Got it!
We use cookies to enhance your experience. By continuing to visit this site you agree to our use of cookies. More info

Already a subscriber or advertiser? Enter your login information here

Saturday, 8 May 2021

FREE! Sign up for the TIE newsletter and never miss out on international school news, headlines, resources and best-practices from around the world!

28 April 2021 | It's a Journey
15 April 2021 | What have we learned?
31 March 2021 | The Time Is Now
17 March 2021 | Designing the Return
04 March 2021 | #MyFreedomDay
17 February 2021 | Revealing the Hidden Curriculum
3 February 2021 | Bring on the Mistakes

view more


Enter your email below to sign up:

Ready to subscribe and get all the features TIE has to offer? Click here >>


You are here: Home > Online Articles > Involving Students in Constructing the Criteria for Good Writing



Involving Students in Constructing the Criteria for Good Writing

By Kim Marshall


The article: “Build It Together: Co-Constructing Success Criteria with Students” by Jennifer Gonzalez and Starr Sackstein in Cult of Pedagogy, April 4, 2021

In this Cult of Pedagogy article, Jennifer Gonzalez says that early in her teaching career, she would spend entire weekends grading papers, writing extensive comments and highlighting strengths and weaknesses on a rubric. Alas, when she returned the papers, “far too many students would look at their grades and feedback like it was written in another language.” It made no difference that Gonzalez had given them a copy of the rubric and gone over her expectations.

Over time, she added two more steps that improved students’ writing – showing models of finished products and getting students to look more closely at the rubric – but there was still something missing. That’s been supplied by author/educator Starr Sackstein in her latest book, Assessing with Respect (ASCD, 2021). The key insight: including students in shaping what will be assessed. “It’s essentially backward planning with students for success,” says Sackstein. “We’re going over an assignment with them, and we’re having a conversation about what it would take to be successful at it.”

Why is it necessary to include students when the teacher – the professional – has well-developed criteria for good student work? Three reasons:

  • Clarity is in the eye of the beholder. “I can have amazing ideas, but sometimes how I communicate them in the assignment doesn’t always come out the way that I think they do in my head,” says Sackstein.

  • Unit planning is improved. Going over the criteria with students, the teacher can get a better sense of what skills students have already mastered and where they need help.

  • Students get more proficient at self-assessing and commenting on classmates’ writing.

Gonzalez and Sackstein say co-constructing success criteria involves four steps, which will take a full class period at first:

Unpack and rewrite the standards. “Kids have to be familiar with the language of the standards,” says Sackstein. They might work in small groups, circling verbs in a standard (usually the skills) and nouns (the concepts) and brainstorming what it might look like when a student masters it. Students might also translate the standard into kid-friendly I can… language and create posters to be displayed around the classroom.

Annotate the assignment. As a new project or learning cycle is launched, students study the prompt, highlighting important words or phrases and writing comments or questions in the margins. The prompt: What would success look like on this assignment?

Study exemplars. Next, students quietly read high-quality examples of completed assignments (teacher-made or by other students) and talk with a partner about which rubric criteria they see in the exemplar. The whole class then shares insights on where in the exemplar the required qualities show up, using the language of the standards. “This step really makes the success criteria come alive,” says Gonzalez, “helping students see exactly what it looks like when a student is meeting the standards well.”

Identify instructional needs. Students then identify specifically where they will need instructional support. This might be done as a whole-class KWL chart, a poll, a Google form, or an exit slip – all valuable information as the teacher plans mini-lessons.

When the unit is finished and students hand in their completed work, says Sackstein, “Give very direct, instructive feedback, and make it an iterative process where student voice is a large part of how we assess them with reflection and self-assessment. The partnership between what’s going on for them as learners and what we’re seeing as educators comes together to help them start to set goals and move on, making progress on their own learning.”

Please fill out the form below if you would like to post a comment on this article:

Nickname (this will appear with your comments)


There are currently no comments posted. Please post one via the form above.

MORE FROM Assessment
Formative assessment presents a powerful opportunity for improving student outcomes. Here are severa ..more
Standards for teachers is not a new idea. Standards for teachers reflecting the unique international ..more
We Don’t Want to Talk About It
By James Toney
What Are the Elements of an Effective Global Citizenship Curriculum?
By Gordon Eldridge, TIE Columnist
Designing Curriculum for Global Citizenship
By Gordon Eldridge, TIE Columnist