Monday, 2 February 2015

What Counts in a Strategy Worth Adding to Your Practice?

If you knew of a strategy so powerful, so adaptable, so guaranteed to work, that you could use it in Kindergarten, the middle years, high school, and with adult learners, would you be interested? This strategy works not only with a huge range of learners, but also with an immense variety of topics and in the domains of both learning and behaving.

Some of you may be wondering, "What is this wondrous strategy?" Others, the more skeptical among you, may be thinking that there must be some kind of catch, most likely that this strategy requires you to master a multitude of steps or to read an incredibly long and dense text that you do not have time for.  Not so. It is a four-step process and the book can be read in less than an hour. 

So what is the strategy? It is the co-construction of criteria. In the past month I have been privileged to work alongside educators in a variety of places, including Rivers Elementary School. We were asking learners:

What counts?
What matters?
What is important?

We were asking these questions about...


Math problem solving...


                                In Grade 4

                                          In Grade 3

We  also asked these questions about learning behaviours.

 In Kindergarten... what counts when we're sitting on the carpet?

In Grade 6... what counts when we are working collaboratively to solve math problems?

We can also ask questions like what counts when we are working together as teachers?

With adult learners the questions may be slightly different:

  • What counts in student problem solving?
  • What counts in writing report card comments?
  • What is important in a great staff meeting?
  • What counts in professional learning? 
And sometimes the format is changed:

But the intent is the same- to engage the learner in a discussion of what quality looks like in whatever field or endeavour we are focussed on. 

Sometimes the learner has had a lot of practice with the topic we are asking them to create criteria for. In most cases, learners benefit from seeing samples of quality. In the stories I am sharing today, the teachers and I provided samples in a variety of ways.

Before co-constructing criteria about writing, I wrote in front of the students, stopping now and then to ask what they noticed.

Prior to asking students what counted in problem solving, I showed them several student work samples and we made a brainstorm list of what the students had done.

In both the Kindergarten "carpet time" example and the Grade 6 small group collaboration example, the teachers and I, along with a few students, demonstrated what meeting expectations looked like using a fishbowl approach with most of the students observing a few of us role play.

When the learners have a picture of quality in their minds we can move into the four simple steps described in Setting and Using Criteria 2nd Editionpart of the Knowing What Counts Series by Kathleen Gregory, Caren Cameron, and Anne Davies. 

1. Brainstorm

2. Sort and categorize

3. Make and post a t-chart

4. Add, revise, refine. 

So what counts in a strategy worth adding to your practice? I'll start the brainstorm list ... and invite you to add to it as you experience the power for yourself.

What Counts in a Strategy Worth Adding to Your Practice?
  • Validated through research
  • Has a positive impact for learners
  • Easily understood by learners
  • Students are actively involved
  • Purposeful
  • Easy to understand why and how we are doing it 
  • Easily adapted to a variety of subjects
  • Easily adapted to a wide range of learners
  • Builds ownership
  • Brain compatible
  • Doesn't require much in the way of material
  •  Open-ended
  • Process-oriented
  • Engaging for learners
  • Students and teacher working together
  • Students will get better at it with ongoing practice
  • Worth the time because the end product can be used in a variety of ways
  • We can revise as we learn more
  • Works for many purposes
  • Leads to a growth mindset
  • Contributes to the development of self- regulating students 


Gregory, K., Cameron, C., & Davies, A. 2011. Setting and Using Criteria 2nd Edition. Courtenay, BC: connect2learning.

No comments :

Post a Comment