Mexborough Highwoods Primary School

Focus of the Case Study

The focus for this case study is the pupil generation and use of success criteria.

Aims and objectives


This research took place during the Spring and Summer terms 2009.

Actions / Strategies used

We were asked to investigate the various ways of generating success criteria as outlined by Shirley Clarke.

There are several very high-quality techniques for getting pupils to generate success criteria, namely:

Prove It / Do It Wrong

Ask the children if they can perform a task. To the answer “yes” – ask them to prove it by saying them what they would do…i.e. generating the success criteria. Another method is to demonstrate something being done making sure you do it wrong – the children then point out your errors and refine the success criteria.

Finished piece of work

A piece of work from a parallel class or previous year is projected, or photocopied, and is given out at the beginning of the session. The work is analysed and discussed by the pupils and the success criteria are generated.

Two Pieces of Finished Work

Here two pieces of work, of differing quality, are shown side by side. The analysis initially focuses on the features seen (the success criteria) in the two pieces then more in-depth analysis focuses on the quality and how the pieces fulfil the success criteria.

Poor Quality Success Criteria

In this technique the ready-prepared success criteria are incorrect or “sloppy” – giving rise to incorrect methods or work. This works particularly well in maths. Pupils then decide through discussion what changes needed to be made the success criteria.

Demonstration / Retrospective Creation

For some key skills, a finished product shown at the beginning may not show all the processes involved. So to generate success criteria the teacher (or other adult) demonstrates whilst the pupils, in pairs, write the success criteria. Retrospective creation is to give the children a task to do but stop at frequent intervals to describe exactly what they have done – generating the success criteria after the event – this can be refined and then used again and again.

Revisiting existing success criteria

This is done after the task – the children might want to refine, amend, and clarify the success criteria.

I focused on generating success criteria from a finished piece of work initially and then developed this to using two (or more) finished pieces of work, side-by-side, to consider quality. I started with English / Literacy as the subject area with a focus on writing across the different genres. Writing skills are an area for development within our school and was a focus in our School Improvement Plan. Mathematics and IT are my subject specialisms so I decided to work out of my “comfort zone”.

Children generating success criteria through a finished product has implications for resourcing. Where do you get a “finished product” from? In schools with more than a one form entry, then work can be taken from a parallel class provided the work has been completed. In single form schools then it becomes more difficult. The teacher could “create” such examples of work but there is more impact if it is clearly from another pupil. This means saving examples of work to be used the following year– ideally stored digitally – scanning the work so that that it can be saved and then subsequently projected, or keeping a hard copy and using a visualiser or photocopied to show to the whole class.

As my school is a single form entry I used a mixture of both – creating examples of work and using children’s work from the previous year. I was fortunate because it is school policy to keep all the work done by three children from every class – high, average and low achievers so I had a “stock” of examples

As the focus was initially on literacy and writing, I could also draw upon the mark schemes from the English Key Stage 2 SATs papers as these provide examples of pupils’ scripts at different levels and over the years have covered different genres. They are also annotated too, picking out features of the writing.

The following is the way I structured my lessons (or series of lessons) to enable the pupils to generate success criteria:

Prior to the lesson

During lesson

The success criteria I then transfer to our “learning ladders” – see example in the Resources section. I then give copies of this to the children to use as a way of self evaluation and peer evaluation in discussion with their learning partner. There is also a section for a written comment detailing their next learning focus.

Resources used

Outcomes – impact on learning

Plans for the future

To share with colleagues within school the “Shirley Clarke” experience. Development of active learning has been written into the Schools Improvement Plan and will be delivered to the remainder of the staff by myself and my colleague who undertook the research project with me.

This training is to follow the model adopted by Shirley Clarke – namely a series of training sessions with gap tasks for staff to experiment with / try out and then feedback at the next session.

Monitoring and Evaluation will be done through lesson observations, pupil works scrutiny and pupil interview

Evaluation and recommendations

The project has been thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile. It came at the right time to further develop and extend the assessment strategies within our school.

The strategies and techniques that Shirley shared with us – do work in the classroom – they have been trialled and developed by teachers. They are practical, relevant and manageable.

They promote pupil engagement, effective discussion and dialogue and reflective thinking.

Shirley Clarke is an inspirational speaker and working with her has been a valuable experience which has had impact on my own practice and that of our school and of course on the learning experiences of the children.

I would recommend anyone to seize the opportunity to take part in one of her learning teams or participate in any course that Shirley is part of.