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Developing key stage three assessment and feedback policy and practice: Recommendations for English secondary schools and teachers

Gary Standinger, Teacher of Physical Education at Loughborough University


Research on the importance of ‘feedback literacy’ (helping learners to understand and use their teachers’ feedback to improve their learning) and ‘student agency’ (where students take an independent and active role when studying) with English secondary school-age students has been overlooked (Ketonen et al., 2020). In a previous blog post based on my doctoral study, I shared unique insight into how ‘Lead Learners’ (that is, those identified as high-ability students) self-manage their response to feedback in key stage three (KS3, ages 11–14 years) in their quest to ‘achieve Mastery’ (that is, to reach the highest standard of achievement in KS3). Building on these findings, this blog post presents three recommendations for schools and teachers and has implications for KS3 assessment and feedback policy and practice.

Recommendation 1: Encourage students to network with their teachers and peers

In my study, ‘Mastery networking’ involves interactions between the Lead Learner and teacher(s) and the Lead Learners themselves to establish what it takes to achieve Mastery. When Lead Learners were not sure what Mastery looked like, for example, they felt they had to maximise opportunities to seek Mastery knowledge from more than one source. Hence ‘networking with (their) peers and teachers’ proved beneficial in obtaining further feedback, helping Lead Learners decide how to respond and refine their work accordingly. Therefore, I advise educators to plan learning activities that promote interactions between students and teachers. This could have a profound impact on students’ feedback literacy and agency skills. Practitioners could, for example, set up a circuit station activity (see figure 1) in their classroom and let students choose which circuit(s) to visit:


Figure 1: Circuit station activity


Incorporating feedback networking strategies like this across KS3 lessons could help students become effective in giving peer feedback and – by the added feedback students receive – enhance their learning.

Recommendation 2: Invite students to challenge their feedback and create opportunities for them to ask questions

My research showed that Lead Learners were frustrated with the perceived inconsistent nature of feedback, leading them to seek clarification from teachers and peers. For example, Dorothy (pseudonym) asked her teacher ‘why did I achieve Secure and not Mastery?’ despite (in her view) meeting the Mastery assessment criteria. To promote this dialogue, practitioners could incorporate activities, such as ‘reflective responses’, which encourage students to question feedback (for instance, Do you agree with your feedback?) and engage in ongoing conversations with their teachers. For example, students could write a ‘reflective response’ to their teacher, challenging specific feedback comments. Marilyn (pseudonym) challenged her teacher: ‘I don’t understand why my answer about reversing climate change is not Mastery yet?’. It is important for practitioners to encourage students to challenge each other’s feedback especially during peer feedback activities. By creating a culture of open communication and feedback, we can empower students to take ownership of their learning and develop their feedback literacy skills.

Recommendation 3: Adopt inclusive, student-centered learning activities that make student-friendly links to assessment criteria

To enhance students’ feedback literacy and agency skills, practitioners must adopt inclusive, student-centered learning activities. One such activity could be creating opportunities for students during lesson time to work together in small groups so they can see exemplar work and discuss the difference between assessment descriptor criteria (such as in the case of my study: Mastery, Secure, Developing, and Emerging). Following this, students could independently use the assessment descriptor criteria to assess exemplar work and provide feedback. This could give students opportunities to self-assess before sharing their judgements and feedback to other members of the group. In my research, Lead Learners found this strategy useful before engaging with assessment tasks. Subsequently, Lead Learners found it easier to make connections between the Mastery level work (they were looking at), their own work, and the mastery descriptor criteria to increase their knowledge and understanding of what was needed to achieve Mastery. I also recommend adopting these activities after assessment tasks to encourage students to reflect on their learning.

‘To enhance students’ feedback literacy and agency skills, practitioners must adopt inclusive, student-centered learning activities.’


Final words

The recommendations reported in this blog post offer a valuable opportunity for English secondary schools and teachers to enhance their KS3 assessment and feedback policy and practice. By implementing these recommendations, practitioners can gain a better understanding of how their students make use of their feedback to develop their feedback literacy.


Ketonen, L., Nieminen, P., & Hähkiöniemi, M. (2020). The development of secondary students’ feedback literacy: Peer assessment as an intervention. Journal of Educational Research, 113(6), 407–417.