What counts, what matters, what is important, in teaching for student success?

You can ask people who know me. They’ll tell you I don’t waste time playing in the shallow water. I go deep. But this was one question even I was afraid to ask. Until now.

A group of mentor teachers and I explored this topic as a way to provide authentic and meaningful support to teachers new to the profession, while remaining true to our non-evaluative role.

What counts, what matters, what is important, in teaching for student success? This is an important question to ask. Tweet this

Modelling our process on what we would do with students, we began with the end in mind – not our opinion about what was important in effective teaching, but what our school district and ministry or department of education said on the topic.

Because we were in Ontario, we used the 16 Competency Statements from the Teacher Performance Appraisal. Any document used in teacher evaluation will work because it provides a description of quality and proficiency.

After reviewing and discussing the pertinent documents, teams of teachers wrote “I can” statements about the grade or discipline they taught, describing the learning destination or target, just as we do for our students.

As we engaged in the conversation, it became clear to us that the conversation itself was important. We need to talk about criteria in teaching for student success as educators.

As ideas were recorded, we saw that just like in the learning destinations we write for students, we were not prescribing steps or isolated elements of teaching. Rather, we were talking about big ideas that could be met in a variety of ways, honouring the individuality so critical to teaching.

Here are some examples of our first thinking:

Once we have co-constructed criteria, whether we are mentors talking with teachers at the beginning of their career, a team of Grade 2-3 teachers exploring the teaching of writing, the Math department in a high school, or a principal and a teacher talking about strengths and goals, we have something practical, positive, and possible to guide our work.

If you appreciated learning about using one of the big ideas of assessment with colleagues or other adult learners, you might also be interested in:

For more information on “I can” statements see our books:

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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