In the last 20 years, the world of education has undergone significant change. Research findings have played key roles in updating and improving curriculum documents, and teaching/learning/ assessment practices. Inevitably, some strategies are tried by teachers, but may fall by the wayside if they fail to obtain expected results.  Others prove to be ‘golden’, achieving encouraging outcomes, and become incorporated into our toolbox of best and most effective practices.

Such is the case with Learning Goals and Success Criteria. Initiated in Ontario through the release of the policy document Growing Success: Assessment, Evaluation and Reporting in Ontario Schools, these strategies have the potential for greatly supporting student engagement and understanding. My own experiences, working with students with special education needs, have shown me that learning goals and success criteria can assist all students with their learning.

Learning goals (teacher developed) are brief statements that tell what a student will know/be able to do by the end of a lesson, series of lessons, or unit. An example might be, We are learning to write a persuasive text.

Success criteria (collaboratively developed) describe, in specific terms, what the successful attainment of the learning goal looks like. For example,

·         I developed a strong position statement

·         I restated my position at the end of the text

·         I provided at least 3 thoughtful arguments to support my position

·         I used the peer editing checklist and worked with a partner to improve my work

The premise underlying the use of learning goals and success criteria is based on an understanding that when learners have a clear and precise grasp of what is expected of them, they are able to achieve more successfully.


Are you working with learning goals and success criteria?  Let us know how these have worked for you!


Author: Thérèse McNamara

Thérèse McNamara is a school administrator, special education resource teacher and mother. In her 30+ years as an educator, she has worked as a classroom teacher, computer/curriculum consultant, and education officer. She holds a Masters of Education degree with a focus on Literacy and has taught additional qualification courses for 3 universities. She has reviewed and written a number of professional learning resources and supports the application of evidence-based, best practices to support all students.