Talking Points, Not Checklists

Over the past few years schools in our board have been focusing on a learning goals/success criteria model for assessment.

I like that learning goals and success criteria are co-created with students. The process gives students some ownership of their learning.  It empowers students to know exactly how their progress is being measured.  I also like that learning goals and success criteria are dynamic lists that evolve as learning evolves.  A changing list shows that as you learn more, perhaps so does your understanding of what makes work good.

The problem is that when it comes to assessment, there’s a real danger that these lists become checklists instead of conversation tools that articulate “what’s great” and “what’s next”.

Last week students in my class had to learn a little about photography to help them with a literacy assignment that we’re working on.  Together we read about taking good photos, and we watched some basic photography tutorials.  Then we talked A LOT about what makes a photo attractive to the human eye.

My Vice Principal, Michael Bethke, had heard about the work we were doing in class so he submitted a photo to our class site asking for feedback from the students.  Check out what they wrote:

Such beautifully articulated feedback.

I think that the conversational element around success criteria really needs to be emphasized.  If we’re not talking lists through with students, then there’s a real danger of success criteria lists becoming YES or NO/PASS or FAIL checklists.  

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