A potential epiphany….

“Jaws isn’t about a shark, and Tinker Tailor’s not about spying” – Mark Kermode (paraphrased)

This quote from one of my favourite podcasts struck me as I began planning for next week this morning. I was creating my objectives/SO THATs/success criteria, when I began to wonder whether SO THATs were actually pretty indistinguishable from success criteria. A quick glimpse at few of my ‘go to’ blogs in this area (here by Dan Brinton, and here and here by Zoe Elder) convinced me that there was sufficient difference to continue treating them as separate parts. So I began planning. But two different lessons, for two different groups, brought about the same observation in mind – “it’s not about that, it’s about something else!”

Example 1: Year 11 – WAL about estimating the mean SO THAT we can achieve full marks on estimating the mean questions.

Success criteria: a) we can calculate an estimate for the mean from a set of grouped data; b) we can calculate proportions from a set of grouped data

Example 2: Year 7 – WAL about area and perimeter SO THAT we can calculate area and perimeter of squares and rectangles.

Success criteria: a) we can calculate area and perimeter by counting squares; b) we can find area and perimeter of shapes not drawn on squared paper; c) we can explain the formulae for area and perimeter

Now you are probably ahead of me already reading that, and know what I’m about to say, but I can honestly say this is a bit of a Eureka moment for me which will change my planning from this day forward. I was using Zoe’s approach of the WAL as the ‘what’ of learning and the SO THAT as the ‘why’ of learning, with the success criteria being a ‘how will I know I have learned it?’ check. But a brief glimpse of my plans for year 11 would suggest the lesson isn’t about estimating the mean, it’s about grouped data, with estimating the mean providing a context for that learning. It’s what I believe Dan Brinton writes about in his blog (citing Shirley Clarke) which I have linked above. Similarly, if we look at my plans for the year 7 lesson, I’m not sure that is a lesson about area and perimeter; rather, I think it’s a lesson about formulae using the context of area and perimeter. And actually, that’s not what I want that lesson to be about.

So I made refinements. My year 11 lesson became:

WAL about grouped data SO THAT we can accurately answer questions on estimating the mean and cumulative frequency.

Success criteria: a) we can estimate the mean from a set of grouped data; b) we can draw an accurate cumulative frequency diagram and derive quartiles and the median from it; c) we can calculate proportions satisfying a condition from both types of representations of data

and my year 7 lesson became:

WAL about shapes SO THAT we can find the area and perimeter of squares and rectangles.

Success criteria: a) we can find area/perimeter by counting; b) we can find area/perimeter of shapes not drawn on squared paper; c) we can explain how to find area/perimeter for a shape where we don’t know the measurements

I think, particularly with the year 7 lesson, there is still an implicit tendency towards formulae at the end, but the lesson is now much more clearly focused towards area and perimeter. What are we learning about? Shapes. Why? So we can find the area and perimeter of squares and rectangles. How will we know we have been successful?….. and so on.

Having thought closely about this area this morning, I think there will be occasions where the WAL, SO THAT and success criteria may need to be closely linked, particularly towards the knowledge acquisition end of things. But equally, most of the time it will be appropriate to redraft the plans, even before the content of the lesson in considered.

What do you think? Have I got the wrong end of the stick, or does it seem like I’m on the right track? I’d love any feedback you may have, either here in the comments section or on Twitter via @Still_Improving. Thanks for reading!


One thought on “A potential epiphany….

  1. I really like the in depth thought going into your lesson planning. I agree that if you can remove the context of the outcomes then there is the potential for greater transferability. I’ve read Dan’s twitter responses and agree that the exact terms are not as important as sharing the learning intentions with pupils so that they have a clear “road map” for their learning. This is clearly what is happening. The bottom line is that you are focusing on exactly what you want your students to be learning about and this can only be a good thing. I am continuing to experiment with my WAL and my “so that” and this blog has given further food for thought. Keep us posted on how this progresses,

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