Saturday, June 27, 2015

Why Write Success Criteria with Students?

Hello friends,
In this post I was hoping to explore the idea of constructive feedback between students. While it is something I felt I addressed in my reading, writing and maths programmes, working in the area of visual arts over the past year has really highlighted this need.

Within the first few weeks of art lessons in my specialist role, I must have been asked "do you like mine...?" A hundred times as one little person after another (one class after another) offered their work for inspection. 

It quickly became apparent that we needed to develop a culture of constructive feedback within the classes. However feedback is only constructive if it is based on a  framework of shared understanding, ownership and language.

So....we needed to write shared success criteria as a class. This is often neglected at the start of a unit by teachers for various reasons - time pressure,  they themselves are not sure where the unit may be headed or what final outcomes may look like. Teachers may then introduce an assessment rubric at the end of the unit, once the students have completed their inquiry. Hardly seems seem fair, does it?

During the past 6 years of teaching in the IB programme, this at least became clearer for my planning team because we found that with our yearly programme being foundationally consistant (units, central ideas and lines of inquiry, planning, learning outcomes, etc) but improved on as each successive year as we made more connections across the multiple learning areas.

1. class analysis of Modigliani portraits, 2. success criteria for 'selfies' photos to be used as the model for their self portrait art work, 3. class developed success criteria for their pastel portrait artwork.

Discussing outcomes and success criteria with students during the 'finding out' stage makes sense because they are starting to accumulate new knowledge that they want to share or use/apply and can start to envision or require peer/teacher guidance on how this might be done. Building success criteria together leads to greater ownership of the learning by the learners themselves.
These were written by the students for their portrait work following on from Modigliani and now looking at pop art portraiture.

The next steps of course is to lay out the learning steps to get there.  Here it is advisable that an Areas of Responsibility chart is drawn up with the class. I have used a time-line format and place markers along the way with high level actions that need to be taken either by me as the teacher/guide or by the students as the learners. By using a time line that can be coloured in, a student can colour the line as the days/ weeks pass to see how well they are tracking. 
They (or I) can add new actions to their timeline as needed or as these evolve, e.g. teacher conference, peer conference, site visit, action taken, even illness or absence from lessons. By the end of the unit, each students timeline will be unique as their particular inquiry has developed. With younger students this may be a class wall chart and with older students this should be personalised in their workbooks. I recently saw one on a classroom wall where students wrote their current actions on post- its which they placed beside their name under 1 of three headings - to do, doing, done.

I came across this superb Vimeo the other day that really summed up the dark before the dawn we experience in an inquiry journey and I really wanted to share it with you all. Please share with your students too.
The Learning Pit

Success criteria can be written by any age group for any learning action, no matter how small. In fact by doing it for the small things, like the example below, they get really good at it and you'll find it easier when it come to the more complex, rubric type success criteria.
Year 1 students (age 5) establishing what makes for 'good' colouring-in.
 I'll write about how this leads naturally into constructive feedback in my next post.

With love, as always


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