Today’s classrooms are incredibly diverse places, and educators sometimes wonder how to apply the principles and strategies of quality assessment with students who are at the beginning of their learning, or have accommodations, modifications, or IEPs. We hear teachers asking, “What about the students who cannot meet all the criteria?

There may be individuals in our classrooms whose needs are so specific that they will not be able to meet all the criteria. What does this mean in terms of their ability to participate in the process of co-constructing and using criteria, and our ability to plan for their success and accurately communicate to parents?

We hear teachers asking “How do we apply the principles and strategies of quality assessment with the wide range of students we have in our classrooms?” Tweet this

When we have all students involved in the process, it is much more likely that our descriptions of quality will reflect the diversity of our learners’ needs. Co-constructed criteria provide a very practical and possible way to differentiate.

Some examples:

  • Consider your content through the lens of big ideas or competencies.
    • Think representing, not simply writing, and then the ability to communicate through pictures and images can meet criteria.
    • Think number sense rather than working with numbers to 100,000, and suddenly we can see a pathway to inclusion and a way to document growth and achievement.
  • Begin by having some students work on meeting one criterion at a time. They may start with the criterion with which they are most familiar or are more likely to be successful. Then, we add other criteria as appropriate over time.
  • In the instance of an individualized program, choose a criterion that serves both the program goals and the curriculum. For example, one Grade 11 social studies teacher co-constructed criteria for what is important in a dialectic research paper with his students (see What is important about a dialectic research paper? below). One student, reading and writing significantly below grade level, focussed only on staying on topic and expressing both perspectives as she researched and wrote about a topic of interest.
  • Have samples to show quality along the way when working on developmental skills such as representing. Ensure students can see themselves in one sample and identify their next steps in another.
  • Help students understand quality and proficiency in a variety of ways. One middle years food sciences teacher, in collaboration with a resource teacher and paraprofessionals, made a video in which the paraprofessionals did absolutely all the wrong things as they worked in the kitchen. As you might guess, the students found the video highly entertaining – and also instructive. A small group of students with IEPs then made their own video showing how to fully meet criteria.


What makes all these examples possible is that the teachers involved had co-constructed criteria with all students. Students had the opportunity to view samples, models, and examples, as well as describing quality in terms of words.

The experience of co-constructing criteria gives students a mental image of success along with the words that describe quality. If we don’t know where we are going, we won’t know how to get there.

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With all our best,
Anne, Sandra, Brenda, and the connect2learning team

Anne Davies, Sandra Herbst, and Brenda Augusta

Anne Davies, Sandra Herbst, and Brenda Augusta

Anne Davies, Sandra Herbst, and Brenda Augusta are educators, consultants, authors, and presenters who are highly sought after, both locally and globally. Their energy, passion, and expertise have helped teachers, leaders, schools, and systems to move forward with competence and confidence. Learn more about the team here...


Like most education professionals, we have a burning desire to make a difference in the lives of learners. We started as teachers and leaders, but saw the potential to drive greater transformation by creating and sharing methodologies with other educators.

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