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Big Ideas, Learning Goals & Success Criteria. Backward Planning meets Assessment for learning. Big Ideas . 4 or 5 overall concepts, theories, skills or ideas that resonate in the discipline Uncovered from curriculum document preambles and overall expectations

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Big Ideas, Learning Goals & Success Criteria

Backward Planning meets Assessment for learning

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Big Ideas

  • 4 or 5 overall concepts, theories, skills or ideas that resonate in the discipline

  • Uncovered from curriculum document preambles and overall expectations

  • May have cross-curricular or real-life quality

  • Written in phrases

  • Include the “must-take-from-the-course” material

  • Tied to the Culminating Tasks/final assessments

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Essential Questions

  • Big Ideas phrased in student-friendly language

  • Used as anchors for the course units and lessons to follow.

  • Are the great organizers of the material

  • Should be displayed prominently in the classroom so they can be accessed to focus students and answer the “why are we doing this?” questions.

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Learning Goals

  • Brief statements that describe for a student what he or she should know and be able to do by the end of a period of instruction (e.g., a lesson, series of lessons, or subtask).

  • The goals represent subsets or clusters of knowledge and skills that the student must master to successfully achieve the overall curriculum expectations (and Big Ideas).

    from Growing Success Glossary

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Where are Learning Goals mentioned in Growing Success?

As essential steps in assessment for learning and as learning, teachers need to:

  • plan assessment concurrently and integrate it seamlessly with instruction;

  • share learning goals and success criteria with students at the outset of learning to ensure that students and teachers have a common and shared understanding of these goals and criteria as learning progresses;

  • gather information about student learning before, during, and at or near the end of a period of instruction, using a variety of assessment strategies and tools;

  • use assessment to inform instruction, guide next steps, and help students monitor their progress towards achieving their learning goals;

  • analyse and interpret evidence of learning

  • give and receive specific and timely descriptive feedback about student learning;

  • help students to develop skills of peer and self-assessment.

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Big Ideas

Essential Questions

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  • Clarifying learning goals:

  • answer the questions “Where are we going?”, “What are we expected to learn?”

  • help identify the curriculum expectations to be addressed in the learning

  • make the learning transparent

  • build a common understanding of the learning

  • help define quality success criteria

  • invite students to take ownership of their learning

  • encourage students to reflect on and internalize the learning.

  • State explicitly, in student-friendly language the goal or goals required for students during that lesson or series of lessons

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  • Students should think of learning goals as WALTs…

    “we are learningto…”

    Teachers phrase them as “students will be able to…” (performance goals) or “students will understand…”

    (declarative goals)

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Differentiating the content

  • Our students will be at different points in their journey on each expectation.

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An example

Learning Goal

Success criteria

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Learning Goals can vary for students

  • WALTs

  • Know

  • Describe

  • Explain

  • Calculate

  • Analyse

  • Link

Order of difficulty

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Success Criteria

  • Standards or specific descriptions of successful attainment of learning goals developed by teachers on the basis of criteria in the achievement chart.

  • Discussed and agreed upon in collaboration with students and are used to determine to what degree a learning goal has been achieved.

  • Criteria describe what success “looks like”, and allow the teacher and student to gather information about the quality of student learning.

  • Students use success criteria to make judgements about the quality of their performance (starts the process of student self-evaluation)

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What Are Success Criteria?

‘… success criteria summarize the key steps or ingredients the student needs in order to fulfill the learning intention – the main things to do, include or focus on.’

- Shirley Clarke

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Why Are Learning Intentions and Success Criteria Important?

‘If learners are to take more responsibility for their own learning, then they need to know what they are going to learn, how they will recognize when they have succeeded and why they should learn it in the first place.’

- (An Intro to AfL, Learning Unlimited, 2004)

Learning Goals

‘What’ and ‘Why’

Success Criteria

‘How to recognize success’



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  • Co-creating success criteria:

  • answer the questions

    • “What does successful learning look like?”

    • “What are we to look for during the learning?”

  • make the success criteria explicit for teachers and students alike;

  • build a common understanding of success;

  • lead to descriptive feedback;

  • promote self and peer assessment;

  • help identify possible next steps;

  • lead to individual goal setting;

  • empower students to take ownership of their learning;

  • helps develop independent learning skills.

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Exemplar of a good product…

Finished Product

Success Criteria

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  • Success Criteria can be thought of as WILTs…

    What I am looking for…

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Success Criteria –how are they written?

  • Written from a student’s perspective, as if they are telling you what their work includes that means that it meets the learning goal

  • For example if a Learning Goal is that students should be able to report on an investigation orally and in writing…

  • Then the Success Criteria for writing could be:

    • I tell say (or write) what is being reported on.

    • My report tells what the report is for (or about).

    • My report gives enough information for the purpose.

    • My report gives appropriate information for purpose.

    • My report uses the right form for the type of information (chart, graph, diagram, description).

    • My report is accurate (unit, labels, explanations as required).

    • My report uses terms correctly (defining when needed).

    • My report is understandable (legible, or audible).

    • My report is organized (uses ruler for straight lines, labelled diagrams, axes on graphs)

    • The words and pictures (diagrams, charts, etc.) in my report work together.

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How are Learning Goals and Success Criteria Implemented?

  • Learning Goals should be developed for every lesson (or related group of lessons) for a course based on Essential Questions and Big Ideas

  • They should be posted in the room for each lesson

  • It may take more than one Learning Goal to describe the necessary skills and concepts within an expectation

  • Work with students where possible to develop the success criteria for learning goals and have them state them.

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Ways to communicate Success Criteria

  • Rubrics that include specific language, are not too broad or do not contain language students do not understand. The criteria in the rubric should help students by providing specific descriptive feedback, identifying concrete next steps, and helping to set individual goals.

  • Exemplars of student work with success criteria identified (best through Teacher Moderation). Show exemplars of each level.

  • Anchor charts – how to’s; “Remember to” charts; things to avoid the following. Anchors are visual reminders of success criteria.

  • Checklists