GCSE Success Criteria in History

I’ve been studying for a Geology GCSE with some year 10s after school for the past year and a half. As you might imagine, what amounts to a weekly observation of a teacher from another faculty has had a big impact on my practice, especially in terms of sharing success criteria.

We’re big on success criteria at school these days. I’ve struggled a little bit to see the wood for the trees, in that I can easily share my lesson objectives, but expressing these in terms of a level or a grade is more difficult. Key stage 3 has not been such a problem. I have started to include big arrows on my slides for every activity, like this:

I discussed this with my Y8 classes when I started doing it and they were very positive about it. I think it needs some tweaking, perhaps to include a low level 5 and high level 5 instruction, but it’s a good start.

However, I struggled with KS4. We spend a lot of time learning facts and less time on exam technique, especially in year 10. My lesson objectives are split into Knowledge and Skills, with Knowledge being by far the bigger part. I was stuck on how to translate this into GCSE success criteria.

The GCSE Geology lesson slide always has success criteria on it, laid out as follows:
A grade: I can use all the different methods for identifying a mineral and use a full description to analyse it.
C grade: I can….
(being a keener, I never write down the C grade criteria).

I firmly convinced myself this could not be translated into a History lesson. What does C grade knowledge look like? And A grade? Well, they can look the same because it’s what you do with it that counts. I was in serious danger of becoming whiney about it. To try to prove my point, I sat down to write success criteria that was skills based, to show that it worked for that side but would not for knowledge.

Here’s what I wrote:
A grade: I can explain two reasons why the Homesteaders had problems on the Plains, backing up my points with precise knowledge.
C grade: I can describe two problems faced by the Homesteaders on the Plains.

On reading back over it, I realised I had actually done what I said could not be done. I hate it when I’m wrong, especially when I am the one proving myself wrong! But there it is.

I’m going to start keeping a blog post of the success criteria I use as we move through the Crime and Punishment study of GCSE History, so check back in if you’re interested in seeing what I come up with.

And thank you, Phillipa.

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2 Responses to GCSE Success Criteria in History

  1. tony fox says:

    I like to idea, especially keeping it simple, but I felt an overt emphasis on ‘exam skills’ and ‘exam practice’ took the enjoyment out of the lessons, which de-motivated students, and I found the best motivated students performed the best at KS4, thus don’t stress too much that you are not pushing this in KS4 as in KS3, as I think more mature students can cope with more implicit success criteria.

  2. sallythorne says:

    Thank you for the feedback, Tony. The KS3 students certainly seem more comforted by the success criteria than the older ones.

    I’m trying to tread the fine line between meeting the criteria put forward by SLT in light of our Ofsted targets, and overkill. Levelled/graded success criteria need to be shared with the students every lesson, and when observations might only take place in the second part of the lesson it’s not enough to simply tell them at the start, it seems.

    I think I am getting there, though. It’s definitely becoming less forced.

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