How to Use Success Criteria in Your Lessons

A guide for teachers on how to use success criteria in their lessons

Using success criteria in your lessons can be an effective way to help your students understand what is expected of them and guide their learning. Learn more about the benefits of using them here.

Success Criteria can and should be used throughout a lesson but the way we construct and use them can vary based on our students, their prior knowledge and our teaching preferences.

When introducing a topic or teaching new knowledge, processes or skills, you probably want to prepare your Success Criteria prior to the lesson. You can make these available to students during the lesson through slideshows, writing them on the whiteboard or distributing them printed handouts or digital resources.

The other option is to co-construct the Success Criteria with your students. The benefits of this are that it makes the whole process of learning more transparent and students are likely to have a better understanding of what ‘success’ looks like if it is written in their own words. This approach is best done after students have previously been exposed to the concept or related skills.

At the start of a lesson you might introduce some or all of the Success Criteria. This makes it clear to the students what and how their success will be measured against right from the start. 

What can be more powerful though is identifying and recording the Success Criteria as and when you teach the relevant knowledge and skills. Let’s say you had three Success Criteria for what makes an effective introduction for a piece of persuasive writing. 

  • I can use a rhetorical question that makes the reader think

  • I can state my opinion 

  • I can use persuasive language

You might hone in on what rhetorical questions are at the start of your lesson using a video and some written examples. After showing students that it is a powerful method for hooking a reader, you might suggest or think-aloud that it would make a great Success Criteria for your piece of writing today.

Following this, you might unpack a moot topic and explore the students’ opinions on this e.g. Electric cars are the way of the future. After discussing reasons for and against, you might add ‘I can state my opinion’ to your Success Criteria list. Get the idea?

Now perhaps, you do some Modelled Writing while thinking aloud about what to include in your introduction paragraph. After writing it, you might read it back and comment on whether it was a strong introduction. You might ponder whether saying ‘I think’ is the best way of starting your sentence. Discuss alternative ways of phrasing parts of your sentences to include more persuasive language such as ‘I believe’ ‘It is imperative that’ ‘we must’ ‘it is crucial to understand that’ and so on. Now add that to your Success Criteria.

Students are only going to act on Success Criteria that they understand and see the value of and now that you’ve given them that, they’re much better equipped to go and show them in action. 

Allow students to work independently or in peers or small groups to apply the skills and knowledge they’ve learnt. You’ll probably need to remind them to double-check the Success Criteria to begin with but once they get into the habit, they should take responsibility for doing this independently. 

If your Success Criteria are part of the printed or digital resources you’ve distributed to students, they may be able to identify and mark off what they have met. Peer feedback can be a useful low-stakes assessment tool for students to identify if they have achieved success.

Finally, it is important to link back to your Learning Intention and Success Criteria at the end of your lesson in your Plenary. In our Writing lesson, this might involve sharing a piece of student work and as a class or in talk partners, identifying the evidence that shows achievement of each Success Criteria. This is also where there is opportunity for feed-forward and to set up next learning steps...which you guessed it, you’ll be talking all about next lesson when you build on this knowledge and experience. 


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