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What makes the Success Criteria successful?

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

The purpose of this blog is to share my experience and strategies I have used to to create and implement success criteria in my classroom.

Image Credit: WIX
What is more effective- teacher-created success criteria or criteria co-constructed with students? If we would like our learners to engage with the success criteria, then what is the right approach? How might we help our learners to take ownership of their learning and use the success criteria, unaided and without the teacher's prompts?

What is success criteria- Credit : 4G learners

Having taught in a primary setting for the last 13 years, I always wondered about a recipe for success - a perfect recipe where every child can experience success!

I always asked myself -what I could add to my repertoire of teaching that would make learning accessible in a way that every student can self-regulate and have greater confidence to further engage in the tasks. What might help my students have a clear idea about learning expectations - how to monitor and take more control of their learning?

A few years ago, my team leader introduced me to the split screen, learning intentions and success criteria, which changed my approach towards teaching and learning. I began experimenting with different techniques, and as a result, I gained a new perspective.

The point of creating success criteria is to help students be aware of what success looks like and therefore be able to monitor their learning and engage with it. The co-construction of success criteria increases the students’ motivation and readiness to take responsibility for completing the task. Students are much more likely to be engaged when they have a voice in what success looks like and how they can show their understanding. Co-constructing success criteria also help students see the purpose of learning and boost their confidence.

Here is an example of success criteria co-constructed by the students in grade 6 and used for rich peer feedback discussions.

In contrast, when teachers share criteria, students do not capture its importance, understand or internalise it. Students try to use the criteria, albeit not as successfully and independently as had they been involved in creating them. Thus, the use of success criteria becomes tokenistic. This disengagement of learners may leave teachers feeling frustrated and make them believe that creating success criteria for learning tasks is onerous and ineffective. Clarke argued that "Although it might seem quicker and easier to simply give students a list of success criteria linked to the learning intention , there is a tendency for the criteria to be misunderstood or even ignored". ( Clarke 2019)

I have had the experience of teaching in both early and upper years, and my experience says 'power lies in co-constructing the criteria with your learners', no matter their age! I collected some student voice on co-constructing success criteria and if they found it helpful. Here are their responses.

Credit: 4G Learners

Here are some steps that have helped me to implement success criteria successfully in my Year group:

Step 1: Collaborate with your team to design high-quality success criteria. Involving the team is the only way to ensure equity of access for all learners across the cohort. As a team, identify the content, skills and dispositions required to meet the learning intentions. Remember to link success criteria back to the learning intention. Lastly, have high expectations of your learners. Do not water down your expectations. Believe in the learning capabilities of your learners.

With an end in mind: discuss with your team what we would want our learners to say and do when they have accomplished the learning intentions. What would success look like for our students? Without a shared understanding of what students might be able to do when they achieve the learning intentions, we cannot intentionally design the criteria.

Step 2: Create the exemplars- The success lies in these examples!

Once you have a clear understanding of what the task requirements are, create examples of success. These examples should have all the features that are required to be part of the success criteria.

Here are different ways that I have tried to create the examples, and they have worked in both upper and lower years.

  1. Good and bad example: ( works well with any learning): Create copies of examples and hand them out to students either in groups of two or three. Ask them which of the following learning is successful and why? Give your students some time to annotate the features they notice and invite them to share as a class. My class: Here are an example of how we have co-designed the samples for our students to identify the structure of a paragraph and organisation. The knowledge was the structure of the paragraph, the skill was analysis, and the disposition was to make mistakes and have a go. I intentionally added all the important bits to a good example and created a bad example without all the features. I asked students to highlight the parts that they think make the organisation of the writing successful.

  2. Bad example: Showing messy work in a maths book can help teachers to create success criteria for setting out work. Another example would be to enact a bad example of working with a learning buddy. When students see what is wrong and what should be avoided, they are more engaged in setting up success criteria for working successfully with a learning buddy.

  3. Two good examples to help students compare the strengths: This could be used by getting two mentor texts or teacher-created examples where both the pieces have their own strengths.

  4. Two good examples to help students compare the strengths: This will help students go deeper and be more creative in their thinking. Our team found this approach effective when teaching the "show-don't-tell" strategy for writing. (Two Good Examples: Show-Don't-Tell)

  5. Doing it wrong: My students have always loved correcting their teachers, especially in lower years. This is a fun way to co-construct the success criteria. Before embarking on this, I always warn my learners that their teacher is having an ‘oops day’ and she might make lots of mistakes. Students have to help the teacher by pointing out the mistakes and thereby help in co-constructing the criteria.

Step 3: Co-construct the success criteria with your class.

As learners identify the features, ask them to first highlight them and then record them properly on paper. The purpose is when students organise their ideas, they may connect the dots for a better understanding.

Next, invite the class to share their understanding and have each group share their findings. This is a great way to check common themes across the class. Always remember to negotiate with the whole class about which criteria to be included in the class criteria. You may use the thumbs up/down or green/red light strategy. Here is an example of success criteria my class co-constructed for using the breakout rooms on Zoom.

Step 4: Keep the criteria visible in your class!

Once the success criteria have been co-constructed, decide the format.

There is a range of formats to choose from: I can statements, single-point rubrics, we can statements or rubrics. The choice is yours, and it depends on personal choice and the method of assessment currently used in your school.

I am an avid user of single-point rubrics, and I believe this tool works well in both lower and upper years once you've decided on the tool, print and keep them visible in the class so students can use them independently.

I hope you find this article helpful. Would love to hear your feedback.


Almarode, J., Fisher, D., Thunder, K., & Frey, N. (2021). The success criteria playbook. Corwin.

Hattie, J., & Clarke, S. (2021). Visible Learning Feedback. Routledge.

1 Comment

Divesh Gupta
Divesh Gupta
Dec 11, 2022

Great way to engage students in their own learnings!!

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