Leadership Symposium Early Bird Deadline Is Today | Join K-12 leaders nationwide for three days of empowering strategies, networking, and inspiration! Discounted pricing ends today, Feb. 23. Register now.
Opinion Blog

Peter DeWitt's

Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Lost in Translation: Why Success Criteria Is Important

By Peter DeWitt — April 15, 2015 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

I was lost in the process and missed the conversation. How many of our students have the same issue in our classrooms?

A few weeks ago I was asked to moderate #BCF530. It’s a chat on Twitter that takes place at 5:30 am. Yes, that’s 5:30 am. Educators actually get up...or take time when they are already up...to chat about a topic at 5:30 in the morning. The topic they wanted was based on a recent blog I wrote that was called What If You Had 5 Minutes to Inspire a Teacher.

I set my alarm to get up early enough to grab a cup of coffee and shake off the night’s sleep. The day before I prepared 6 questions for the hour long chat. If you haven’t taken part in a chat on Twitter, most are one hour long and have 6 questions.

As the chat began, everyone introduced themselves. Some people were in other countries where it was time for them to go to bed. I got ready to Tweet out the first question and followed up with the usual format of telling people to answer with A1:, A2: to correspond with the numbered question.

And then I noticed something.

People were Tweeting their advice to each other using the BFC530 hashtag (#). They seemed to miss the first question I Tweeted out. Some people responded answering number one, but the rest...the rest...it seemed like herding cats. Two friends, one of whom asked me to moderate the chat, sent me private messages to ask if I knew that the chat was only 15 minutes and centered on only one question.

I didn’t know the chat was one question and was 15 minutes because I had never taken part in it before. Truth be told I wasn’t given the parameters of the chat but I never asked for them either. We both assumed that I understood.

I have to admit that I was a bit embarrassed...and then a little upset that I woke up early to do a 15 minute chat. And then I did my best Taylor Swift to shake it off, and Tweeted, “Wow! That hour went fast!”

The person apologized...I let her sweat it out a bit and responded saying it wasn’t a big deal, but it made me think about the bigger picture that often involves our students. How often do we do that?

How often do we assume the people we are talking to are in our heads and know the information even though we never it gave it to them? Have you ever been asked to teach something to children or adults and stood up in front of the audience and realized you didn’t have all of the information you needed to be successful?

Success Criteria Matters

John Hattie has researched, written and spoken about the value of learning intentions and success criteria. Below is a video of John describing what learning intentions and success criteria look like.

Learning intentions and success criteria are supposed to help students understand what they need to learn and not focus on what they are supposed to do. The key is the learning, because the doing to get there may look different. The focus is not finishing, but what they learned along the way.

The interesting thing that Hattie refers to in the video is whether we allow students to move on to different or deeper learning or whether we make them do an assignment because they need to be at the same place as other students. Or the flip side which is not providing them with the intentions and success criteria and always having them trust that we will get them there because we have the answers.

For me, it wasn’t that I wanted to get up and finish #BFC530...although it was really early in the morning. It was that I needed to know what success looked like. Part of that success was understanding that it was only fifteen minutes and revolved around one question. If I knew that I would have made sure I had one important question that would get to the heart of the topic so we could learn from one another, and perhaps take that away from the chat as we went into our schools.

The other side of all of this plays to the aspect of being assessment capable learners (Hattie. 2009). Assessment capable learners understand where they are going, how they are doing and where they are going next with their learning. This is where my lack of questioning the format comes in. If I wasn’t so focused on getting up and getting it done, I would have asked the right questions. Instead I focused on compliance and achievement, and had to scramble during the chat to find some sort of success.

With 15 minutes to learn from one another, I was lost in the process and missed the conversation. How many of our students have the same issue in our classrooms?

In the End

Everything in life offers us a learning opportunity. As I move forward, and if I ever get asked to do another chat (I’ve done 3) I will make sure I ask what the format of the chat entails, and then have a conversation about what a successful chat would look like. What do the moderators want educators to walk away with as they leave the chat? What kind of questions will help me get to the deeper learning...instead of the surface level cheerleading for each other that can happen on Twitter.

Successful learning requires engagement and good questioning on the part of both the teacher and the learner.

Connect with Peter on Twitter

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.