Discover how sharing objectives and criteria can help you actively involve your students in their learning, including tips and ideas to try in your lessons

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Objectives and criteria do not ‘belong’ to the teacher; they are for everyone.

What is objective and criteria sharing?

‘Objectives’ are goals and targets for learning.

‘Criteria’ describe the nature and quality of work required to achieve success.

The bottom line is that no assessment, by anyone, is possible unless the purpose of and the criteria for judging are in place.

Objectives and criteria do not ‘belong’ to the teacher; they are for everyone. Being open promotes the idea that they are attainable by everyone. However, sharing objectives and criteria does not mean giving the answers to the questions!

Why use this technique?

Sharing objectives and criteria can have a number of uses and benefits, including:

  • To encourage students to take more control of their learning.
  • Students will know what and why they are learning.
  • It gives an opportunity to connect up with previous sessions.
  • Setting learning in context gives it greater relevance.
  • A clear framework for learning gives reassurance.
  • Students will know how to demonstrate achievement during the session.
  • They provide a basis for regularly checking learning during the session (by students and teacher).
  • It provides teachers with a template for giving feedback.
  • It makes marking easier.

Annotated examples of good work, a powerful way of describing to students what is wanted, can surprise, stimulate and raise aspirations for what is achievable.

How do I set it up?


The ‘stimulus’ can be almost anything – a question, an artefact, a video. It is a means to engage attention, to help introduce the purpose of the session and to set this purpose into the greater scheme of things.

  • The stimulus to start a session can be about the new topic or link to a previous one.
  • Send the message that the session, and the learning therein, has value by:
    • starting promptly
    • setting the scene for the learning
    • displaying key words, facts, periodic table, formulae.
  • Stimuli may be:
    • items, visual or tactile
    • a very short activity
    • a question which relates to the big picture.
  • Misconceptions revealed by questions are a good starting point for developing ideas.
  • A stimulus is meant to galvanise action so capitalise on this and leave the register until later.


  • Write objectives that are graduated in cognition level.
  • The stimulus can allow objectives to be introduced naturally.
  • Sharing objectives is more than just writing them on the board.
  • Convert objectives (and criteria) into student‑friendly language. Choose verbs such ‘predict’, ‘explain how’, ‘use a model to show’, rather than ‘understand’.
  • Vary how objectives are introduced by devising them with the students.


  • Success criteria and quality descriptors are sometimes known as WILF (What I am Looking For).
  • Take time to explain the criteria and ensure that students understand fully what is expected.
  • Display a good quality exemplar. It should be:
    • a good piece of work
    • annotated to explain why it is good
    • able to show the criteria matched
    • relevant to the topic being taught or the skill being developed
    • used by the students
    • referred to during the teaching session.
  • The criteria for some skills are on‑going; these may be part of a permanent display or reinforced each session.
  • Allow students to form a view as to what the criteria should be. Ideally, students will agree criteria together.
  • Consistently encourage students to measure and improve their achievements against criteria for success.
  • Whenever a student succeeds in matching a criterion, comment on how it was matched.

Tips for promoting effective objective and criteria sharing


Students will be approaching the criteria from their own base of knowledge and understanding. Help them to:

  • Recognise their existing knowledge and understanding.
  • See the purpose of learning.
  • Understand the criteria for judging success.

Be prepared to adjust the goals for different students.

Using objectives and criteria

During the session, use questions and plenaries to check that students:

  • Understand the learning objectives.
  • Know how they will recognise achievement.
  • Are making progress against those targets.


  • If an activity includes self or peer assessment, check that everyone is familiar with the relevant criteria.
  • Use the objectives and/or criteria as the basis for written feedback.
  • Point out the strengths and weaknesses of the work against explicit criteria for success; there is no good or bad achievement, just an indication of progress towards the goal.
  • When preparing students for tests, explore assessment criteria and discuss mark schemes.

Is there anything else teachers should think about?

When using objective and criteria sharing in your lessons, consider:

  • Introducing the technique gradually so that skills are developed.
  • Allowing students to discuss and develop criteria.
  • Making the best use of unexpected learning outcomes.
  • How to make targets SMART.

Common issues to watch out for

  • Too many objectives will obscure the session’s purpose.
  • Too many criteria are unmanageable.

How can I tell if it is successful?

When you devise your checklist to evaluate the session, consider how you will measure:

  • How well the students understood the objectives or criteria.
  • How well students were able to measure their progress.
  • The extent to which students choose to chart their own progress.
  • The support for different abilities.
  • Improvement in work standards.

Principles of assessment for learning