Negotiated Learning Outcomes and Success Criteria

I recently undertook the LEAP training program, based in Liverpool ( where three of my lessons were recorded and I had to watch and analyse them to improve my teaching performance. If you haven’t ever had the experience of watching yourself teach I would strongly recommend it.  During my second observation the person recording me went around the room asking pupils to restate and explain what the learning objectives were – and despite them being on the screen not one could!  On reflection, it wasn’t to do with them not bothering, but about them not having ownership of the lesson and how they could best achieve – and so I decided to put objectives and outcomes at the heart of my teaching strategy to try and raise achievement and motivation through using them.

I am a secondary school RE teacher, and have been for around six years. On my teaching placements and training I was told to create interesting lesson objectives which described what pupils were doing ie “To understand the Five Precepts of Buddhism”.  The outcomes or success criteria explained how pupils could evidence their learning, for example “Know three of the five precepts, giving examples”. Each lesson pupils wrote their three lesson objectives into their books while I took the register.

Then lesson objectives and outcomes became learning objectives and learning outcomes – with the emphasis on learning NOT the lesson AND they became differentiated – so “all pupils will know two of the five precepts, most will know three and some will know all of them”. This all, most and some repeated across three learning objectives led to an incredibly long start of the lesson – I’m not surprised pupils didn’t know what the objectives and outcomes were!

Recently I spoke with a member of staff from another curriculum area who only used one lesson objective in their lessons – but how could I fill a whole lesson with just one target for pupils?  Reflecting on what they said, I made the lesson title into a question “How does Buddhist faith affects belief today?” and then created one broad learning objective “To explore how the five precepts make a difference to modern Buddhists” (for example).

My first attempt at negotiated outcomes

My first attempt at negotiated outcomes

And then came the magic.  All, most and some – gone!  These sometimes meant that pupils stopped at ‘all’, when they may be a ‘most’ or ‘some’!  Some staff now use ‘good’, ‘great’, ‘even better’.  I created a language with the pupils to help them set their own negotiated outcomes – this language can be of anything similar but at three different levels.  Initially I did burgers – ‘Cheeseburger’, ‘Big Mac’, and ‘Gourmet Burger’ but moved onto ice cream (at a pupils suggestion)-hence Asda Smart Price, Mr Whippy’s and Ben and Jerry’s.  Any three things work – I’m considering moving onto ‘Robin Reliants, FIATS and BMW’ next.

I discovered immediately that pupils needed something to hang their outcomes on, so used the well published RE levels of Describe (L3) Show understanding (L4) Explain (L5) Evaluate (L6) Compare and Contrast (L7) but I felt that these always led to pupils coming up with similar outcomes – and did I always want an outcome that focussed and similar? Also, how did pupils come up with them? Should I use table mats, learning logs, have them write them in their books? The most effective strategy I’ve found has been for them to do a paired discussion (using the templates below) then I choose three pupils at random and write their suggestions on a spare whiteboard. This process means I can cross-examine them and invite other pupils comments, but it also ensures that I teach to their outcomes based on my learning objective. Quite often, their learning outcomes will be more challenging than the ones I would have set! I’ve also tried them all writing their own in their books, but I ended up with 30 learning outcomes to teach to- disaster!

So I combined the RE levels with Blooms and made some sentence starters. Pupils immediately linked in with this and then I could use my language to raise progress. Pupils were given an extended piece of writing to do each lesson, and they use their agreed learning outcomes to write to. I could then ask them to pee-assess to ‘What form of Ice-cream is it?’ and  ‘It’s a smart price’ so, I ask, ‘How can you make it a Mr Whippy?’.  This has been a priceless innovation.


This whole language has raised engagement and achievement in my lessons – something I never expected the humble lesson objective to do!  Pupils now feel they have ownership of their learning and it is really easy to refer back to these throughout the lesson.  Additionally, they are an easy way of me identifying what gaps pupils have and helps me to show secure progress.  Pupils now come up with outcomes like ‘Describe the five precepts, using correct religious terms’, and ‘Compare the five precepts with the 10 commandments’ and ‘Evaluate the five precepts, showing which are the best using detailed religious language’.  These outcomes really help push their learning – and they set them!

So, in summary

  • Make objectives easy to understand, and as short as possible.
  • Get pupils to have ownership on their learning through setting their own outcomes / success criteria.
  • Be creative.

AND if you have any thoughts about three combination of things that could be used please add feedback or ask questions! I need some fresh thoughts!


7 responses to “Negotiated Learning Outcomes and Success Criteria

  1. Brilliant!! I am a final year primary ed student and have been pulled up on success criteria and LO not been explicit enough for my KS2 class. Thank u I am trying this next wk 😀

  2. rmhurren

    Rump, Sirloin or Fillet!

  3. Becky Pointon

    Hi, really interesting info here. I love the ice cream idea. Have you looked at SOLO taxonomy? It has a similar idea but makes it really eay for stunts to know how to get better. It moves away from levels which I know is a current trend in some secondaries.
    I’m going to try to identify our class outcomes idea. I’m also secondary RE.

    • We’re very much into teep at the moment, solo is good but pushes all pupils to the same level which isn’t great differentiation. With an open question this enables the teacher to assess true understanding and analysis, not just focused.. does that make sense?

  4. seb

    I agree.i use a key title which is either a question or a debatable statement.just an idea but what about exploring not giving them the easiest LO and using this to support during lesson eg having alternative task for those struggling.would make planning more aspirational?

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