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Identifying next learning steps

Assessment, used in conjunction with a strong understanding of what progress looks like, plays a crucial role in enabling both teacher and student to identify directions for further learning. For students to do this successfully, they need to understand how current learning fits within the bigger picture.

Make intended learning explicit

… the students know exactly the expectations, my expectations of them. They know exactly what they need to be doing and why ... understanding why they need to do things gives it more authenticity and more value to the students.

Alec Solomon, specialist teacher, HPE

In this video clip, Alec Solomon, specialist teacher of health, physical education, and outdoor education, talks about creating a culture of excellence.

Teachers can make the intended learning explicit when they introduce an activity and discuss its relevance. Graphic organisers such as mind maps and spider charts can help teachers clarify their own thinking or structure learning for students. They can also be used as a tool for assessing student understanding.

Students can be expected to analyse their progress and identify next steps only when they understand what quality learning looks like. This can be expressed in the form of process success criteria or product success criteria.

Models or exemplars can also be used to illustrate quality. By analysing them, students can co-construct success criteria. The annotated examples of student work on the NZQA website can be used for this purpose.


Physical education:

  • Students engage in a variety of physical activities, using personal reflection to learn about the four aspects (physical, mental and emotional, social, and spiritual) of well-being. This is an important step in developing their understanding of the relationship between physical activity and well-being.

Home economics:

  • Students track the origins of the ingredients in a meal they are about to prepare. This leads to understanding about the importance of sustainable food practices and how, as individuals, students can contribute to sustainability.

Health education:

  • Students engage in a series of activities focused on the personal, interpersonal, and societal aspects of teenage alcohol use. They are made aware that this is helping them to develop the skills to analyse current issues from a socio-ecological perspective.

Focused, informative feedback

Feedback is a conversation between teacher and student about what learning has occurred. Hattie (2003) identifies feedback as the single most influential factor promoting learning – more significant even than the student’s prior ability or the quality of instruction ( Teachers make a difference: What is the research evidence?).

Feedback informs both student and teacher. The teacher can provide feedback via informal conversations, conferencing with groups and individuals, or as formal written comments on work or in a reflective journal.

For more about reflective journals, see BES Exemplar 5: Learning logs

Good feedback:

  • is timely
  • relates to the intended learning and success criteria
  • points to next steps for learning
  • includes sufficient scaffolding for the student to be able to use it
  • is followed by time and opportunity for students to implement the next steps.

Ideally, feedback is requested by the student: “Can you please check what I have done and let me know if I am heading in the right direction?”


Hattie, J. (2003). “Teachers Make a Difference: What Is the Research Evidence?”. Paper presented at the the Australian Council for Educational Research Annual Conference on Building Teacher Quality, Melbourne.

Last updated July 16, 2023