Purpose of Criteria
Assessment criteria provide students with information about the qualities, characteristics, and aspects of an assessment task that will be used to measure their attainment of each of the learning outcomes. Criteria make it clear to students what factors will be taken into account when making judgements about their performance. It could be argued that the most direct way students experience what is needed to achieve the unit's learning outcomes is through the assessment criteria.
Therefore, the number of criteria for a single task needs to be suitably small in order to enable students to clearly understand what is expected of them. Criteria define the characteristics of the work or performance, but they do not define how well students must demonstrate those characteristics - that is the job of the standards descriptors.
Examples of a Criterion
Elements of a Criterion
From these examples it is clear that each criterion starts with a verb. This verb indicates to students the level of cognition that is being looked for. The rest of the criterion is similar in many respects to a learning outcome in that it typically provides content (what students should be doing something with) and context. The key to a well written criterion is that it works as an instruction to students, helping them to understand what they need to do and include in any assessment task (including exams) to meet expectations. When taken together as a group, the set of assessment criteria for any task could be read by anyone and they would have a reasonable level of clarity about what the task involves.
Assessment criteria provide for students the answer to the question, "What do I have to do?", and the standards descriptors provide the answer to the question, "How do I do that?".
The standards descriptors provide further information, in more detail, about what would be required to demonstrate achievement at the different levels. In this way, the pass description explains what students need to do to demonstrate that they meet the learning outcome (as measured by the criterion). The other levels describe a higher level of achievement than is required.