What success looks like – further thoughts and reflections

In my original post (which can be found here) in this particular sequence on Wednesday, I posed three questions:

1) It is necessary to plan for what success looks like?

2) Is this even possible over one or two lessons?  

3) If the answer to both of the above is yes, what are the best/most effective ways of doing this?

I then followed this up later in the day with some initial thoughts, but it was very stream of consciousness stuff, and not very well developed. Having had further time to reflect, however, I think I have a much more reasoned response to the initial questions. 

One of my guiding principles as a teacher is ‘It’s not about me, it’s about them’. When I applied it to this situation, it makes sense that we should be planning for what success looks like – but it is possible to fall into a trap here (of which I myself might have been guilty). If we ask ‘What will/does success look like?’, we neglect the important issue of from whose viewpoint? If we focus on the students, and remind ourselves that we are framing our lessons in the ‘So That’ way to enable them to see clearly what it is they will achieve, then we need THEM to see HOW they will be successful at a certain criterion. In other words, the ‘So That’ deals with WHY we are learning, and the ‘Success looks like’ deals with ‘HOW’ this will be done. The alternative approach is to see the ‘Success looks like….’ as a criterion for us as teachers – which I think is what I was getting at in my second post. 

My thinking then shifted to my completed and previously shared examples – if we are letting the students know what success looks like, is it sufficient to give them an example of a question they should answer? This, I think, is as far as my thinking has got, as I do not yet have a clear answer to this point. However, a quick scroll through my ‘favourite-d’ Tweets (effectively bookmarks) threw up, as I hoped, two posts that I think are of some use and, if I’m honest, were probably subconsciously there all along. The first is this blog post from @dan_brinton which discusses, in particular, ‘Developing quality success criteria’. In my notes for this blog (I had the idea late last night, so made notes so I wouldn’t forget!) I have used the word explicit – we should be aiming to be as explicit as possible in showing students what success looks like. 

So examples could include:

  • “So that we can identify parts of a circle” becomes “to show success, you will be able to label a circle with correct diameter/radius/chord….”
  • “So that we can solve equations” might become “to show success, you will be able to find the value of y when 3(y+2) = 8(y-3)
  • “So that we can classify shapes based on their properties” might involve a display of 12 objects grouped in 2 or 3 different ways based on different criteria

The second useful Tweet I found (or rather rediscovered) is this picture from @TeachHeath, which I first came across in April but was reposted overnight. You can see clearly here the why (So I can/So that) and then the ‘Success looks like’ (here phrased slightly differently). It is not quite as explicit as I have proposed here, and indeed is maybe closer to my original attempts (i.e. you will be able to answer a question like this). If we are making the how explicit, are we not building in peer assessment to every lesson? By having explicit ‘hows’ available, students can see clearly what they are expected to achieve an crucially, whether or not they have achieved it. This in turn will make them more reflective learners, which will help with RAG123 assessment too! 

I can honestly say that this week has been a total revelation for me in terms of my teaching and Twitter – not only in terms of the discussion generated in relation to my initial post, but also through a number of the blogs, Tweets and articles I’ve read. The Dan Brinton post mentioned above was definitely worth another read generally, not just for the reasons I outlined above, but of equal value is this post highlighted in Damian Benney’s post here. The main thing I took away from Damian’s post is that by and large it describes my approach (or rather, my intended approach for the new school year) to teaching almost perfectly. There seems to be a consensus developing about using research literature (Practice Perfect, Why Don’t Students Like School?’, Mindset, An Ethic of Excellence, etc…) I intend to blog about my plans for the coming year in a bit more detail over the next couple of weeks, but what has struck me is that this is a fantastic time to be a teacher. Can you imagine how much poorer we and our students would be without Twitter and blogs to spread ideas such as So That and RAG123? 


3 thoughts on “What success looks like – further thoughts and reflections

  1. How many blogs in a week? Prolific or what? I really like the focus on what success looks like. With science I always thought he learning outcomes were generally good enough for what success looks like. For example the learning outcome “so that I can compare and contrast aerobic and anaerobic respiration” is fairly self fulfilling as pupils will have been able to do the comparison task (or not). However after reading this I have no doubt that making even more explicit what success looks like would benefit pupils and help more accurate RAG123 rating. Lots to think about. Thanks Alex

    • Hi Damian

      I do wonder myself whether explicit success criteria will work EVERY time….like most things I post on here, I’m writing as a facilitator of discussion rather than an expert. Only one way to find out I guess…



  2. Pingback: Visible success – developments | AspiringOST

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