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Make learning explicit

The assessment for learning process requires the teacher and student to work together to establish learning outcomes. Students need to be clear about the intended learning and to have clear success criteria for the learning process and/or its outcome, as appropriate.

Share your secrets – pupils need to know the intended learning for the day at the beginning of each lesson.

Learning intentions (LI)


What do we want students to know and be able to do as a result of this learning experience?
Success criteria (SC) What will students need to do in class to achieve the learning intentions, and to what standard? 
Task What kind of learning experience will be appropriate to achieve the learning intentions?
Context What theme or topic will develop the intended learning?

Learning intentions

Teachers draw on their understanding of progression in learning within the science learning area to help their students take responsibility for their learning and identify and prioritise next steps.

Research shows that:

  • not only are students more motivated and task-oriented if they know why they are learning about the context or task
  • but they are also able to make better decisions about how to go about the task.

The learning intention needs to be clear and unambiguous, and explained to students in a way they can understand what they are learning and why.

If you tell your pupils what you want them to learn in a clear, unambiguous way with a learning intention at the start of a lesson, then they’ll have a much better grasp not just of what they’re doing but also what they’ll learn from it.

Why it’s worth learning

If you set this piece of learning within the bigger picture of why they should want to learn it, then students’ motivation to work on it will be stronger. This includes an understanding of why the learning is important and relevant, and how it fits into the broader learning programme.

Students’ understanding of the task and their achievement will be maximised if achievement or success criteria as well as the learning intention(s) are shared with them prior to the lesson.

Students must first have a clear understanding of the intended learning. Learning intentions describe knowledge, processes, skills, or understanding that could be applied to a number of contexts; they do not describe the task that will be used to facilitate the learning. These criteria need to be the main focus of the feedback given to students.

The task instructions need to be clearly separated from the learning intentions and success criteria. Otherwise the students can begin their work without knowing clearly the difference between what you want them to do and what you want them to learn.

  • An example of a learning intention could be “to learn how the structures in a leaf are used in photosynthesis”. The corresponding success criterion would be when the student is able to “describe the structure of each part of a leaf and link each structure to its specific role in photosynthesis”.

Successful learning

How you’ll know when you've learned it (SC)

If you involve them in deciding how they’ll know they’ve learned it by identifying the success criteria they should be looking for in their own work, then they’ll be able to recognise when they’ve actually learned it.

To effectively analyse their progress and identify their next steps in learning, students will ideally have:

  • a clear picture of the learning process
  • an understanding of what constitutes a successful outcome.

The student should be able to say, “When I have learnt this, I will be able to …”

Students can co-construct learning intentions and success criteria with their teacher. Modelling the process and using exemplars of intended learning outcomes should be used to illustrate what successful learning looks like for specific processes.

Last updated December 13, 2012