How do we define success?

In the context of communicating progress within a longer term developmental continuum it is really valuable to be able to indicate how much support is required in order to complete a task or understand a concept. This allows us to consider not only the cognitive destination, but also the process of completing the journey. Success isn’t just success when no support is required.

In my school we have an agreed language to indicate what guidance or support was needed to complete a piece of work. This allows us to make informed decisions about the nature of the progress we are seeing at any particular time and also supports the decision making process with regard to setting appropriately challenging targets. They are:

X    This is used if a child has been unable or unwilling to offer a response to the work being completed. It ensures that we are able to take into consideration medical, emotional or behavioural factors such as patterns of cyclical seizure activity. It allows us to note that the child didn’t do it, not that they couldn’t do it. This will be accompanied by an explanation and can often throw up patterns of reduced engagement that inform our practice.

I    This is when a child has completed the work through the process of imitation, either verbally or visually, for example when working on vocabulary development where they may name a colour, but only once an adult has articulated it to them.

PP    This refers to the use of a physical prompt such as working hand over hand with a child in order to enable them to form the letters of their name, or to place an object in the correct spatial arrangement in response to a target image.

GP    This is used to note gestural prompting, such as pointing a finger towards the correct card in a temporal sequence, or when following a verbal instruction in order to locate a particular place within the school.

VP    This is noted when verbal prompting is used. For example to question an answer that has been given, such as asking “Are you sure that is the correct picture?”, or to redirect a child to a key piece of information, such as “Have a look in the top corner, what can you see there?”.

U    This refers to unaided and means that the child did it without any direct intervention from another person, but within the context of having had the necessary resources provided for them and having been asked to complete the task.

Ind    This indicates that the work was done independently. Independent in this context means that the child completed the task without having all of the required resources to hand, but having been asked to do so by another person.

Sp    This stands for spontaneous and reflects that fact that the child not only competed the task without any support or the resources being made available, but also made the correct decision that the task needs to be completed at all. A good example of this relates to having a drink. A child may be able to make a drink if they have the resources available to them, they may be able to do it if they are asked, but can they do it just because they feel thirsty?

For me all of these are important.They reflect success because the child couldn’t do it at all before or success because the nature of the support required to complete the work has reduced.

What they shouldn’t reflect is a caveat that undermines the child’s undoubted achievement but rather a way of communicating the subtleties of movement within a continuum of progression. This helps ensure that we offer our children a suitable level of challenge as we work to maximise their undoubted potential, but we should be careful how we use it and we should be sensitive to how it may be interpreted by others.


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