Willow Primary School Year 4/6

  • School: Willow Primary School, Bessacarr, Doncaster
  • Teacher: Nichola King
  • Class: Year 6 and Year 4

Focus of Case Study

Use of success criteria and successful methods to generate them with pupils which I have found have a positive impact on my classroom.

As part of our action research with Shirley Clarke we were asked to focus on different areas of formative assessment in our classrooms. One of my main focuses was the use of success criteria.

Aims and Objectives


  • To embed the use of success criteria in my classroom to impact on the teaching and learning.
  • To equip pupils with the tools to be able to self and peer assess successfully.


  • To develop different techniques for generating success criteria in lessons.
  • To plan for success criteria prior to lessons.
  • For children to generate their own success criteria for maximum impact.
  • To develop the use of success criteria into different subject areas apart from Literacy.


This was a one year action research project from November 2008 until the showcase presentation in November 2009. However, due to the nature of this action research and the development of formative assessment techniques within our schools, this is an ongoing development and something which continues to develop and evolve.

Actions/Strategies Used

There are different strategies that can be used to generate success criteria, but one of the methods I researched and developed within my own classroom for this case study is retrospective generation of success criteria.

Year 6 – Maths

  • I had a top set maths group in Year 6 and I used the retrospective generation of success criteria to help them prepare for SATs.

  • For different methods of written calculations, such as grid method for multiplication or “chunking” for division, we used the method on our whiteboards and then wrote success criteria for these methods. So we wrote a step by step account of how to “do” that method of calculation. These were displayed in class and constantly referred to by the children when using these methods in lessons. This has also been used successfully as a strategy in my Year 4 mixed ability maths lessons.

The children remember the method when they have generated their own success criteria for it and have it recorded and displayed for reference.

  • I also used retrospective generation of success criteria to help the maths group prepare for SATs and improve their scores on practice papers. We completed a test paper every month and I found that the children were making small improvements from one paper to the next, but they were making the same mistakes. Despite me reminding the children before a test of the key things that they would need to remember to be successful in their paper, they still forgot to do things like checking with an inverse calculation or marking scales on graphs and charts.
  • After they had completed a SATs paper in February I handed the papers back and we spent a lesson going through the papers. The children generated a list of “Success Criteria for Maths SATs” (see resource at end). These incorporated hints and tips that I had previously reminded them of before the tests, but were all generated by the children looking through their papers.
  • Before the next SATs paper we revisited the Success Criteria. The marks in the next paper showed greater improvements and the children were making less of the “silly” errors. This was after only one month and I believe the improvements were influenced greatly by the fact that the children had generated their own success criteria and they took ownership of them. (see results in outcomes section)

Year 4 – Art

  • In an art session I wanted the children to sketch figures and shapes lightly before filling in details for a picture which showed relationships between people related to our history topic on World War 2. The children had all brought in images that they wanted to be able to sketch.
  • I modelled sketching the picture with all of the children gathered around me. I asked them to watch carefully what I was doing and techniques that I used. I talked to them constantly about what I was doing and my thoughts.

  • I then asked the children to tell me what the success criteria was for creating a good art picture for this lesson. In other words, how would they successfully sketch a picture. (See the success criteria at end)

  • The children then used and referred to the success criteria throughout the lesson and revisited them when they were finishing their sketches. Their work was of a good quality and the children concentrated more and could reflect on their own and other’s work about the next step or how to further improve.
  • One example of children using the success criteria was when one child said to his partner that his person did not look quite right and his partner looked at it and said straight away “Well, you need to sketch it again but remember to sketch the shape in lightly first before adding the details of the clothes like we talked about on the success criteria”

Outcomes – Impact on learning

  • Children take ownership of their learning as they have generated their own success criteria and can consider where they need to go next from referring to the success criteria.
  • Improved maths SATs scores over a period of one month:

  • More quality discussion between peers and self assessment and peer assessment against the success criteria.
  • Children more aware of what is expected of them, e.g. how to complete a piece of work successfully.
  • Children who need support can work through success criteria logically and have that support.
  • Children are more reflective on what makes a good piece of work, be it in Literacy, Art or maths etc.
  • Increased understanding of how to achieve the learning objectives

Here are some quotations from some children in my Year 4 class. I asked them what they thought of using success criteria and how they found it useful:

Success criteria is good because when you are finished you can go from one stage of the success criteria to another to see if your work is correct.

You know what you are aiming for and if you aim for it and follow the success criteria you’ve done a good piece of work.

It makes working easier because you have already got ideas of what goes into the work.

Resources Used

“Active Learning through Formative Assessment”- Shirley Clarke

Plans for Future

  • To continue to develop the use of success criteria in all areas of the curriculum.
  • To continue to use different methods for children generating their own success criteria. (e.g. prove it/doing it wrong, looking at a finished piece of work, comparing 2 examples, looking at poor quality success criteria)


  • My teaching and lessons continue to develop and improve as formative assessment techniques become embedded. Success criteria cannot simply be used on its own but needs linking with talk partners, clear learning objectives and peer and self assessment.
  • I recommend starting off with success criteria in Literacy for a piece of writing and then beginning to use it and develop into other areas of the curriculum.


Success Criteria for WW2 Art sketch Year 4

  • Keep looking at the picture you are copying from
  • Draw main shapes lightly first
  • Then add more detail (clothes, etc)
  • Concentrate on what you are doing
  • Shade in the darker parts of the picture
  • Draw shapes the correct size

Success Criteria for Maths SATs Year 6

  • Read each question carefully, underlining any important parts.
  • Write down your calculation.
  • Decide whether to use a mental method with jottings, a written method or use a calculator (paper B).
  • Use jottings where needed for your calculation.
  • On your calculator, do the calculation twice and remember to press the clear button twice.
  • Use an inverse check or re-do the calculation when you are checking.
  • Check you have answered the questions!
  • Draw measurements on shapes.
  • For spinners and counters in a bag etc, put the probability as a fraction.
  • Read charts and graphs carefully – label each division.