the area that needs further instruction or coaching. When the success criteria is missing or verbal, we often end up wondering where our teaching went wrong or what the student misunderstood. More importantly, students can self-assess and determine where they need guidance or practice.



Partnering with Students to Monitor Learning 
How are your students self-assessing their learning progress? Even very young learners can talk about what they have learned and what they still need to learn. When learners partner with teachers to monitor progress, growth happens!


At the beginning of a unit or grading period, give your students a list of the critical learning targets. Have students rate their current understanding and skills. They can use the targets to set personal learning goals. As they progress through the learning, have them revisit the list to keep track of the progress they are making.


Second grade teacher, Mrs. Chavez at Douglas Elementary in Tyler, Texas has her second graders keep a learning targets folder and asks them to track progress. This helps students make decisions about what they need to do in order to master the learning goals.


Mrs. Lengua, 3rd grade teacher at Douglas Elementary asks her students to reflect on the learning at the end of each lesson. She provides sentence stems as a guide to reflective thinking.


*Thank you to Mrs. Benavides at Montgomery Drive Elementary for the photo!



Kelly Harmon and Randi Anderson

About The Authors

Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning.

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