Learning Goals and Success Criteria in Math

As Andrea and I travel to different schools  this year, we have been asked to discuss where Success Criteria fits into a 3-part math lesson. We have been trying out a few different scenarios and want to share our observations so far. We are hoping to hear comments from other math teachers and coaches about what is working well (or not!) with respect to Learning Goals and Success Criteria in your math lessons.

The first time we applied our learning about Learning Goals and Success Criteria, we planned a 3-part problem solving lesson using Bansho. The curriculum expectation we wanted to cover was about students being able to determine when each operation was appropriate to use. This was an easy one to convert to kid-friendly Learning Goal language. The problem we chose could have been solved using a combination of any of the four basic operations (adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing) but the most efficient way would have involved division. The teacher was hoping to determine how flexible her students were with choosing operations to solve an open problem, especially division. So far so good, right?

Well, we really hit a wall with the idea of co-constructing the success criteria. First, the students had never participated in Bansho before and would not be able to explain how to be successful at something that was brand new. Our second wall was that we did not want to tell the students to use division. We were hoping to see a variety of operations used and to use Bansho to have the students analyze the methods and reflect on ways they might try if given another, similar problem. We wanted a variety of solutions and strategies at this point. So, we created what we called Success Criteria that really just described what they would be doing at each stage of the lesson. What the teacher WAS able to do (after three more problem solving lessons involving Bansho), was to then co-create Success criteria for problem solving in math class. The students were able to reflect on what they did that was successful and create the criteria to refer to in future problem solving situations.

Since then, we have been working in a few more schools that are focusing on planning and communicating clear Learning Goals in Mathematics. Here is a picture of the Learning Goals and co-constructed Success criteria from our most recent school. We will report on our progress in  future posts.

learning goals and s crit

If you have been involved with this type of learning in your school, we would love to hear from you. Have you considered ways to get the learning goal across while maintaining a constructivist approach in Problem Solving? How have using Learning Goals and/or Success criteria helped your students? We look forward to continuing this learning process together.

7 thoughts on “Learning Goals and Success Criteria in Math

  1. Hi, I’m a principal of a primary school in Melbourne Victoria which has maths as our strategic improvement area over the next 4 years. We have chosen to use a number of strategies which includes differentiating instruction [which is more of a philosophical position than a strategy – anyway] and training teachers as coaches [like yourself – employed a assistant principal who was an experienced maths coach – as the lead coach if you like]. Our data suggests teachers in primary school generally lack detailed maths content knowldge which we are adressing but from the instructional point learning intentions that enable a simple self assessment [and teacher assessment] at the end of the lesson. Our learning was that teachers try and do too much in a lesson thereby making the intent difficult to assess. We are working on narrowing the intention to 1 thing. Enjoyed your post.
    like yourself I blog about our work as well at: http://www.mwalker.com.au.

  2. Pingback: This Week in Ontario Edublogs « doug – off the record

  3. Thanks, Mark, for sharing your findings about the self-assessments your teachers completed. We are using Learning Goals and Success Criteria in Ontario to ensure that teachers are really clear themselves on what the curriculum goal is of the lesson and can communicate clearly to students what they need to do to get there. I think that strategy could help your teachers who are doing too much in each lesson. We find it helps us to stay focused on our goals and students leave their math class able to articulate what they learned and how they know. The administrators we work with appreciate it when learning goals are posted in the classroom so they are able to discuss the learning with students.

    As coaches, Andrea and I get to work with teachers to plan lessons (one-to-one or in small professional learning groups). This helps to ensure that the math content is examined thoroughly and differentiated instruction strategies are in place before the lesson occurs. Teachers are confident about what success might look like for the different learners in their classroom.

  4. Hi

    Great post on your experiences of implementing learning goals and success criteria. I attended a PD session where the presenters said that co-constructing success criteria didn’t necessarily mean letting students create the criteria with you but co-constructing the understanding of the success criteria. However, when I was a math coach last year, we added another component to the 3 part lesson after the reflect and connect called “key learnings”. This is where the teachers and the student co-construct and summarize what they learned from the lesson. Sometimes this can be like pulling teeth but the key learnings would then become the success criteria.

  5. Thanks, Thomas, it is great to hear how others are doing this. We have also found that getting students interested in co-creating success criteria is challenging. Thank you for the tip on using key learnings to build the success criteria.

  6. We have found that Success Criteria that is focused on a product (e.g.;line graph) or a process (e.g.;communication of a solution) works well, but that Success Criteria does not work well with content (fractions, algebra, etc). Instead, we have been recording/summarizing key learning from each lesson and posting this in the class. This is a form of visual and public documentation that works best when students have input and ownership into what gets posted. Throughout a unit, key learnings will be posted together in one location (bulletin board or chart paper) and referred to throughout the unit. Sounds very similar to what Thomas is referring to.

  7. Thanks, Mike, I appreciate you sharing the ways Success Criteria are being used in your schools. I like the way you categorized the types of math learning that work better with the key learnings approach. I will be using that information this fall to plan with teachers.

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