WE Lab Classrooms is an opportunity to engage critically with research, trial a new approach in your classroom and reflect on which teaching and learning strategies are the most effective for your learners. Each Lab Classrooms strand is ‘two for one’ – improving both learners’ knowledge and wider skills, such as teamwork and communication.
Shamim Ahmed is a Class Teacher at Ainslie Wood Primary School. In this blog, he shares his experience of using feedback and critique to empower learners agency.
Being part of the feedback and critique research project has been an amazing journey from beginning to end. When I decided to take part in this project, I was extremely nervous about the fact that I would have to adapt my practice and questioned how my pupils would receive it. I was also a little worried about whether it would have a positive impact on their learning, engagement and development. However, these concerns were completely dissipated during the initial session as, when I told them that we would be creating the success criteria together, they became eager to share what they believed should be the steps to meet the learning objectives; it gave them ownership over their own learning.
As a teacher, I have always thought of success criteria as being a strategy that we use to carry out AFL in the classroom. However, this research made me realise that it’s much more than just a tool; it has so many other positive elements. For example, success criteria help students to know what success looks like. When students know this, they are more likely to plan and predict, set goals, and acquire a stronger sense of how to judge their own progress.
Through this research I have come to understand that success criteria have empowered my own pupils with an opportunity to assess their own learning. They took charge of their own progress and attainment within the lesson which, in turn, improved their own engagement in every lesson.
During this trial, I tried two different approaches. One of them was to give children pre-created success criteria and the other was to create success criteria with the children involved. What I discovered was that the second approach developed and enhanced children’s understanding of the skills for the lesson much more than the first approach. This was also the case with the alternative control group. However, part of success criteria is the learning intentions (or objectives) that are communicated to students, which is an end result of careful planning. I have come to understand that for success criteria to have any impact on attainment or engagement, we teachers must have SMART and skills based learning objectives as this makes it easier to create success criteria with the pupils, which in turn maximises the impact.
During this process, I have seen my student’s motivation for learning improve significantly because it provided them with clear, specific, and attainable goals that sparked their interest and engagement, particularly in literacy. I have also seen an increase in motivation for my lower attaining children because they understood the path they needed to take in order to successfully complete their learning.
This process has helped me develop as a teacher and as an educator of young minds, and will, from now on, inform how I plan and deliver lessons. I have learnt to construct learning objectives and success criteria that children can understand and the skills behind them.
I now understand that we must give ownership to our children to lead their own learning and skills development. When we become facilitators, children become true learners because they monitor, make decisions and control the outcome and progress. As a result, what I have discovered is that children make accelerated progress and grow as independent learners.
As I was going through this research and saw the impact the strategy was having on my children, I began to wonder whether this could be used with other classes in my school in order to push their attainments up. Hence, I worked with the Year 4 and Year 5 teacher who decided to join the project with me. In both cases the impact was similar to my class and therefore, as Research and Development Lead at the school, I plan to gradually work with other teachers to introduce them to the strategies I have acquired.
Views of Year 4 teacher: “It allowed me to gain a clearer understanding of the children’s prior knowledge. This also allowed me to plan additional questioning to guide the children when generating the Success Criteria. It aided my development by allowing me to look at success criteria not as what I want them to achieve, but as what they feel they should achieve based on the Learning Objective. It allowed the children to recap on prior learning, discuss their own ideas of what success looks like and to establish their own goals and targets for the lesson. This meant that the children were more focused on the Success Criteria as it was more attainable for them.” (Jonathan Y4 Teacher)
Views of Year 5 teacher: “Having the children create their own success criteria has helped me to select appropriate Learning Objectives. I have also learnt that if the Learning Objective is not clear, children misunderstand what the lesson will cover and struggle to create a success criteria. Children have learnt the importance of success criteria as it makes them aware of what is going to be taught in the lesson and what we want from them.” (Michaela Y5 Teacher)